Sometimes the reality of being spoiled by living in Florida sinks in. Like being able to get out of bed, have breakfast on the comfort of your couch then take a drive in order to make it in time for lunch in the Florida Keys. This is only one example and I really don’t know how I could live in any other state and I’m very fortunate to be born in this beautiful place.
Long Key Bite Flats
On Sunday, June 22nd my wife and I packed the truck and were joined by the Billings Family as we took that drive south towards the clear waters and sandy beaches of Long Key, Fl. This would be the third year in a row that we have made the trip. It has become a summer thing for us. At the last minute I booked an extra day so we would stay for 6 days total. The balance between fishing and quality time with our loved ones is hard to maintain but we do the best we can.
There's an Ocean Kayak in there somewhere.
The first year we stayed at Bahia Honda and the second year we stayed at Long Key. We liked Long Key so much we decided to stay there again. The best part about staying a second time is you’re able to dial in the fishing the first time and know what you’re up against the next time around. While we knew the go-to spots, it still proved to be difficult. One of the hottest tarpon spots around the Key is a mere 100 yards from camp. Mornings and afternoons guides would line the coast and pole the flats in search for these monster silver kings. It’s times like this that I sit and observe the patterns of locals and try to pick up some knowledge. At the end of the day when I see almost zero hook-ups happen by local guides, I don’t feel bad getting the skunk by the giant tarpon. This is exactly what happened the last two years in a row. However, simply seeing these massive fish swim in these clear waters is enough to make you appreciate them.
While the tarpon fishing was the same as always, there are plenty of other fish in the Keys to target. As much as I don’t care for catching them, sharks are everywhere and take zero effort to catch. After putting a hook in a nurse shark I decided I wasn’t going to catch one the rest of the trip. But while out kayaking with the entire group I couldn’t help but to show Cat Billings and my wife Stephanie a shark up close. So without a hook and line, I set out to catch one with my bare hands (I don’t condone this).
Hand caught Nurse Shark
After handling that small shark I was able to find a tidal pool reef loaded with mutton and mangrove snapper. It was a very low tide and this reef pool was its own little ecosystem. With a Paul’s Dinkum Unfair Lure Shrimp I was able to catch a few with one mangrove being of size to take back to camp to add to our breakfast. Snapper is not on the top of my list of favorite fish to eat but fresh fish was requested multiple times so I was happy to provide it.
The 2013 trip to Long Key was a busy one. It was packed with filming for "Everyday Push" and I even asked my girlfriend to marry me. She said yes and we got married last October. At the wedding we had floating sky lanterns that people could write us a wish on with a black marker. We held on to them until the perfect time and on the fourth night of this trip we let them fly away. We were on the Gulf side of the island and the water was glassy with a calm east wind. It couldn't have been a better night. We lit the fire block of the 100% biodegradable lanterns and let them go. The first lantern took off quickly and the second lantern dove towards the water. It came within four inches of complete catastrophe before it took off following the first one. We watched until the far distant lights went out. I have photos of all the wishes but I never read them and probably never will. They were not for us to read.
We all had a great time between relaxing, snorkeling, fishing, kayaking, paddle boarding and eating. I was even able to fly a kite. You’re never too old to fly a kite. By day six we were ready to get out of there. The sand in my wheelchair started to finally get on my nerves and the sargassum was starting to stack on the beach and begin to smell a bit. I have often wanted to live in the Keys and almost moved there years back but I really think the Keys need to be enjoyed in small dosages. They should also be respected and we should leave nothing but footprints.
Long Key in a nutshell.