I just can't say enough about the professionalism and service I received this past weekend from Capt Pat Bracher of Overtime Charters. I'd been planning a trip all summer and used the TF forum to scout out a couple good leads, and the easy and open correspondence I received from Pat combined with comments here and on a few other forums sealed the deal.
I linked up w/ Capt Pat at Cudjoe Marina on Cudjoe Key (mile 22) after a short drive up from Key West. The boat was in the water, running and we were off in a heartbeat. Pat had the boat well equipped with light tackle and loaded with live bait, and we were out of the marina running across the flat well before 1st light.
1st stop was a back water channel just as the sun was peaking over the horizon. We rigged crabs under a cork and set up 4 lines for tarpon off the rod holders in back, and had a couple spinners ready to cast forward if fish rolled. Pat polled, we drifted in the light breeze and worked our way down current. About 7:30, we cast to a couple ripples forward and the fight was on with a big permit. The fish made run after run ripping line off the reel and broadening my smile as I felt the power this creature brought to bear. Capt Pat put the engine in gear and we gained ground despite a few more charges. After about 10 minutes we had him alongside and into the boat for a quick picture.
1/3 of the way to a slam, the sun rose a bit, we moved past a double rainbow to another tarpon spot. We fished a well defined channel that had produced earlier in the week, but despite multiple drifts only succeeded in spooking a few turtles.
Off to the next spot, we found a productive flat producing 2 nice bonefish, some snapper and a bonnet head shark. The day was flying by, we were catching a bunch of different species of fish and off we went to another spot over on the Atlantic Ocean side.
Despite a foreboding squall line heading our way and visions of the Caddy Shack line: "I don't think the heavy stuff will be coming down for hours..." Capt Pat called it saying we'll get a little wind and maybe a sprinkle but I think we're good.
Sure enough the wind picked up, the water whitecapped, and after a few drops, it sailed right on by. We caught a bunch more snapper of various species (mutton, mangrove, yellow tail) as well as blue runner and another Bonnet Head.
We made one more move for Tarpon and set up on a channel that had produced for Capt Pat. We floated crabs, checked bait, reset the bait and checked again. Pat tried and tried to complete the final third of the slam. About 4PM, the cork went down, I called "fish on," reeled, and unfortunately up came the cork and the crab, the tarpon had gnawed the heck out of the leader, but I didn't reel fast enough to set the hook. Capt Pat put me on the fish, but I didn't hook it.
All in all, we caught a bunch of fish and 2 out of 3 targeted species with a legitimate shot at the 3rd.
If you're going down to the lower keys, contact Capt Pat Bracher. (http://www.fishovertime.com/) The guy has 24 years of Charter Capt experience, and he'll put you on fish. Further, he's customer service focused and exactly what I'd want in a guide. I trusted the info presented by other TF contributors and it paid off. You can do the same when it comes to Capt Pat.
I will be back, and I will reel that damn line fast enough to catch the tarpon next time! We'll go 3 for 3 and complete the slam!