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Author Topic:   Lower Florida Keys, Little Torch Key
prj posted 12-10-2007 11:05 PM ET (US)   Profile for prj   Send Email to prj  
My wife, young son and I are undertaking a rather ambitious road trip with boat in tow over the holidays this year, with our first stop a Striped Bass trip on the Chesapeake Bay. From southeastern Virginia, we're heading down to Little Torch Key at MM 28 or so, where we're meeting friends for a week in a house fronting east on Big Pine Channel. We'll be in the Keys from December 28th into the new year. Here I'll have my boat in a lift ready to go.

http://maps.google.com/maps?ie=UTF8&ll=24.658328,-81.378136&spn=0. 044462,0.047464&t=h&z=14&om=1

About 3 miles due south is Little Palm Resort on Munson Island.
http://www.littlepalmisland.com/LittlePalmIsland_Gallery.aspx
Pretty cush, huh? Well, we're not staying there.

I'm towing a 1990 18/19' Outrage (classic, not II) with a 1989 Yamaha 130 HP V4 outboard in top dependable shape.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/25169902@N00/1084821235/
My tow vehicle is a low-milage 2004 Toyota 4Runner with the V8. The trailer is a 3680# rated single-axeled Loadmaster galvanized tube frame, with young Goodyear Marathons and spare, all in good shape. We'll be loaded for an 18 day road trip or so, but I think this rig is well balanced, well maintained and will handle this second 1200 mile leg fairly well. (Okay, so I'm reusing large chunks of the CBBT article...)

I'm expecting quite a bit more company aboard than on the Chesapeake in December. In these relatively warm and often protected waters, my wife and 15 month old son will surely join in some fishing and cocktail cruising, as will our friends, both fishers. Is this naive thinking, "... often protected waters,"?

I'm truly amazed and surprised by the pattern of waterfront development I see on Google earth; entire canal based communities to travel through by boat! Who would have imagined this? This shore on Cudjoe Key really is something:
http://maps.google.com/maps?ie=UTF8&ll=24.653141,-81.473923&spn=0. 011116,0.011866&t=h&z=16&om=1

Are there any establishments that we can go to by boat for food or beverage?

Do you have any experience with bait shops on Little Torch or Big Pine?

How many times will I run aground and wish we had that Aussie Sealegs boat with hydraulically lowered wheels?

What kind of seas shall I expect in this area during the last week of the year?

Is this saltwater really like sulphuric acid, as opposed to the sweet cold and pure elixir that we call the Great Lakes? Should I spray coat my entire rig in a sacrificial wax coating prior to dipping her?

We'll be fishing mostly, as one of my guys is along. I'll verify regulations on the fishery at that time, talk to a bait shop and maybe goof a bit on Floridasportsman (borderline unnavigable), but I generally intend to troll favorite quality minnow plugs and spoons, on flat lines, dipsey divers and downriggers as necessary. Pending further information, my instincts tell me to do this just on the deep side of the reefline, weather permitting.

I'll also plan on chucking some meat around, pyramid sinker type rigs on current edges around bridge pilings and in chum slicks. It would be grand to drift and fish along the mangrove edges also, though I don't really even know what that means.

Do you have any suggestions, modifications or recommendations on these fishing methods? Are there other methods that might prove more effective? I know, "fishing for what?" you'll ask, and for that question I have no answer. Answer it for me if you will.

We'll also snorkle a bit. Is Looe Key all that, or shall we just move around and find clear conditions with interesting bottoms?

Would anyone like to meet up for a day, share our Whalers and a beverage?

We've never been to the Keys, so I'd love to hear some of your advice.

fno posted 12-11-2007 11:27 AM ET (US)     Profile for fno  Send Email to fno     
Wind,wind,wind, and more wind. I hope it let's down for a few days for you.
an86carrera posted 12-11-2007 11:51 AM ET (US)     Profile for an86carrera  Send Email to an86carrera     
I would avoid running aground in the state park the fine is ridiculous ($1000/ft of upset weed bed).

The inside of the keys is usually flatter in the winter.

There are probably plenty of places to go to eat by boat.

Bring warm clothes 40 degrees and 80% humidity is COLD. But, it could be 85 and sunny good luck and enjoy.

Len

Brian7son posted 12-11-2007 02:19 PM ET (US)     Profile for Brian7son  Send Email to Brian7son     
I grew up in Ft. Lauderdale and went to the Keys often. Little Torch is nice because it is not "Disneyized' like they have done to a lot of the Keys. I used to go down there in the 70's and it was mostly islands with mangroves and pine trees. Since then, like anywhere else beautiful, the have developed the heck out of it.

It is very hard to navigate in that area. Get a local chart, turn on your depth finder and go slow. the tarpon fishing is great down there.

