One location has a special place in my fisherman’s heart.
Marathon Key, midway down the Florida Keys on the edge on the Seven Mile Bridge is it.
A working Key with no frills, great people, fishing, seafood, beer n ribs in Tiki huts, what’s not to like.
For 10 years or so whilst travelling the USA tackle scene, a group of UK tackle tarts would take an extra week and hop down to the Keys for sport fishing.
Collector pals including Roger Still and Chris Sandford made the hardcore of the crew for many years.
Travelling from Miami airport we rented a van, stopped off at World Wide Sportsman in Islamorada to buy more tackle we didn’t need, have our picture taken on the Pilar boat inside the shop then onto Highway i95 down to the Keys. It was a pilgrimage that altered little over the years.
1997 was a particularly good year visiting the keys twice with amazing fishing. We caught just about everything that swam using rental or guided boats as well as shore fishing.
Roger hooked a good tarpon at night whilst skiff fly fishing only to be attacked by sharks, buffeting the boat after blood, that was scary.
Running out of line and being dragged under the 7 Mile Bridge by a huge ray to be picked up by the skipper on the other side was fun. Coming face to face with a shark underwater whilst I was trying to release line from the pier leg was the point I realised adrenalin is brown! Roger thought he had caught a massive grouper intended for lunch. He was mistaken but still insisted on manhandling the shark onto dry land for a picture, he brings a new level to being mad!
All good things come to an end as sadly a devastating hurricane blew through the Keys in 1998 and destroyed virtually everything.
I travelled down a week later in October with Chris on a pre-planned trip and we saw at first hand the destruction. The luxury floating houseboats were smashed and sunk, people lost their homes, their cars, you name it, it was gone.
Yet resilience was in the air as Florida residents were accustomed to this type of event. We were not and it was a stark reminder of the power of nature.
The fishing guides had to re-establish all their fishing marks.
Most of the Keys are very shallow, sometimes only paddling pool deep. The torrents had moved the sea bed, shifting marks which had been favourites for seasons, even decades.
Yet all this said, we were greeted with smiles, welcomes and a get on with it attitude.
The fish were there but less keen to bite, but we still caught.
I haven’t been back for a few years but if the aged crew are up “for one last bash”, count me in.