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By Captain Jay

Every once in a while throughout your life you happen to meet a person that you or everyone who knows them considers them to be a “lucky” person. The kind of person who is one of those people that more often than not they happen to fall into good fortune. Maybe not always in the wealth kind of situation, but just lucky. I have never really considered myself to be one of these extraordinary people, but I have met a few from time to time. One in particular I believe is my friend Bruce. If you have read any of my blogs over the years than you probably have heard his name mentioned before. When it comes to his luck of fishing, I believe he has quite a bit. From the first trip we ever fished together I believed that the fish gods might have a soft spot for him. We have and continue to have some pretty amazing trips together. And not just on one boat, or with just one captain, but with whomever he fishes with. His passion is definitely bluewater fishing, and more than ever, tying into billfish. I couldn’t tell you how many trips we have left the dock with him, but no matter the conditions, he always seems to come back to the dock with a very nice catch. I would like to say that it is mostly because of us… But I think his luck just so happens to rub off on us. Most recently mr. lucky happened to be in town for just a short trip and booked a couple trips with the Outer Limits and the Mr.Z.

First, let us set the scene. The weather was gorgeous, with temperatures in the lower 80’s abundant sunshine and a light NE breeze. The northern side of the Gulfstream was located about 15 miles south of Key West roughly in about 700 feet of water. Cory and I had an afternoon trip on Saturday with our buddy Tony and within minutes of coming up on the current edge we hooked into a big Bull Dolphin. Not 5 minutes after that fish a 250 pound Blue Marlin was in the spread beating to baits with his raspy bill. We never got a solid hook up on that fish but it was very promising to see to say the least. Anytime you raise and get a shot at a Marlin, in my eyes, is a good trip.

The next day was Bruce’s turn offshore. The day started off pretty fast. As soon as we pulled back the throttles, we were hooked up with Mahi. Not many but it was a good start to be 5 minutes into fishing and have fish in the box. The next few hours proved to be humbling though as our search for offshore deities was uneventful. As we worked in the area just west of our previous days Blue Marlin encounter, the ocean started to come alive on the surface. Small schools of Skipjack Tuna popped the surface, birds stared working all around the area, and the Flying Fish were abundant. The first nice fish came in just after 1pm in the afternoon. Crashing a lure the big Bull bent the rod with extreme force and after about 50 yards or so of drag screaming came unglued. Eager to get into a few more of these nice Mahi we worked the area very extensively. Within a few minutes of that bite I spotted a Frigate bird circling low on the water, which is usually a great indicator of Dolphin fish. As we chased the bird we could see the schools of Flying Fish being chased out of the water by the big Mahi. Then, all hell breaks loose. First a big Bull weighing 40 pounds crushes the short rigger, then another the same size crashes the center rigger. Two more big Mahi come in from the other side and come into the spread but do not eat. Now we have multiple big Dolphin on at one time, with just Cory and Bruce and still more fish behind the boat. Within a minute or so unfortunately we pull the hook on Cory’s fish. As Bruce settles into the battle Cory pitches a live bait to another big Mahi behind the boat and is immediately hooked up again. Diligently working the majestic fish, Bruce gets the better of the Bull and into the box he goes. Bruce's 40lb BullOnce the fish are on ice we set forth again with the same intentions. Not long after we are hooked up again with another big Dolphin. This time it is a big Cow and within a short time she meets the icy Bull who was just chilling out in the ice box waiting for some more company. ;-)

