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By Captain Jay

In my opinion I hate the boatyard. Not the actual yard itself, just the idea of putting the boat on a dry dock and doing the work involved i.e. sanding, grinding, fixing, ext., and it usually always involves some kind of “unexpected” and “unforeseen” issue in which we must address immediately. For the boat however i see it much differently. I think for the boat its a lot like going to the Spa. You go in get pampered and primped all up, massaged, dolled up and then your out and back to showing yourself off again. Im sure every person who goes to a Spa treatment leaves feeling better than when they came in. Same with the boat. When the boat goes back in the water, it feels rejuvenated. Ready to go back to work only now all dolled up. At least that is my opinion of how it is supposed to be. Some boats go into the boatyard with lots of issues and only come back with one less if you catch my drift, but we will stay off that subject. When it comes to the Mr.Z we feel she should always come out looking the best we can get it, and this time was no exception.

We started off as always going to 3D Boatyard in Stock Island, just outside of Key West. We do all the work ourselves so this is a great yard for DIY crews. As always we begin by pressure washing the bottom and remove any growth. Once washed, the vessel is blocked up and is set down on stands. Now the fun begins. This trip we need to address a few minor issues, buff out and wax the hull, paint the bottom, and go back to the marina. One week was all we would need, tops. Sounds simple enough. Well, not so much. First we removed the hydrico-pump from the starboard engine and took it down the street to the shop to have it rebuilt. This pump supplies oil pressure to the gear case, this one in particular leaked so it needed new seals. Then as we were going over our punch out list, the left hook came in.

Unexpected Endeavors

 

As with all things in life there are always unexpected issues that set you back from your original plan. This issue showed it nasty little head very early though which did however give us a bit of a jump start on it. While Steve and I were going over the plan of sanding and painting the stern cabin wall, I noticed a small soft area under the window. With very little pressure I push my thumb to the spot and ironically it went through the paint and into the wall. Ok now what? Replace the area that is rotten, or replace the whole wall. A few cuts here and there and our destiny was foretold. The whole wall needed to be replaced. Ok, this was going to take a few more days. So much for a weeks worth.

Mr.Z back wall

wall demolition

We began by removing the window and all the upper trim. None of these tasks were going to be easy. Whoever built the wall the last time definitely wanted it to never come out easily. Once the window and trim were removed the wall was carefully cut out. With the wall out, now we were able to get a good idea of the major culprit. Dry wood termites. Little buggers had been having the time of their lives in there just chewing away. A good termite treatment and that should take care of them. Now for the task of building a wall into a space that was not square or plumb or level or anything at that. Doubling up two pieces of 1/2 inch marine grade plywood, then priming it for paint. Once the wall was installed perfectly (the first time), I cut the window out and installed all the trim. I used to be a carpenter before devoting my life to fishing. Remember this, “measure twice, cut once”. Once complete, the wall was fared with a polyester faring compound and then painted with Awl-Grip paint. Then to the deck. This trip the deck was to be painted again with a coat of gel-coat and a small amount of textured sand for a good non-slip surface. While Steve worked on the deck I went at the task of buffing out the hull and waxing the boat.

Shiny Hull

Look at that Shine!!

 

Mr.Z back at the dock

all done and back at the dock

 

As we did this, Jesse worked at getting the running gear cleaned up and the bottom ready for paint. Two more days later and we were buffed, waxed, painted, and ready to get back to the dock at A&B Marina. The freshly rebuilt Hydrico-pump was installed and we were there, and still all this we did within our expected time allotment. Even with unforeseen issues we managed to step it up and get the job done in time.

Once finished the boat I am sure feels like it just got out of the Spa. Pretty and shiny with new paint and a new outlook on life again. Ready once again to take on the Ocean and all it has in store.