On your way down, I think around MM82, there is a place ont he right side of the road called "Robbies". It's a dumpy little marina where they sell beer and bait. The neatest thing is they you can feed the tarpon from their dock. You pay a few bucks and they give you a bucket of fish. You walk to the dock, lean down and hold a fish 1 foot above the surface and a 7' long 200lb tarpon will eat it out of your hand. There are hundreds of these monsterous tarpon swimming around in clear water. It is an absolute MUST do for you and your young son. Did I mention they sell beer there. Oh yeah, and you can also have a cold beer.

I'm tied up for the holidays, otherwise, I'd love to raft off for a cold one with you. Every spring break we go down to Tavernier Key. We drive my conquest offshore from Merritt Island FL. down to Tavernier. It's a great trip (when the weather cooperates)

You will have fun, just stay on the gulf side, the Atlantic side can kick up this time of year. If you cruise around the gulf side and fish between the smaller islands covered with mangroves, you are sheltered from the wind and chop that prevails on the Atlantic side.

The is a bar called "The No Name Pub", definitley worth a look see for a cold one.

Have fun,

Brian

Brian7son posted 12-11-2007 02:26 PM ET (US)     Profile for Brian7son  Send Email to Brian7son     
Correction: MM77 - feed the tarpon at Robbie’s, Islamorada
contender posted 12-11-2007 04:07 PM ET (US)     Profile for contender  Send Email to contender     
Brian7son glad you mention Robbies, (Yes this is a must MM77 bay side) last time this came up no one believed me about the size of the tarpon, Go at high tide do not have to lean over as far for feeding. Try stopping at Long Key State Park ( I think mm64 ocean side) for the day go at low tide your son will have a blast running across the mud flats finding the different sea creatures. The weather is windy this time of the year on the outside (ocean) its ruff and its cold. Stay on the bay side, get a chart otherwise you will run a ground. Do not forget a fishing Lic. other wise you could face a fine. If the wind is calm one night and the moon is out look for an ebb tide and going out tide, time for shrimp, get a couple of dip nets and have some fun. If there is one thing in the Keys plenty of places to eat ask some of the locals for the nice spots. You are so close to Key West make the trip and see the sights, Check out Mel Fisher place and see the treasure, then check out the sunset in the square and watch the free circus. If the weather is to bad ask the location of the shrimp docks and go buy some fresh sea food, shrimp etc. If you chose to run your boat out of Key West for the day, try heading to the Marques Keys, you can run on the bay side and be protected about 80% of the way, there are some nice beaches on these islands and nice place to snorkle, Have fun good luck
Brian7son posted 12-11-2007 05:04 PM ET (US)     Profile for Brian7son  Send Email to Brian7son     
RE your fishing techniques, here's my .02

"I generally intend to troll favorite quality minnow plugs and spoons, on flat lines, dipsey divers and downriggers as necessary. Pending further information, my instincts tell me to do this just on the deep side of the reefline, weather permitting."

=This depends on how far offshore you are going. If you troll plugs and spoons over the edge of a 20' reef, you will be slammed by baracudas that will cut off your gear.
If you want you sont to catch a cuda, troll a bog spoon with a wire leader over a reef or along the edge. Be careful if you get one in the boat, they have razor sharp teeth. Other possibilities are Spanish Mackeral and Jacks.

Note: the time of year that you are going may be too sloppy go go offshore trolling in a boat your size witha 15 month old.
================================================

"I'll also plan on chucking some meat around, pyramid sinker type rigs on current edges around bridge pilings and in chum slicks."

= A fun thing to do is yellow tail snapper fishing. Buy a few chum blocks and get a mesh chum bag and some cut bait and/or live shrimp. go under the bridge to the Atlantic side and find a reef, you dont neet to go too far out, 15-20ft reef is fine. Drop the chum bag in and wait. Withing 20 minutes, you will have a school of yellow tail snapper on the surface behing your boat. All you need is a hood with a mono leader and no sinker. Cast you bait out over the chum slick and you will nail these snapper all day long. Check size and bag limits.

Note: When my wife was my fiance 17 years ago we did this and she caught a 2 ft. hammerhead shark. We let him go. He was a very cool looking specimen.
=======================================================

"it would be grand to drift and fish along the mangrove edges also, though I don't really even know what that means."

If it is sloppy on the Atlantic side, this will be your most pleasant option. There are tons of mangove islands in the keys. They are called that because the Mangrove tree is the primary vegitation on these islands. The roots of the trees grow in salt water and surround the islands. they are a haven for snapper, snook, redfish and other species. You can either find a nice spot betweeen 2 of these islands or anchor next to one and fish. Live shrimp always produce action. The trick is to get your bait in as close as you can to the mangrove roots without snagging your line in the trees. That's where the fish hang out.
Lures also work around the mangroves. Early morning and late afternoon are usually better. High noon is very slow fishing.