Now with our heads held high and our chests stuck out we keep on our same path. Having listened to the marine radio there were very few boats this day that had any luck. The general consensus was that fishing all around was extremely slow, so we felt very fortunate to have been into some great action. This is when it gets REAL! Having worked in the area west of yesterdays marlin siting, we continued along the current edge towards that spot when the short rigger again is crushed. This time there was no siting, no inclination of a bite. Just line screaming off the reel at impressive speed. 100 yard, 200 yards, 300 yards and not showing any signs of slowing down. In less that 30 seconds the Penn 50 wide was almost empty of line. Now with the boat in full reverse we worked as hard as possible just to get a few yards back. Normally in this situation the captain will “J hook” the boat and run back towards the fish in parallel to try and gain back some line. I did not have this luxury as there was barely enough time to pull back the throttle. After the initial run we were able to get a small amount of line back on the spool and luckily keep the fish from making another screaming run. Back and forth these two went at it for quite some time. Not having seen the fish we suspected a nice Blue Marlin, but when offshore you never know what you have at the end of the line. Twenty five, maybe thirty minutes go by and we finally get a glimpse of the beauty as it comes airborne a few times 100 or so yards from the boat before diving again and going back deep. Short of strength by now Bruce had just enough left in him to work the beast close to the boat. Once the leader hit the tip of the rod we were able to breathe easy and Cory took a wrap on the leader. Blue Marlin MongoHealthy and full of color we wasted no time in getting back our hook set and reviving the fish for a great release. What a great fish, and a great day…

What Is This? Groundhog Day?

Now after some good libations and a good nights rest, Bruce again is at the dock in the morning ready to go offshore. This time he is accompanied by his friend Jeff and they are on the Mr. Z. The conditions were pretty much identical from the day before, as was the fishing. Not long after putting baits in the water the twosome was hooked up to a pair of big Mahi. Once again putting the arms to work the fish were brought within gaff’s reach and an icy box. Then just as the day before the rigger screams off line. “Blue Marlin On!” as the fish greyhounds out of the water away from the boat. Having arms of jello from his previous battles, Bruce takes a break for this one and Jeff is the man in the chair. Over two hours pass as the crew works on the fish. Staying deep for the majority of the fight, this Marlin in particular  did not want to give up. By now, Jeff is wiped out and so is the fish. Finally the crew is able to see the Blue Marlin and Steve grabs ahold of the leader. What a day for Bruce and Jeff. Almost the exact catch from the day before. Awesome!! Two days in a row with two different boats and almost identical outcomes. I would say that is luck if I have ever heard of any.

There are many restaurants in Key West. Many have their own motif and culture as well as Key West “color”. The Rum Barrel is one of these places. One of a conglomerate of establishments owned by the same “guy” I guess you would say. It has a very colorful “pirate” theme which played into its neighbor (also the same co.) the Pirate Soul Museum, which is no longer open I might add, but the Rum Barrel carries on for its fallen pirate. Since it opened 8 or so years ago it has always been one of many lunch stops for me due to its proximity from the marina and our charter boats. Now for years there were many things on the menu that were excellent. The cheesesteak was always awesome, killer steak fries, great appetizers, and the burger was one of the better burgers in town. Now, well, not so much, and I think I may have an idea of why. In many aspects of the restaurant business you find that the quality of food that leaves the kitchen is almost solely dependent on the kitchen management. In turn the food ordered followed by how it is handled, prepared, and served starts with the head of the kitchen. I will tell you now before I get into the rating of this burger that this was one of the lowest quality of burgers in Key West I have had in a long time. So its my belief that the beings running the kitchen are probably not the same people who were behind the good food that was put out over the last how ever many years since its opening. I also noticed a complete menu change as well which leads me to my assumption.

Well, on to the burger. Three words will sum up the burger I ate last week. “Order A Cheesesteak!” I’m serious. It was very dry, extremely overcooked, and pretty much tasteless. If I had ordered it raw it might have come out medium, because medium came out “well overdone”. Between the bun and the patty it was no better than any fast-food $4.00 special. I know sometimes you don’t get them all right, but three of us ordered three different burgers, and all three came out looking and tasting the same. At least the TLO and pickle were fresh, I’ll give that to them. Their steak fries haven’t changed a bit though, which is at least something good about it.

So, there is no need to go on about this one anymore. Like I said this burger used to be a very good one and I was surprised of how much it has has changed. Maybe your experience, if you dare to walk the plank and try it, will be different. I say just “Order A Cheesesteak”.