By Captain Jay

Wow! What a great start to February we have had. I’m talking nothing short of amazing!!. The Weather has been just awesome, and the fishing has as well. This truly  is the perfect time of year to come to Key West. Sunny, with highs in the upper 70’s!! What more advice do you need. Picture this. You sitting on the back deck of a beautiful sport fishing boat, enjoying the sun, the light breeze, and the sounds of the ocean with not a worry in sight, when all of a sudden, “FISH ON!!” That monster Wahoo grabs the bait and screams the drag. You jump in the fighting chair and begin the task of fighting the beast. Like tug-o-war, back and forth you go un tip finally you begin to have the upper hand. Now, your arms are beginning to get tired, yet the prize is so close. The mate diligently works from one side of the boat to the other ready with the gaff. Then just as you think you cannot crank the reel one more time, he sinks the cold hard steel of the gaff into the fish, grunting as he lifts the beast over the gunwale. Later as you relish in the glory, you enjoy the fruits of your labor as the delicious bounty is prepared and served exactly to your liking. Yes, this can happen, and this most certainly should be happening to YOU! If not, you are seriously missing out on a trip of a lifetime.

Take this for example. On February 7th, John Olesh along with a group of friends from my hometown of Englewood, FL went out for a 3/4 day with Mr.Z Sportfishing. The weather could not have been any nicer. 1 to 2 foot seas mixed with a high of 80 degrees and abundant sunshine made for perfect boating conditions. The fishing however started off very slow. Working offshore on some scattered weed lines proved to be uneventful. Deciding to try back in a bit shallower, the crew got exactly what they were looking for. All at once numerous rods doubled over screaming line. First the deep bait, then the rigger, then the bridge rod. Now for the craziness. First fish comes in; big Wahoo. Then the next fish; another big Wahoo. Now the last fish to the boat, “No Way!” a White Marlin!!.Mr.Z Whitey Two Wahoo and a White Marlin all at the same time! Now thats awesome!! Then adding another big Wahoo to the cooler, this crew had a superb day for sure!

Husband and wife; Ed and Lori from Chicago got to experience some fun and exciting fishing themselves last week as well. Being no stranger to fishing in Key West, Ed has fished down here twice a year for almost 2 decades. Yet his wife Lori has not had as many opportunities as he. The goal was however to catch Lori her first Sailfish. Outer Limits Sportfishing was up for the task. We headed out to the reef first to try and catch some live bait. With 3 throws of the 12ft cast net the live wells were blacked out with some of the prettiest Ballyhoo that a fisherman could ask for. Having heard of a few Sailfish that have been pushing bait along the reef edge I worked the boat to the west along the drop. Not 200 yards ahead I noticed some Ballyhoo being driven to the surface. “Sailfish,” I yelled. With a quick pitch the bait was atop the fish and got its attention. A few swipes at the bait and this Sailfish took the bait and started jumping. After only a few seconds though the Sailfish was off the line and we were on the move again chasing the massive school of Ballyhoo, which now was numbering in the thousands. Two more baits were let out behind the boat and another Sailfish appeared. This fish however was very hungry and instantly Lori was hooked up to her first Sailfish. Screaming drag persisted as the Sailfish did its best to spool the 20lb spinning gear, jumping and tail walking away from the boat. Relentlessly Lori worked the Sailfish over and finally with a little help from the boat Lori’s first Sailfish was leadered and next to the boat. The fish was promptly released and after a round of high fives the baits were once again set back out. Not but a few minutes later Ed was hooked up himself with a Sailfish. Just like the first this fish worked all it had to try escaping before finally again succumbing to the leader and was released healthy and swimming. Along with the Sailfish bites the tandem continued to crank in bent rods. Cero Mackerels, Barracuda, and Snapper kept them both busy winding in fish. We spotted even more Sailfish again and again pitching baits to them but with little luck as most of these fish had blinders on. Many times as a Sailfish chases a school of bait they get so in tuned to the school they rarely get excited about your single bait landing near them. After three or four turn downs we found another who was willing to tussle. Lori again had the luck as the biggest Sailfish of the day grabbed hold of her bait and gave her the full experience. Screaming off line quicker than she could reel, we had to back down on this fish with a bit of speed before the 7 1/2 foot Sailfish spooled her reel. Wave after wave came crashing over the stern as we finally got some line back on the spool and the fish calmed down. Another 20 minutes of sheer excitement followed as Lori worked this fish over like a pro. Now with leader in hand we bid this grand competitor a thankful farewell and the fish was released. What a day. Not only did Lori catch her first Sailfish, but TWO! Add getting a chance to pitch at 5 others and numerous other bites throughout the day and I call that a great trip.