Have a good time and watch your depth. The saying in the keys is "brown, brown, run around". The water is very clear, if it is darker green you are fine on depth. If it is very light green, it is shallow sand bottom. If it is brown, it usually means your are approaching a grass flat. Stay in the channels as best you can. When you go outside a channel to fish a mangrove, just pay close attention to the depth. As long as you go slow, you should be ok. Even if you hit bottom, it mostly soft sandy grass flats. Just turn off the engine, tild the motor up and push the boat off. dont try to power through it, you will suck a ton of sand into the lower unit and ruin your day. Trust me, a buddy of mine did that while i was driving my boat 25 yards away, calling him on the radio and warning him that he was about to hit bottom. He told me his depth finder said it was fine. Just before he ran aground at 25mph, I told him he had better check his depth finder. He had a 27 Whaler with twin outboards. I then told him to shut off the engines and tilt the motors and I'd pull him off. He said he'd be fine and he hit full throttle. Well, after about 30 yards of grinding, he made it off the grass flat. His props looked like tulips and he blow both lower units. Some guys just dont listen.

Invest in a local chart as soon as you get there. they sell charts called "Top Spot charts",, gey one that covers the area you intend to fish. It will tell you all you need to know.


Brian7son posted 12-11-2007 05:06 PM ET (US)     Profile for Brian7son  Send Email to Brian7son     
sorry for the mega typos
prj posted 12-13-2007 10:53 PM ET (US)     Profile for prj  Send Email to prj     
Thanks for the comments and advice guys, particularly your efforts Brian. They're much appreciated.

We'll hope for some calm days to get outside the reef, where the exposure to those N and NE winds increase, but I'm hoping that the variety of islands, channels and fishing options can keep us busy and somewhat sheltered from the winds. As for the temperatures, I suspect that you're giving me an unlikely extreme, Len. I'm consistently seeing info that pegs the range at 65-75 degrees or so. Fishing my way down there on the Chesapeake, I'll have some gear, but not enough to battle conditions like I'm seeing in my back yard as we speak:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/25169902@N00/2107228244/

I'll certainly pick up charts and try to tap into local knowledge immediately upon our arrival. What I plan on doing is stopping in at a local tackle shop and picking up a full complement of the basics, from charts to bottom rigs, chum and bait. Hopefully, with a couple bucks on the table, I can get someone to help me out. Any recommendations on a tackle shop local to Little Torch? Will tarpon fishing be an option at this point in the season? Holding my breath, but I thought they were in the area predominantly in the spring and summer.

Any recommendations on a quality locally or regionally brewed beer when I'm down there? I like a hearty amber generally, and make note, I'm from Milwaukee and no novice at this, so don't go suggesting garbage or I'll mock! No Name Pub on Big Pine is on the list. Good pizza, I understand.

And contender, great suggestion on finding the shrimp docks in Key West, we planned on heading down for some finer dining, but we'll bring back a cooler of fresh meals for the next day.

Regarding the offshore trolling, I wouldn't expect to be accompanied by either my wife or son. My buddy and I would undertake these trips. Young son likes it pretty calm, so I expect he'll take the helm while we sip cocktails in canals about the Keys:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/25169902@N00/2107213190/

Again, thanks so much for the info, guys, its much appreciated and more is certainly welcomed.

Patrick

an86carrera posted 12-14-2007 05:53 AM ET (US)     Profile for an86carrera  Send Email to an86carrera     
Yes, those are extremes. But I have been there in both. Since your driving from Milwaukee I am sure you will be prepared for both anyway.

Have a great time, I love the keys. Kept a live a board there for a year there as a weekend home.

BTW good looking family

Len

Moose posted 12-14-2007 12:01 PM ET (US)     Profile for Moose  Send Email to Moose     
prj,

I've got the same need to find a good beer, ale, stout, etc., while traveling. The Keys, while being one of my favorite places, leave a bit to be desired when looking for something other than the usual nationwide suspects.

There appears to be lots of contract brewing taking place with local bars and restaurants. Labeling with "Key West" and "Sunset" is common, but the brewer is generally in Orlando, Tampa, etc., and I haven't found anything noteworthy yet, but the search is half the fun. The actress Kelly McGillis has a resturant there that does some brewing, I try a few of her brews every year and find them, putting it nicely, lacking. However Kelly's food has always been very good.

More often than not I spend my week there with Sierra Nevada, Anchor Steam, etc., and that ain't all bad....

Bobalu's Southern Cafe at MM 10 is a great spot to consider.

Pubcrawler has been some info that may be helpful.

http://www.pubcrawler.com/Template/index.cfm

Sounds like a great trip, get some photos up right away, that'll help get me through the next two months to my trip in February.