Bun – 4 – very dry

Patty – 3 – way too overcooked and almost tasteless

TLO – 7 – fresh crisp veggies

Fries – 8- the fries are still killer

I give it a score of 4.5 because not all was lost

The Rum Barrel Burger

The Lettuce Cover Up!

by Captain Jay

Can you believe it is March already? Look out your window. Is there still snow on the ground? C’mon man! Is the winter craziness ever going to end? This is one of the hardest and most brutal winter weather years most can remember. Not for us though. Aren’t you ready to thaw out? Spring is here! And by “here” I am talking about Key West. 78 to 80 degrees every day with the sunshine in full effect. Ironically all the cold fronts and pushes of high pressure have dissipated for the most part before they get this far south leaving the Florida Keys to some of the nicest winter weather I can recall. I really must say, whether you are a diver, a fisher, or just like to be a spectator, the water activities are a sure go this time of year. Being that the winds have been light and the temps high, the water from the beach out past the reef has been very warm and clear. Water temps this last week have held strong in the high 70’s and close to 80 degrees. If you are planning a spring getaway make sure you think about coming to Key West. It truly has been paradise for the last 4 months and continues its consistency day in and day out.

The Bite!

As college kids leave their respectable campuses for a much needed break and migrate southward to soak up some sun and who knows what else, the Sailfish should be doing just the same, well, minus the beer.

Spring is an awesome time of year to fish out of Key West. Sailfish, Blackfin Tuna, Mahi, Marlin, Cobia, and Kingfish are all very highly on the offshore catch list in spring. Soon the Sailfish fishing here will be as good as it always is in spring. A color change will form from the gulf stream current flow and the tidal flow together creating a sort of highway for migrating fish to move through. This highway is used by many pelagic fish and give anglers a chance to catch numerous fish of many different species. Live bait fishing with shad such as Herring or Pilchards can be the best way to attract these sought after gamefish. Kite fishing is one of our mainstays this time of year and we will be doing quite a bit of this I am certain.

The inshore game has been quite a riot as well right now. The Silver King has shown up in very large numbers this year making for what is going to shape up to be one heck of a great Tarpon season. The north side of the harbor is loaded with monster fish 125 pounds and on up to 180. This time of the year has also brought us a great Shark fishing bite right now. Many different species of sharks have been caught and released lately as the Mackerels and Jacks have been migrating inshore bringing with it a killer display of shark action. No pun intended. Blacktips, Bull sharks, Hammerheads, and Caribbean Reef sharks all round out the top of the list, but some huge Tiger sharks and even Sawfish have been caught in the last week.

With all that spring has to offer is a wonder why you haven’t already booked your trip. So much variety in such a small package, Key West truly is the “Spring Break” destination for men women and children of all ages. So once again look outside your window and tell me what you see, then take a minute to think about where you want to be. Believe me, you want to be where we are right now. Let us cater to your senses and show you the fishing trip of a lifetime. Until then, tight lines and screaming drags.

Jumpin Mahi

The Dance of the Dolphin

by Captain Jay

Quite often you find good food in some very small,  or off the beaten path locations. Take the Sunset Tiki Bar for example. Located in downtown Key West right next door to A&B Marina is the El Galleon Resort and Marina at the very end of the Historic Harbor-walk on Front Street. Next to the pool, overlooking Key West Harbor is the tiki bar, offering an awesome view, and another good local hangout. If you come for a libation or for a bite or want to lay out and get some sun on one of many reclining sun chairs there is plenty of each. However, if you want to skip the bar and go directly to the source, the deli/kitchen is located next to the dock master’s office on the marina side of the property. Take out, or grab one of the couple tables on the covered patio, the Sunset Tiki has a decent menu offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner from 7am to 10pm.