Lori's First Sailfish

Lori’s first Sailfish

The blue water is in very close to the reef right now bringing with it some fine catching. Sailfish, Wahoo, Blackfin Tuna, Kingfish, and even a few decent Mahi have been the main attraction. With this closeness also means a very short running time. 30 minutes to the fishing grounds is pretty nice. So get down here and come let us show you what great fishing is all about.February Wahoo

By Captain Jay

OK, here it is. The first of many posts in the new and exciting BurgerBlog. This will be a year long quest for the “best in Key West” cheeseburger. I will explore not only Key West, but will include the Lower Keys as well, looking for the true, undeniable “cheeseburger in paradise”. Jimmy Buffet had it right when he wrote the tune years ago, now I will rate them all. This quest will however be very interesting to all foodies who love this international delicacy, as well as a lot of fun. No fast food here! These tastebuds will touch only privately owned restaurants located from Marathon to Key West. How many “burger joints” are out there you might ask. Hundreds I’m sure. Almost every food slinging establishment in the “Keys” serves a burger, and I plan on rating them all. From beef to bun and everything in between, you’ll never have to ask where to get a great burger again.

Lets start off with the judge/s. I’m a huge foodie. I have a culinary appetite for just about everything, and when it comes it meat, well, I am a true carnivore connoisseur. From steak to BBQ I love it all, but no mater what the cheeseburger I would have to say IS my all-time favorite. The town I was raised in, Englewood, FL, is a quiet town on the southwest side of the state located on the Gulf of Mexico. As a child there was a restaurant we went to on the beach aptly named Barnacle Bill’s. This restaurant wow’d me then with the amazing cheeseburgers they offered. With a fresh hand pressed patty so big I swear it took up most of the plate, and a homemade bud that was toasted how you liked it, this juicy burger was truly the “best burger ever”. Even as I became a teenager, BB’s was awesome. Though moving locations and the economy forced BB’s to close its doors years ago, I can still taste that delicious treat.

Now, since moving to the Keys over a dozen years ago I have searched for that same burger utopia. I have had my favorites over the years, but one thing you can count on is that none are the same as they were when i first tried them. As cooks and kitchen crews come and go very regularly, I have found some burgers aren’t quite what they used to be, and others are definitely better, and others yet are still just as bad as they have always been. Don’t get me wrong, I am not being paid, nor am I getting any freebies out of this, so don’t think for a second that this quest will be influenced in any way other than by burger alone!!

Tiki Bar and Grill burger

Tiki Bar and Grill burger

A Lil History

The origin of the hamburger is one of countless tales and years of folklore. No one “really” knows where or how the burger actually became its mainstay. Some attribute it to the influence of minced meat in the 19th century and recipes brought over to New York by German immigrants from Hamburg. Others offer an explanation of the industrialized era in the beginning of the 20th century bringing forth a need for quicker made meals. Many different stories have evolved over the years as to who truly began the burger craze as well. All we know is this. Wherever it came from, Americans, over the last century, has made the burger what it is today. And that would be THE most popular international food in the world. The cheeseburger is consumed in every major country in the world today. Everyone across the globe loves to sink their teeth into a juicy burger patty.

Widely popularized by fast food chains the burger itself has many faces. From flame grilled or broiled, to fried on a flat grill, in a pan, or skillet can give the burger a different taste. Some are cooked slow and others are kicked out faster than a car can make it around the restaurant. With thousands of choice topping combinations, buns, and condiments, the burger is nothing short of a construction zone on a plate. Millions of fast food burgers are consumed every day in this country alone.

The patty itself is ground beef from any one or number of cuts of the animal. Some are very fatty as others extremely lean. Mostly all are tender and when cooked perfectly release a flavor all its own. This is what makes the burger so special to me.