Have a safe trip,

Moose

prj posted 12-14-2007 12:32 PM ET (US)     Profile for prj  Send Email to prj     
Will do Moose, and checking your interests, I see you've tagged my absolute favorite NON-local brewery; Bells. First exposure was to their Porter while working on the Spurlock Museum at the University of Illinois. I'd expense a fine dinner at Radio Maria in Champaign, a Bell's Porter with the meal and a 12 YO Macallan afterwards. Despite the travel, that project had it's perks...

Given a chance, try one of Milwaukee's own Sprecher or Lakefront Brewery products.

And thanks Len. Great idea and maybe an inexpensive route for a vacation home, that live-aboard.

Patrick

Bluejay15 posted 12-14-2007 06:39 PM ET (US)     Profile for Bluejay15  Send Email to Bluejay15     
There aren’t too many places to eat by boat in the lower keys. Key West has lots, but with limited docking. The closest to you on Torch is Parrotdice. It is just on the Gulf side of US1. It has a long dock and you can’t miss it. Good food and even has a nurse shark in a pond. Little Palm also has excellent food with reservations and lots of money. Lately it has been warm 80 during the day and 73 at night. If you are here for a week you should get at least one calm day. The biggest draw back is the wind not the temp. In the winter it seems to just about always be blowing 15 out of the east to north east. With that wind direction it is also nasty outback in the gulf. In that boat it will just about always be calm enough to boat around the islands. The channel that runs by Little Palm can have productive fishing with live bait even if it is windy. Mangrove Snappers and Grunts mostly. Mangrove snapper is real tasty. I keep them to eat if they are larger then 12 inches. There is an island called Picnic Island in the same channel by Little palm with a little sandy beach. Bahia Honda also has a gorgeous beach and that is a simple boat ride in calm water or you can drive there by car. There are some coral heads to snorkel right off Little Palm with mooring balls. No Fishing there. The Chevron on Summerland normally has live shrimp. Mangrove Mamas on Sugarloaf has good food and a great Keys setting. The Looe Key Tiki bar is a locals hang out with live music. I don’t eat their food. Boondocks on Ramrod is also a nice bar with good food and mini golf. Murry’s on Summerland has good subs to bring out on the boat and you can get there by boat if you can find it. If you have a GPS your trip will be a lot better. There are lots of flats but the main channels are well marked. If you venture off the channels follower other boaters and put a track line down on your GPS. Just hope he knows what he’s doing:) Trim her up and let her rip. Never slow down on top of a flat. Have fun the weather is always nice in the Keys! If I was here during that time I would show you around a bit, but I will be visiting my parents in Fort Lauderdale.

Jeremy

Bluejay15 posted 12-14-2007 06:44 PM ET (US)     Profile for Bluejay15  Send Email to Bluejay15     
One more thing about the saltwater. Just hose the boat down and run it on the hose with bunny ears. I also love Corrosion X. I spray my power head down with it once in a while to keep it slime. NO big deal.

Jeremy

Moose posted 12-16-2007 01:52 PM ET (US)     Profile for Moose  Send Email to Moose     
prj,

I've heard great reports on Lakefront Brewery, got to get over to Milwaukee soon. Back in the County Stadium, American League, Gorman Thomas, Sal Bando, Jerry Augustine, Robin Yount, Sixto Lezcano, Cecil Cooper, George Bamberger, etc., days I got there quite a few times. Why my parents let a 16 - 17 year old drive 200+ miles, one way, for baseball games.... thank goodness they didn't know about the Pabst and Miller tours & tasting rooms...

A trip across the Lake in my Outrage for a for a weekend of Micro-Brewery visits and Tigers - Brewers interleague games is something on my "to do" list, unfortunately the '06 games were mid-week and '07 in Detroit. 95 miles of open water with one Optimax always starts to unravel my plans.

Have a great trip,

Moose

samwhaler posted 12-18-2007 09:48 PM ET (US)     Profile for samwhaler    
Patrick, we will be in the keys the same time period! with wife, son 18, and his girlfriend.
Leaving 12/26, staying at the La Jolla in Islamorada. This is my second time in the keys. First time didn't fish. This time pulling the 170 with a plan to fish, snorkel, cruise, and try to catch some lobster.

From prior fishing experience in warm waters, and talking to folks in the keys, the "Inshore trick" is chum, chum and more chum!. Have a cast net and catch live bait, or use shrimp, clams or squid on a Carolina rig, nothing fancy, you will catch yellow tail, permit, snapper, qudas, i.e good eating fish. If weather permit and you venture to the what they call "the humps" which are bottom elevations 200 to 400 ft below the surface where game fish like tuna come to feed, these are 10 to 19 miles to the west of the keys, you will need bigger gear and heavier lines and some dive plugs!!

