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Fishing the Florida Keys | A Tropical Paradise

Shane Uriot

Hello My Fishing Cape Codders! My name is Shane Uriot, and I am the director/editor of My Fishing Cape Cod TV. I hope you've all been enjoying the episodes so far.

Today I wanted to share with you a post about a trip I made to Key West during 2017, right before the Keys were hit by Hurricane Irma.

This trip to Key West was actually the best birthday gift I could possibly have imagined, thanks to my longtime girlfriend, Brittany, who surprised me by booking this adventure.

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Fishing the Keys has always been a dream of mine, as well as catching a dolphin fish (mahi mahi). Luckily, both of these dreams would come true.

With a great recommendation from Ryan Collins and Bob Hovey, Brittany and I headed out to meet with Captain Dan Portillo from Can’t Fish Enough Charters out of Cudjoe Key.


Casting off in Cudjoe Key

Our launch time was at the leisurely hour of 7:30am. Most of us striper fisherman are accustomed to hitting the water in the wee hours of the morning, but down there the fish seem to bite well during daylight. 

As soon as we arrived on the boat Captain Dan was friendly and informative. This was great, because up until this trip Brittany has had a strong fear of being on a boat, and this was her first time out on the ocean!

We started the morning off ground fishing for different species of snapper and grouper. Captain Dan informed us that strong westerly winds could make targeting offshore mahi mahi unsafe.

However if the winds died, there was a chance that we would be able to head further out to sea in search of one of these beautiful fish. 

I couldn't believe how pristine the water was. It was crystal clear and turquoise in color as we took off towards the first fishing spot. In no longer than 20 minutes we arrived at our first spot. We dropped anchor over a strong current that connects to the gulf stream.

Captain Dan told us that the plan here was to create a chum slick that would drift behind us in the current. We used a mix of live pinfish and dead bait.

One of my favorite parts of this trip was how out of my element I was. The fishing styles and species are so different from what we have here on Cape Cod. I had never chummed for fish before, and this was an awesome first experience.

We placed a piece of dead bait on a hook and let our line out so the bait would move at the same speed as the chum. Eventually, the chum slick would bring the snappers up from the bottom to feed.

It didn’t take long until I got my first hit! However, it was not the fish we were targeting...


Sharks & Snappers!

My line started peeling, and the fish dove deeper and deeper. I thought I had either hooked a massive snapper, but could this be a different species?

When we got the fish boat side, a dorsal find popped out of the water.

Captain Dan identified the fish as an Atlantic Sharpnose Shark! It wasn’t long until Brittany’s line started screaming, and she too fought a shark up to the surface.

The two of us were really excited as the shark bite heated up. We caught and released five sharks before deciding to head to another spot in hopes of finding some snapper. 

It didn’t take long after our chum hit the water until Brittany and I had strikes. We each pulled in a yellowtail snapper, and they both sported beautiful colors!

The move proved to be the right idea, because for the next hour the bite was so good that we were catching fish almost every cast! We pulled up snapper, grouper, and mutton snapper.

I was amazed at how many different species of fish we were able to catch in such a short period of time, especially at 11am!

We also were able to net some ballyhoo that came through to eat some of our chum. The ballyhoo was used as bait to catch the largest grouper of the day, which was just under recreational keeper size.

You must be careful when handling fish, because many of them have sharp teeth that can damage your fingers. 

When the bite died down I figured the trip was over, but Captain Dan knew I had my heart set on catching a mahi mahi. Thankfully, he was determined to put me on one.

He explained that the winds had died enough to head offshore, but there would be a little chop. Brittany was feeling much more comfortable in the boat by this point, and she was up for the adventure. It was finally time to target my dream fish!


Doubled Up on Mahi!

Whether its striped bass on Cape Cod or mahi mahi in Cudjoe Key, looking for birds diving on baitfish is often a giveaway of a predator's position. 

30 minutes of searching went by before we finally saw a group of birds working in the distance. We trolled some artificial squid baits to see if any mahi were around. 

On our very first pass through the school, my rod doubled over! I started playing the fish aggressively when a green and yellow blur flew out of the water. I was hooked up on a mahi mahi at last!

About 30 seconds later, Brittany’s line went tight as well. In no time at all we each had a mahi on the end of our lines! I couldn’t believe it, despite the odds being against us we managed to each bring in these gorgeous fish. 

They weren’t the biggest, but I was ecstatic to finally hold my dream fish.

I honestly never thought I was going to have the opportunity to target these fish, but thanks to Brittany and Captain Dan, we were able to get it done!


Tuna & Triple Tail!

We decided to keep working the area to see if there were any other fish hanging around. Brittany received the next bite, and suddenly was tight to an unknown species. When we got it to the boat, we realized she had hooked the world's smallest tuna!