The Local Flavor

I may be popular, but I am definitely not rating a single patty from any grease slinging burger chain. It’s just, well, just wrong! I have a problem with fast food chains, and at that I will happily keep my opinions to myself. We are talking the real deal. Local restaurants who make a true burger from what we hope are best ingredients available. From fridge to plate we are looking for the best in not only taste but presentation and service. Taste is by far number one and if you have bad service I could really care less, however I will rate service anyway. Presentation is also one of those which will not really affect my rating, but I do have to say, that when you are served a meal and the presentation is nice, it makes you feel that much more apt to dig in. Back to taste though. The taste and rate of all of the burgers will be on a scale of 1 thru 10. Very simple. The breakdown though will be by this:

1. How the burger is made. Is it a pre-made patty, or is it hand pressed into a patty?

2. How it is cooked. Just for a control we will order all burgers to be cooked to “Medium”. This will keep it consistent and rate how close to this the burger will be when served. Many times I have ordered it to be cooked Medium only to have it Well done, or still raw in the middle. Hopefully I won’t have to send it back. Mostly though Medium comes out close. True medium is cooked well on the outsides and pink in the middle.

3. What cut of beef it is. The cut of the burger will determine the flavor. Fatty or lean, juicy or dry will all depend on the cut, and how its cooked.

4. Cooking surface. Whether the patty is fried or grilled or broiled ect. can all affect the burger’s taste.

5. The bun. Not many people think about the bun, but to me it represents the strength of the burger. A good bun should hold together well through the entirety of eating, and should be soft yet not fall apart. A moist bun is also a must as no one wants to have to take a drink to wash down every dry bite.

6. Toppings. Ingredients of the toppings can range from lettuce, to onion, to pickles, tomatoes, and so on. These will be ranked by freshness rather than which toppings are on the burger. Cheese on the other hand will be ranked as a preference by whatever cheese I feel I want on that particular Burger.

7. Condiments will be rated only by what is offered. I will try to keep to a control, and just use Ketchup and Mustard, but from time to time I like others as well, and sometimes none at all. I keep my condiments to a minimum though because I never want to take away from the flavor of the burger itself.

Alonzo's burger

Alonzo’s burger

I am excited all ready. Just writing this I want to go grab a juicy Burger right now! I hope you all enjoy these posts as much as I will enjoy making them!!

By Capt Jay

I am often amazed how life’s outcomes can sometimes turn out to be better than what your expectations are. I have seen this so many times throughout my many years of fishing in Key West. You leave the dock with goals and aspirations of this or that specific species, only to come back to the dock with something amazingly better and completely unexpected. All of your planning and work put forth to catch this specific fish such as a Sailfish or Dolphin is all but lost when that giant Wahoo or Marlin gets hooked and is screaming drag. Then, other times as you fight what you think is a certain fish, you are totally blown away when it finally surfaces next to the boat. This is exactly what happened the other day with Gene Stevens from St. Mary’s, Georgia by way of Westchester, PA.

Gene chartered the Outer Limits for a half day by himself to catch that specific “bucket list” Sailfish. This day unfortunately did not hold great conditions for Sailfish. But that was no reason not to give it 100% either. We have caught plenty of Sailfish on days where you would never expect to see one. The weather was absolutely beautiful though. As the rest of the country is suffering the wrath of all this crazy Polar Vortex weather that has put its nasty grasp around the United States, Key West is the nicest in the land with light winds and highs in the upper 70’s and lows in the upper 60’s. I’m telling you it is fabulous here right now. Generally we tend to like a Northeast to East wind for Sailfish and definitely a good amount of eastbound current. So, our conditions were no wind, flat clam, and no current… Great Sailfish fishing conditions (sarcasm). Either way we had a goal. Now, Gene was no stranger to catching trophy fish. On the way out he proudly showed Cory and I photos of his 525 pound Bluefin Tuna he caught off of Morehead City, NC a few years back. A very impressive catch I must say, but today we were after a Sailfish.

We started out catching bait. As calm as it was I decided rather than try and catch live Ballyhoo which we had been catching almost every trip, today wasn’t going to be a great day for trying to catch these frantic little freak-a-zoids. When there is no wind and no current, Ballyhoo can be a very tough bait to get, and get a lot of. So, I opted for trying to catch some Threadfin Hearing. Being as calm as it was these little baitfish tend to feed near the surface. When they come to the top they leave little rings in the water almost like a large rain drop giving away their position. Using a sabiki rig we were able to put close to three dozen in the live well and we were on our way fishing.