Well, have a good trip, hope we can meet up for a day or so.
Sam

Brian7son posted 12-20-2007 11:23 AM ET (US)     Profile for Brian7son  Send Email to Brian7son     
SamWhaler,

Have a good time and enjoy those lobster. Just pay careful attention to the limits there. You may already be up to speed on the local regulations. If so, disregard my information. If not, it's very good stuff to know.

Call (305) 743-2437 or visit http://floridakeys.noaa.gov for information about no take areas in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Please call the FWC Key West office at (305) 292-0311 or click here for lobster harvesting regulations for Monroe County. Recreational trapping of lobster is prohibited.

LOBSTER BAG LIMITS

Monroe County
Biscayne National Park
Elsewhere

2-Day Sport Season (July 25-26) 6 per person per day
6 per person per day
12 per person per day

Regular Season (August 6 – March 31)
6 per person per day
6 per person per day
6 per person per day

Regardless of what species you are fishing for, bag limits are only for properly licensed individuals and those people exempt from license requirements who are actively harvesting, and those people harvesting may not exceed their individual bag limit and take someone else’s bag limit. That is, people (including children) who are not actively harvesting or are not properly licensed (if a license is required) may NOT be counted for purposes of bag limits.
=========================================================

The Marine Patrol is very strict down there. For violations, I have heard that they can confiscate your boat. If your boat happens to be attached to your trailer and truck, they can confiscate that as well. That would be a major downer to any vacation.

Marchhare posted 12-20-2007 03:48 PM ET (US)     Profile for Marchhare  Send Email to Marchhare     
Don't bother stopping at Robbie's! It is nothing but an open field that runs down to the water. "DEVELOPERS" have come to the Keys, purchased a bunch of property, torn them all down and tried to sell new condos on spec. Then the market went south and the "DEVELOPERS" are on a permanant hold as far as going forward. As a result many marinas, trailer parks, etc have disappeared with nothing but a chain link fence for one to see. You might want to get in a half day with a local guide. They can pretty much tell you where the fish are. There are a few places you can stop on the water, but you should check to make sure they are open. It is "SEASON" so you should be allright. Reaching these spots may be better accomplished by car. The waters down here are very skinny and sometimes a direct route will get you in trouble. Watch your charts!
Marchhare posted 12-20-2007 03:50 PM ET (US)     Profile for Marchhare  Send Email to Marchhare     
Don't plan a stop at Robbies. It's gone!
Marchhare posted 12-20-2007 03:55 PM ET (US)     Profile for Marchhare  Send Email to Marchhare     
Developers have wrecked havoc on the Florida Keys and Robbies was one of the casualties. As to spots you can stop for food by boat, there are not nearly as many today as there were years (2) ago. What the developers missed Wilma got when she led a 8-10' storm surge accross the Keys. Some are still recovering. I'd suggest a half day with a local guide. They should be able to give you an idea of where to drop your lines. The reef is always good, but gets a little lumpy at times. When the wind is blowing most stay in the bay.
Brian7son posted 12-20-2007 04:15 PM ET (US)     Profile for Brian7son  Send Email to Brian7son     
"Don't plan a stop at Robbies. It's gone!"

Man, that sucks. I'm sorry to hear that. I had the kids there this past April and they loved it. We had visited that place several times over the years.

I guess that's just the way it always goes. If someplace involving fishing or wildlife is nice and people enjoy going there, somebody will ruin it.

That really bums me out to hear about Robbies. That place has been a landmark in the Keys for years and years.

Marchhare posted 12-20-2007 04:41 PM ET (US)     Profile for Marchhare  Send Email to Marchhare     
Hold the phone! I stand corrected. Robbie's Marina is gone, but Robbies of Islamorada is till there. It is a good spot to stop (I'm told)
Brian7son posted 12-20-2007 04:44 PM ET (US)     Profile for Brian7son  Send Email to Brian7son     
Well, that's good news.
samwhaler posted 12-20-2007 08:45 PM ET (US)     Profile for samwhaler    
Brian, thanks for your help. The fishing and harvesting of lobster regulations in the Florida Keys are so complicated. I am printing it out and laminating the pages to keep on board . Every time I read it, I find that I missed something! I hope I come back with my boat!

I am glad that Robbies in Islamorada is still there.

I wander if Patrick has already left?

Sam

Brian7son posted 12-21-2007 10:22 AM ET (US)     Profile for Brian7son  Send Email to Brian7son     
Sam,

What I find so complicated when I go down there is the amount of protected areas. Don't get me wrong, I understand and respect the reason that we have protected areas. You can fish or take lobster in one spot, but 50 yards away, it's a sanctuary and you will be cited for fishing there. Last year I bought a new Furuno 7000 chart plotter. Fortunately,(I didnt know this when I bought it) all of those spots are on my screen, so I know if I'm allowed to drop a line in or not. Make sure you have an updated local chart and a GPS to avoid those protected areas. It can be very confusing.

