December 30, 2011

Flats Guides Offshore

A couple of buddies with the same day off, nice weather and reports of great offshore fishing, the shallow water boys headed out to the deep blue to kill something.

Thursday, I, Captain Peter Heydon and Captain Tony Skinner headed way out west toward the Marquesas for a day of bottom fishing.  Pete got some numbers from a friend of a killer grouper and snapper area.  Loaded with bottom fishing gear, chum and bunch of dead stuff for bait we headed out with great anticipation.  The weather was cool, calm and cloudy.  First area, first drop and boom, big 'ole red grouper.  Second bait down gets railed and its a big mutton snapper.  A few more grouper that we had to throw back from that spot and we moved to the next mark.  Drop down a bait and it gets railed by another keeper grouper.  This continued for most of the morning and then another little flurry at the end of the day.  In total we put six red grouper and two mutton snappers in the box along with a few mackerel.

Friday, day 2 of the flats guides adventure offshore, Captain Peter and I headed out to the Gulf Stream for some trolling.  Good reports of wahoo, dolphin and tuna the last few days, hope we aren't too late.  Pete and I have pretty good system, he rigs the baits and sets the rods and I drive the boat around, hopefully not in circles.  We ended up having a really good day of draggin' bait.  Four dolphin (Mahi Mahi), three blackfin tuna (mmm sushi) and a pile of bonitas and skip jacks we kept for shark bait on the flats.  The highlight of our day was a strike on the downrigger that pulled line of the TLD 30 like I had never heard.  Obviously a wahoo, this must have been quite a specimen.  Their initial runs are absolutely incredible, their is no comparison to the screaming drag in fishing like from a wahoo.  Well this fish hit another gear and we both said "Holy sh...."  Unfortunately the hook pulled only a few minutes in, it was such a downer, but absolutely incredible at the same time.

Captain Mike Bartlett

December 27, 2011

Permit on Fly

I fished with my buddy Captain Peter Heydon this morning for some good ole Key West flats fishing.  We started early in hopes of a tarpon since the winds have been out of the south and quite warm.  We saw a couple roll and marked a few but never a bite.  Our hopes of a flats grand slam were dashed in the first hour of the trip.

We headed off to the Gulf side for the beginning of the incoming tide.  Pete was on the bow armed with a 10 weight and his personally hand-crafted crab fly.  We had a couple of shots at permit in deeper water, but they were hard to see and behind us so the angles weren't great.  Finally we both were staring at an area in front of the boat that I think we realized at about the same was alive.  It turned out to be a school of about 10 or so smaller permit and Pete presented his fly to the middle of the school.  The permit were chasing the fly and zipping all around it when about half way back to the boat that most awesome of feelings when fly fishing for permit, his line come tight and the fly rod developed a deep bend.

He's not the biggest permit out there but he had the biggest heart.  It took what seemed like an eternity for Pete's permit to finally come boat side.  I snatched him out of the water for many photos and Pete made the release.

This is also the first permit on fly on my Beavertail BT3 skiff.

Captain Mike Bartlett

December 14, 2011

Redfish and Barracudas

My buddy Captain Tony Skinner and I went on a field research trip the other day in the Key West backcountry.  We fished a couple of flats we haven't fished in a good while in hopes of finding redfish.  With low winter tides, a ton of mullet around and good light, we had the right conditions.

Tony spotted the first redfish not too long after we started working the flat.  We ran over a few but Tony spotted a couple of slot redfish ahead of the boat.  I managed to get a cast near the fish and the shrimp we were using were instantly eaten.  You'd think these fish haven't eaten in a month the way they jumped on the baits.

As we went along we spotted a few barracudas landing two and few other follows.  We saw lots of small lemon sharks and a nice surprise was two tarpon with one of those eating a shrimp Tony placed in front of it.

Great day on the water!!

Captain Mike Bartlett

December 07, 2011

Food Porn

The grouper from my previous post was this evening's dinner, very yummy.  The grouper was seasoned with a little sea salt, pepper and rosemary then sauteed in pastured butter and organic coconut oil.  I added some unsweetened organic shredded coconut to one of the grouper chunks for me.  The fish had almost a creamy texture to it, it was sooo good!!  The veggie is mashed cauliflower with some more pastured butter, a little shredded swiss cheese and sour cream.

Triggerfish ceviche tomorrow, can't wait.

Captain Mike Bartlett

Yellowtails, Grouper, Mutton Snapper - Key West Reef Fishing

My buddy Captain Peter Heydon and I took advantage of the beautiful weather we had today and ventured out to the reef for some yellowtailing.  The bite on the reef was on all morning and we filled the cooler in only a few hours. I first dropped a bait down to the bottom while the chum was working.  Bait hit the bottom and was instantly eaten by the big red grouper pictured below.  A few other drops to the bottom resulted in smaller hinds which were released.  Pete freelined his first bait back for yellowtail and hooked something big that went straight to the bottom and got hung up.  A few minutes of patience and it came free.  Pete landed the big mutton snapper pictured below.  Wow what a start!!

We settled in for yellowtailin' and we each caught a triggerfish, which will make some nice ceviche for tomorrow.  We finally got a yellowtail after all that and it was a quality fish.  We topped of the cooler with a bunch of  yellowtails, we kept nothing under 16 inches.  We also caught a few mackerel and a couple of small bonitas.

Captain Mike Bartlett

December 03, 2011

Thomas & Thomas Fly Rods on Sale

The Angling Company has several Thomas & Thomas HII and Axis fly rods at 50% off retail price, various weights.  Stop in or give a call at 305-292-6306.