Slow Beginnings

As it was, the action to begin with was nothing short of deathly. And I’m not talking about the fish. Literally we fished for two straight hours with not as much as a nibble. Working an area of about 3 miles east from Sand Key we focused mostly in the range of 100- 150 foot of water. After no luck here we picked up and made a move farther down the reef edge. Starting out a bit deeper this time we found ourselves in the vicinity of a well known wreck just south of Key West. Now with only a half of the day to fish, and very little time left at that, we were nearing the dreaded smell of skunk age.  But then, the magic happened.

 

Gene in the fight

Light Tackle Fun!!

First bite of the day came from a King Mackerel around 12 pounds or so. Then, we had a bait stolen, then another , and then yet another was cut in half. It wasn’t long though before the next bite was “the” bite. As Gene was instructed, the bait was let back to the appropriate distance and the bail shut. Not 5 seconds after, the spinning rod in Gene’s hand doubled over with a screamer. Line peeled off the Penn Battle with ease as Gene could only hold on and hope to slow the beast. Once the fish had made enough of a run the back and forth battle began. Like a tug-o-war these two went at it. The fish would take 50 yards, then Gene 30. Then Gene would gain 40 yards , and the fish would take 30. over half an hour they dueled until finally the best prevailed. Little did we realize what Gene was tangled up with. Another Kingfish was both of our expectations as we had already caught and lost others. Then, as the fish came to the top, those beautiful navy blue tiger stripes shined out from the water like a diamond in the rough. WAHOO! was the scream. After a short back and forth near the boat, like boxers in the final round, the match was over and the gaff finally sank into the 40lb. Wahoo’s side. What a great fight and an awesome fish on light tackle spinning gear as well. Gene will never forget this day as long as he lives and I’ll tell you neither will we. It may not have been a Sailfish, but I guarantee it was just as awesome!!

Gene's 40lb. Wahoo

The Prize!!

Whether your looking for action, a reel good pull, or dinner for the table, Key West has everything for everyone right now offshore. Moderate to strong Gulfstream currents have remained tight up to the edge of the reef with it bringing a consistent blue water bite. Wahoo and Blackfin Tunas have been the main attraction for the offshore enthusiasts as well as a mix of some Mahi Mahi, Kingfish, and of course the ever present Little Tunny. The area southwest of Key West, the famous “End of the Bar” has been the place to be lately as the majority of the action has been best around the couple wrecks that lay on the bottom in this area. Many large Wahoo in upwards of 50 to 70 pounds have been caught recently with many others averaging 30 to 40 pounds. These fish are screamers so be prepared to have a sore arm after tussling with one of these line rippers.

Blackfin Jerry

Jerry Jacobson hoists a heavy Blackfin

The Blackfin tuna bite has been nothing short of awesome. The size of these fish have been a mixed bag as fish from 3 pounds to 30 pounds have been taking all sorts of different presentations regularly. Found anywhere from 120 to 300 feet of water the bite has been really great as the sun get lower in the late afternoons and evenings. Whether trolling, live baiting, or jigging, be ready for some unbelievable action. Mixed in with both the Wahoo and Tuna are a handful of Dolphin that have yet to realize their migration is off. Mostly averaging “schoolie” size, 5-10 pounds, look for these fish to be in the same areas as the Tunas. Kingfish have also been a good bet on the edge of the reef lately. As the water cools off to the north of the Florida Keys, these schooling fish migrate south for the main winter months. Look for these fish to be stationed on the reef edge in 50 to 130 feet of water. Make sure you’ve got wire leaders when fishing in their “neck of the woods” as these fish can make all your rigs disappear in a blink of an eye.

Bruce's Tuna Tango

Buce knows how to do the Tuna Tango!

Whatever it is your looking for, be it action, a trophy fish of a lifetime, or something for the grill, Key west is the place to be right now. Get Down! and Get Some!!