Have a safe trip,

Brian

Bluejay15 posted 12-21-2007 11:13 AM ET (US)     Profile for Bluejay15  Send Email to Bluejay15     
The protected areas in the lower keys are not that confusing. They are marked by big yellow bouyes. If you are outside of the four circular bouyes you can fish and lobster. If you are outside of the pin bouyes you can spear fish.

Where the poster will be boating there are only two no fishing zones. Looe Key and the coral heads off Little Palm Island. LOOE KEY IS DEFINITLY WORTH IT. There isn't any better bottom to snorkel around that area. Make it a point to go there and snorkel. If the vis is good it is a wonderful snorkel.

17 bodega posted 12-24-2007 12:18 PM ET (US)     Profile for 17 bodega  Send Email to 17 bodega     
There's a great Cuban food place in Key Largo with a red awning on the right hand side of the road, not too far from the dolphin museum as I remember. Also the coffe house down past long key was pretty good, with lots of good pasteries.

I had a good time last year. The wind blew at 30mph most of my trip, but that withstanding, the seas were very mild compared to Northern California. In Fl, it's all about wind chop and running aground like Brian says above. I made the mistake of boating on the Atlantic side, where if I chose the Bay side like ohters suggest, the experience would have been milder weather wise.

What about good snorkeling and free diving spots on the bay side? I saw dolphins and sharks on the bay side when I was riding in the dive boat that took us to the reef on the Atlantic side. We saw a large turtle while diving too.

I need to go back to this place in the spring (or best boating/diving/fishing season) and spend some time. Very fun place.

Steve

Dan posted 12-24-2007 10:13 PM ET (US)     Profile for Dan  Send Email to Dan     
I'll be in Marathon 12/27 - 1/2. First time in Keys. Going with wife, daughter 20, son 15. We plan on swimming with dolphins, taking a catamaran ride/snorkel trip and exploring. My Montauk won't be joining us : (

I'm bringing 2 fishing rods, and my underwater camera.


Bluejay15 posted 12-26-2007 10:51 PM ET (US)     Profile for Bluejay15  Send Email to Bluejay15     
Dan

My favorite restaurant in Marathon is Keys Fishers. It is a nice low key place on the water. They do have a website if you want to check it out. Great food. The Butterfly Cafe is also real good. Go to the Cracked Conch and get the dolphin reben for lunch. Don't worry dolphin is what we call mahi mahi which means fast fast. Crane Point Hammock is a cool place. It is a 60 acre nature resurve and museum. It has the last native thatch palm hammock in Florida a touch tank and an old house from an original keys house from way back when. Its neat. Or at least I think so the kids might not. Sombrero Beach I belive is the only decent beach in Marathon. Make the trek to Bahia Honda beach. You should also go to Key West to do Dauval and the sun set at Malore Square. Even if it is hour plus ride. If you have any questions on the Keys from Marathon to Key West ask. I probably have the answer or can find it.

Jeremy

Kingsteven18 posted 01-01-2008 08:18 PM ET (US)     Profile for Kingsteven18  Send Email to Kingsteven18     
I was at Robbie's a few days ago feeding the tarpon.
george nagy posted 01-04-2008 03:11 PM ET (US)     Profile for george nagy  Send Email to george nagy     
PRJ'
It would seem that there are a number of us Architects on this site who share in classic whaler ownership. I would also like to compliment you on what I assume is a house of your design perhaps even your own house. As a fellow modernist I really appreciated seeing those few shots. Thank you!
minitauk85 posted 01-04-2008 05:28 PM ET (US)     Profile for minitauk85  Send Email to minitauk85     
If you go to Robbies, be careful how close you get while feeding the tarpon. I took some great shots of my wife as she went "noodling" for tarpon a couple of years back:
http://i21.photobucket.com/albums/b268/ktswhaler15/good%20shots/ gotabigone.jpg

http://i21.photobucket.com/albums/b268/ktswhaler15/good%20shots/ 2gotabigone.jpg

A few scrapes, but none the worse for wear!-k

prj posted 01-06-2008 09:47 PM ET (US)     Profile for prj  Send Email to prj     
Greetings all, we're back, and thanks for all your suggestions.

Bluejay15, your informationally massive single paragraph was rich with content,
much appreciated.
Welcome Marchhare, I'll give your son an update to pass along.
Sam, I hope you saw the same record highs and remarkable blows we did, variety makes it all exciting,
And George, thanks for the complement, the house is a continual project and trying ground, my architect wife and I are having fun with it.