The mahi bite had died down, but other fish were still lurking in the depths. I managed to land my first triple tail, which I had never heard of prior to this experience!

These big, broad, flat fish fight like crazy and taste delicious!

You have to be careful when handling triple tail because it’s gill plates are razor sharp, so if you try to grab it like a normal fish it’ll cut through your hand!


An Incredible Experience...

We made our way across the crystal clear water back towards the marina to end our day. It was truly an amazing experience. I feel blessed to have such great people in my life that helped make this trip happen. Additionally, I couldn’t believe the will power Captain Dan had to put me on my first mahi mahi!

He really went out of his way to make our trip the best experience we possibly could of had. Dan actually told us that this was considered a “slow” fishing day by his standards. If this was slow, than I can’t imagine what a good day is like!

If anyone is planning on heading down to do some fishing this winter then Captain Dan is always fishing! I know I can’t wait to get back down on that beautiful water.

Until then, tight lines and take care!

What do you think?

Let me know by commenting below.

Shane is the director/editor of My Fishing Cape Cod TV which airs Saturdays @ 9:30am Jan-March on NBC SportsBOSTON. Shane enjoys all types of fishing, from plugging the canal for stripers, to casting spoons for trout.

  1. Hi all. Its nice see someone having a nice charter trip. My cousin took my family on a trip to the keys. His only request was that since I was the fisherman I was to book a trip. I researched, read reviews and even called to get a feel for some over the phone. I thought I made the best choice, was I wrong. I chose this woman who seemed to be really in tune with kids and getting them hooked on fishing. What a terrible trip we had. Slow getting out, sarcastic remarks, expensive but cheap on time, and rude. She even said “I’m glad your boys didn’t get the fat gene.” And she shared that main landers were cause of how Key West has been ruined. I couldn’t believe it.

    Reply
    1. Hey Chris,

      That is a bummer! I am sorry you had a bad experience. It’s crazy that some people can be so rude. It definitely seems tough to find the right people to fish with there because there are a lot of people to choose from and some people definitely try to trap tourists. If you do make it back I would definitely reach out to Captain Dan, he was super helpful and a good guy to hangout with!

      Reply
  2. Hi Shane,
    My husband and I love your show! Looking to get to the keys to fish also for my husbands bday. Could you tell me what month you went to the keys to fish, and I am also looking for recommendations on where to stay? Do you recommend a 8 hr trip or a half day trip for fishing?

    Jen

    Reply
    1. Hi Jen,

      Thank you so much for watching! I really appreciate it. We went down to the keys in lat August and the fishing was great. I think depending on what species you are targeting would depend on what time of year is best. I am a big fan of mahi mahi and I was told that the bigger ones run from April to beginning of June. But we still caught them during August and had an awesome time catching snapper and grouper too! I would definitely recommend the 8 hour trip. We were able to fish off shore and inshore and target a wide variety of fish. Plus the water down there is beautiful! I would definetly recommend fishing with Captain Dan if you get the chance! I hope you and your husband have a great trip!

      Reply
      1. Shane,
        Thank you for responding back to me. Since my post I was able to reach out to Captain Dan and book our fishing trip. I told him you recommended him and he was very thankful!
        Jen

        Reply
        1. Shane,
          I meant to ask you where did you stay? And what hotel? If you don’t mind me asking.
          Jen

          Reply
          1. Hi Jen,

            That is awesome! I hope you guys have a great time. Keep me updated on how the trip goes! As far as a hotel I believe we stayed in the Hilton. It was fairly reasonable but was about 10 minutes outside of downtown so we had to uber back and forth, but the island is so small it wasn’t inconvenient at all. It was a nice hotel so I would definitely stay there again!

            Reply
  3. Now that’s a proper b-day gift!! Thanks for sharing. And congrats on the success with MFCC TV. show really seems to be a hit if i’m understanding the numbers correctly. nicely done, Shane

    Reply
    1. Thanks Doug! And thank you for being a part and helping out with the show. Hope to get you out on another episode next season!

      Reply
  4. I also went with capt Dan and had an awesome day. 5 big mutton snappers with one topping 15 pounds ! We were catching so many yellow tails we increased the minimum size for keepers to 15 inches instead of the legal 12 .I highly recommend him for anyone who wants to have an outstanding fishing experience.

    Reply
    1. That’s awesome John! I hope I get down there to do some fishing again in the future

      Reply
  5. Hi Shane, My brother and I also fished in Key West four winters ago. We had a great time on and off the water. Enjoying the M. F. C. C.. show. Thank you for the post.

    Reply
    1. Hey Jake, that’s awesome! It’s a really fun place. I’m glad you are enjoying the show so far! Thanks for helping us out over the summer and helping us getting the show off the ground!

      Reply

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