December 01, 2011

Fishmonster Magazine

The December issue of FishMonster Magazine is now available.  In the Keys, pick up a copy at one of the many marinas and tackle shops that carry FishMonster Magazine or get the electronic version available at

FishMonster Magazine is loaded with a ton of great fishing, boating and diving articles by captains and guides throughout the Florida Keys and up to date fishing regulations from the regulatory agencies that govern our waters.

Captain Mike Bartlett

November 29, 2011

Big Black Groupers off Key West

Captain Paul D'Antoni of Seize the Day Charters with a couple of big black groupers his clients caught offshore Key West.

Captain Mike Bartlett

Barracuda and Jacks

After another week of wind and cool weather the winds again turned toward south and the temperatures rose ahead of the next cold front that pushed through the Keys last night.  I fished with Dino and his wife Courtney from Naples, FL yesterday and the pre-frontal bite was on.  We started out a little slow in the morning but as the day progressed and the tide pushed in, fishing got better.  We found plenty of barracudas but we had some bad luck with a bite-off and a couple of complete misses.  We found a few permit, though I thought we would have seen more, getting pretty good casts off to two of them which unfortunately resulted in spooked fish.

Toward the end of the trip I finally found some sting rays that had jacks following them, thanks to my buddy Capt. Peter Heydon for the heads-up.  Dino had several shots and in the end got three jacks to the boat the largest about 10 pounds.  We stayed out an extra hour, the weather was good and I really wanted get Dino another shot at a permit or barracuda.  He mad some really good casts to fish, he just had a little bad luck.  I pushed along the last flat of the day not seeing anything until almost the very end when we drifted over a barracuda that shot out from under the boat.  Luckily the cuda stopped and again Dino made a good cast.  This time the cuda did what a cuda is supposed to do and ate the tube lure.  A few minutes later Dino has his first ever barracuda to the boat, a chunky 15 pound barracuda.  We'll get that permit next trip.

Captain Mike Bartlett

November 15, 2011

Key West Flats - Permit Barracuda and Jacks

I fished with Erin and Scott from Pennsylvania this morning.  The weather for once has taken a turn for the better and the fishing was just as good.  The winds have come down some and out of the southeast.  This wind shift results in a warm breeze and the water, which was cooled by the latest cold front, will warm quickly.  We had a pretty clear sky and good visibility.

There were plenty of rays roaming the flats with most of them accompanied by Crevalle jacks.  Erin was on point for the jacks and she managed two nice jacks to the boat one about ten pounds.  We saw few big barracudas lying in wait and Scott got a big 20+ pound fish to the boat and had another large cuda jump off later in the trip.  This turned out to be good.  Just as we got organized to continue down the flat I spotted a big permit working down the flat.  Scott made a great shot and about 20 minutes later he landed about a 20 pound permit.  A great end to a great trip.

Captain Mike Bartlett

November 14, 2011

Bonefish and Sharks

Finally, after what seems like forever, the weather is finally cooperating so we can effectively fish the flats.  With lots of wind, clouds, cold fronts, cool and muddy water lately; things have finally returned to normal and the flats are clean and the sky clear.  We've been seeing and catching the usual suspects this time of year on the flats which include big jacks on rays, sharks and permit.  The barracudas are slowly making their way back as well, we had shots at a few large barracudas the last two days.  Conditions should improve this week as the winds shift more east and air temperatures raise a little into the lower 80's.

Myself, Captain Peter Heydon and Captain Rob Kramarz fished the last two days with a group of guys from Ohio.  The guys were great and pretty much up for anything.  We did a little backcountry fishing for the winter species and had some fun doing that, but most of the time was spent on the flats where a few big lemon sharks were caught, plenty of big jacks off the backs of rays, one big permit was caught and a bonefish this afternoon.

Captain Mike Bartlett

October 23, 2011

Key West Sea Trout

My wife and I fished the backcountry yesterday in Jewfish Basin, in search of a few fish for dinner.  Behind the passage of a strong cold front a couple days ago came cooler temps and strong northerly breezes.  The water was pretty muddy and became quite cool, about 70 - 71 degrees.  The flats for the most part would be unproductive so we went for sea trout to bring home and whatever else was willing to consume our offerings.

It turned out to be pretty good.  We caught several sea trout with three being within the slot limit of 15 - 20 inches. Those couple fish came home for dinner.  We also caught a bunch of ladyfish, jacks, snappers and a small grouper.  Pics below.

My wife also took some awesome sunrise photos that morning shown in my previous post.  We've been loving those cool, crisp mornings.  Turn off the a/c, open the windows and welcome the cool breezes through the house.


Captain Mike Bartlett

October 22, 2011

Key West Sunrise

A cool, clear, crisp October sunrise from White St. pier in Key West, Fl.

Captain Mike Bartlett

October 19, 2011

Cabin Fever

It's day five of rain.  We had a break yesterday for a good part of the day but it started back up around 4pm and we have had a series of wicked storms come over Key West all through the night and it looks like at least through this morning.  The storms have been pretty violent with lots of lightning, heavy downpours, wind gusts up to 40mph and we were under a tornado watch. Three day charter down the crapper.

Many of the streets and low lying areas of Key West are flooded.  The island is sinking!!!  I'm sure somebody is paddling a kayak around town somewhere.

I did get to Cudjoe Sales yesterday and stocked up on some supplies for fishing this winter.  Jigs, barracuda tubing, shark hooks and I picked up a couple of stone crab traps.  Haven't had traps in years, can't wait to get them out.

Looks like I will be doing more work on my blog and website today.

Captain Mike Bartlett

October 17, 2011

Water Water Everywhere...

Today will be day three of rain all day and no end in sight.  Invest 95L is out there in the Gulf of Mexico between the Yucatan Penninsula and the western tip of Cuba which is the cause for all our nasty weather of late.  Looks like I will be getting to the honey-do list and make a load of barracuda lures.

Below are some radar and satellite images over the past few days from

Captain Mike Bartlett