Road Statistics:
Total miles driven: 4007.3
Average fuel consumption: 11.8 MPG
Average moving speed: 51 MPH

(Rig Reminder: My tow vehicle is a low-milage 2004 Toyota 4Runner with the V8. The trailer is a 3680# rated single-axeled Loadmaster galvanized tube frame, with young Goodyear Marathons and spare, all in good shape. I'm towing a 1990 18/19' Outrage (classic, not II) with a 1989 Yamaha 130 HP V4 outboard in top dependable shape.)

In the next week or so, I'll follow up with a brief narrative and some photographs.

prj posted 01-06-2008 09:47 PM ET (US)     Profile for prj  Send Email to prj     
Greetings all, we're back, and thanks for all your suggestions.

Bluejay15, your informationally massive single paragraph was rich with content,
much appreciated.
Welcome Marchhare, I'll give your son an update to pass along.
Sam, I hope you saw the same record highs and remarkable blows we did, variety makes it all exciting,
And George, thanks for the complement, the house is a continual project and trying ground, my architect wife and I are having fun with it.

Road Statistics:
Total miles driven: 4007.3
Average fuel consumption: 11.8 MPG
Average moving speed: 51 MPH

(Rig Reminder: My tow vehicle is a low-milage 2004 Toyota 4Runner with the V8. The trailer is a 3680# rated single-axeled Loadmaster galvanized tube frame, with young Goodyear Marathons and spare, all in good shape. I'm towing a 1990 18/19' Outrage (classic, not II) with a 1989 Yamaha 130 HP V4 outboard in top dependable shape.)

In the next week or so, I'll follow up with a brief narrative and some photographs.

prj posted 01-09-2008 02:51 PM ET (US)     Profile for prj  Send Email to prj     
Another quick note as a follow up to my sidebar discussion with Moose:
Apparently, people don't drink beer south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Don't get me wrong, I could consistently find Bud Light, Bud and even Lite, but I never once ventured across actual beer after I ran out of my own stash of Sprechers somewhere in Pennsylvania (the Alpine Inn, seediest hotel my wife had ever been in, I've been in worse...).

You'd think that there must be at least, say a million, discriminating beer consumers in the South that would demand to have access to quality product. Just that number alone would give a craft brewer a substantial and captive consumer group.

Remarkable.

Moose posted 01-12-2008 10:46 AM ET (US)     Profile for Moose  Send Email to Moose     
prj,

Dang, I was hoping you were going to report on some brewer putting in the proper effort down there. I'm headed to the Keys in another 6 weeks, sadly, I'll be flying.... wonder how many cases of Two Hearted Ale I'll be allowed to carry on?

Looking forward to your narrative and photos.

Moose

superdave_gv posted 01-12-2008 12:39 PM ET (US)     Profile for superdave_gv  Send Email to superdave_gv     

Great thread on the Keys. Looking forward to your log and feedback. There's a good chance I will be there this Spring so I have been paying attention. Based on the time of year, I will be trying to avoid the main Key West island and Spring Break crowds. Looking at Islamadora or Key Largo. Any feedback tacked on re: mid March appreciated.

Side note response re: beer. We may have similar tastes in beer and I can surely say the Mason Dixon line is not the "bad beer border." I would guess the line might be just South of Disney.

prj/Moose/any beer fan -- Take a web diversion here for more info.

Breweries:
sweetwaterbrew.com
terrapinbeer.com

Most taps:
tacomac.com

Brian7son posted 01-14-2008 04:07 PM ET (US)     Profile for Brian7son  Send Email to Brian7son     
superdave_gv

I have been down there late March/early April, the past 2 years in Tavernier Key. It's still usually blowing fairly good on the Atlantic side that time of year, but not as bad as it does in the winter. You will have some nice days to go offshore if you are there for a week. Roughly 50%+- of the time I was there it was rough offshore. Key Largo is nice, but I usually like to get a little further away from Miami.

prj posted 01-24-2008 08:41 PM ET (US)     Profile for prj  Send Email to prj     
We departed southeastern Virginia on Wednesday, December 26th in a heavy downpour, which was welcome, as that ocean water is remarkably salty and it seemed to cover my entire boat! Our destination on this day was 10 hours distant Savannah, GA, and the historic downtown where we'll steal a short tour of this urban planner's dream.

Selecting a hotel via the internet was one thing, but arriving there and getting comfortable with the location of the parked rig was another entirely. Looping around the historic area, we settled on a motorcourt configured Econo Lodge, where we eventually were able to settle in the rig, though it required de-coupling and 3-4 weeks of healing my damaged back.

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2295/2193404735_c656f81f14_b.jpg

If that damned champaign colored Ridgeline or Avalanche pickup wasn't there, it would have been a bit less difficult.