The burger here I have also eaten many times. It happens to be lucky for me to be located so close to the Mr.Z and the Outer Limits. The food here is usually pretty consistent. I have had a couple times that the burger was cooked to the point of too “well done” for medium, but like I said it is consistently right. Before I get to ranking it, I will also say that this little tiny deli/kitchen can pump out some good food, very quickly. A great place for a quick snack, or a belly buster, take your pick. It has the reminiscent quality of the old Damn Good Food To Go. Which I will say now is one place I wish was still here, but anyway… The burger presentation is to-go boxed with the patty on the bottom half of the bun and all the LTO on the top half set aside with shoestring fries. I hope your hungry, or you may want to split it with someone. Though I believe these patty’s may be pre-made and pre-packaged,the patty was BIG, cooked perfectly medium, nice and pink in the center, and very juicy. The keiser roll was a little dry but not bad. it did a good job soaking up the juices. I usually oder it with Texas Toast instead of the bun, but to be consistent I stuck with the bun. The two slices of cheddar cheese dripping off the sides made it just right. The fixings were fresh and the pickle spear was deli approved. The fries are good and crispy to boot! So, all in all, I would have to say this is a pretty good burger stop. Whether its the view for you, or a grab and go, the Sunset Tiki can take care of you.Sunset Tiki Bar and Grill burger

The fixings were fresh and crispy – 8

The bun, however a little dry was good – 5 (ordered with Texas Toast is the way to go!)

Two slices of melted cheddar – 7

A juicy cooked to order patty, however pre packaged was flavorful – 7

Overall score is a solid 7

Note: the El Galleon is a marina, but does not have open slips to tie up in, so access by water is not available

by Captain Jay

Our first post for the BurgerBlog has been delayed due to unforeseen circumstances involving beautiful weather and good fishing. Make no mistake I for one have been putting my time in. To start I decided to stay local to where we live in Big Coppitt Key. Thats mile marker 10 from Key West for those of you who may not have heard of it. Just to the south of US 1 down Boca Chica Rd. is a cool little spot for good food and a great view. Geiger Key Marina and Smokehouse is the place. Nestled in a quaint little corner of the ocean view, the tiki style bar and waterfront seating will take you to a place that is as local as a Conch shell. Whether traveling by land or by sea, the Smokehouse is a popular place for lunch and dinner. On Sundays they do a BBQ that is pretty lip smacking itself. But… On to the patty!!

Years ago when I first moved to the Keys, Geiger Key Marina was a tiny little gas, beer, and burger stop located oceanside in the middle of a campground. Now over changing of ownership numerous times, it has built up quite a bit and is now a true restaurant and bar (still a little marina in the middle of a campground). Back then the burger was always a good bet. Probably because it was pretty much one of the only things you could get :-). But it was all-American. You know that hot, juicy off the grill with a slice or two of American cheese dripping off the sides, and a pickle. Yep, thats the one. Now, still a very locals hangout, the Smokehouse offers a burger that is comparable to days of burgers past. The menu states, “Build Your Own burger”. They have a wide variety of toppings and accessories for your burger which should be enough to suffice anyone’s taste. I will state now that I eat here quite often and I usually get the burger. This time, like most times, I ordered it with cheddar and bacon, cooked medium, and LTO on the side.

The presentation is consistent with the atmosphere. Cool. A cheeseburger with all the fix’s, shoestring fries, and a pickle spear, on a print of old Key West newspaper. At first glance the burger was a bit small in the bun and then I realized the bun was huge, and well, dry. The LTO were very fresh and crispy. Gotta love crisp lettuce and onion. The patty was good. Cooked a minute more than my preference but still juicy and flavorful. the cheddar was hot and melted and the bacon was definitely a great addition as it was really thick and crunchy. I wouldn’t be handing out the title belt for this burger, but I will say it was good and had a very good flavor. I do have to say that the fries they serve are pretty good fries. My wife is a quite a fan.Geiger Key Marina and Smokehouse burger

First I’ll say the bun to me was a 4, a bit overboard on the bread and dry.

The LTO I’ll give a 9 on the count that they were as fresh as you can get

Cheese and bacon get an 8 for “C’mon, It’s Cheddar and Bacon!!”

And the patty gets a 6 for being slightly overcooked yet tasty and juicy

Overall, this burger I’m going to give it a 7, with an added .5 for the effect the view has on my attitude. So a 7.5 it is.

I will say that whenever you get the chance, if you have not already, make your way out to Geiger Key Marina and Smokehouse, a great place and authentic “keys” local flavor. Never know you may see us there ;-)