It was late, we piled into the room with the exposed gear, and I set out see the nearest square and get a beer. Remarkably enough, I find myself in a Pabst bar, just smokey and gritty enough to be a tavern that I might frequent in Milwaukee. I always travel with a quality single malt scotch, but a nice walk and leisurely beer has its place also.

The next morning, a walk about the area at an early hour satisfies our curiosity. Historic Savannah truly is a beautifully planned city, with much to be learned by our current developers, planners and purchasers. A walk down the market street, a quick cup of coffee and scone at a nice coffee shop on the north side of the big park, a photo of my son's namesake intersection and we were back on the road.

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2101/2191494934_f88c5666de_b.jpg

Our next stop is Cocoa Beach, FL, 6 hours distant, to overnight with some longtime family friends from Wisconsin who winter there. Uneventful, tee shirt shacks, strip malls and buffet type chain restaurants. Welcome.

The next day, Friday December 28th, we'll arrive in the Keys around noon.


Moose posted 01-31-2008 10:19 AM ET (US)     Profile for Moose  Send Email to Moose     
prj,

Come on, throw us another installment on this trip. It's smack dab middle of the winter, need some of that Keys mojo.

Moose

prj posted 02-07-2008 04:17 PM ET (US)     Profile for prj  Send Email to prj     
Thanks for the prod Moose, I was thinking about this just yesterday evening while sipping a $2 pint of Bell's Two-Hearted Ale across the street from my house at my corner's tavern, aptly named The Pub. I can't really call it the neighborhood tavern, because there are probably 3 others within 1 block of me. That pint provided a nice break and some sustenance from a hard snow shovel, the bane of a corner lot owner...

Anyway, to continue, this is the general set-up with a terse day-by-day blow to follow. Unfortunately, I'm struggling to find photos relevant, because we just didn't take many. I'll continue to fill it out with stock photos and maps/charts:


Friday December 28th, we get a 6 AM start in the dark, and expect to be hitting Little Torch Key right around noon. Traffic has been great, fast and almost flawless to date, and this leg didn't disappoint, even with the single lane segment through the Keys. We pulled in right at 12:20 PM, about 3 minutes behind our good friends who had flown down and spent the previous 2-3 days in Key West.

As an aside, traffic on the infamous HWY 95 was nothing short of perfect. We traveled fast and unmolested, as if everyone was a professional traveling with a purpose, particularly after dark on December 26th, those truckers know how to keep a steady head of steam.

This is the general location with Little Torch Key at top and center of the image and reef line at the bottom:
http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&ie=UTF8&t=h&om=1&ll=24.602075,-81. 374702&spn=0.209769,0.357399&z=12

Our rental was on Big Pine Channel, east side of La Fitte Rd, between Anne Bonny and John Silver roads:
http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&ie=UTF8&t=h&om=1&ll=24.660746,-81. 384702&spn=0.006552,0.011169&z=17

The house was perfect for our uses. My wife, 15 month-old son and I shared the rental with our close friends S and A. The bedroom and bath configuration, living and kitchen area combined, along with a refrigerator and pantry stocked full basics and condiments really worked like a professional setup. I wouldn't be surprised if most of the reputable rentals down here are fairly close to this model. Don't the hurricanes wipe the slate clean fairly regularly? The cost was $2000 for the week plus cleaning and utilities, let me know if you'd like this specific rental, I'll share my info in more detail.

On site was a boat ramp perpendicular to the channel, which is carved sharply out of the coral (I'll touch on this elsewhere). The space between our house and the chain link fence fit my trailer with inches to spare each side. Between the ramp and the channel sat the boatlift on one end of the tee shaped dock.
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2254/2194154952_20de9a098a_b.jpg

Regularly, throughout the course of the day including the 2 days blowing hard from the north, the Little Palm Island Resort launch would run by out front. Even though they may only carry a couple guests at a time, I realized the need for the 36' Grand Craft motor launches when the wind blew a steady 25-35 mph out of the north and the waves began to stack up. One wouldn't want to start a weekend of luxury beat senseless and soaked by salt water. (scroll down a bit in the link)
http://www.besthotelsresorts.com/littlepalmisland.htm

Finally, regarding those channels and canals visible in the satellite imagery, their actual make-up really surprised me. Turns out (as many of you may know), these things are literally carved out of coral rock, not just "dug" out of sand. The canal in front of our place was about 20' wide and 14' deep at high tide, with near vertical sides! The break line was right at the outside edge of our dock, such that a boat with deep draft could be berthed.

I also noticed that nearly every other abode had their lift arranged parallel to the tidal currents, whereas our was perpendicular to it. This was a substantial challenge for a lake boater like me.

megawhaler posted 09-30-2009 05:17 PM ET (US)     Profile for megawhaler  Send Email to megawhaler     
Try this site for Boat Rentals and Charters.

http://www.boatrentals.com

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