Key West Firsts for Juan


When I asked my mate Juan if he wanted to head down to Key West to fish and hang out with my good buddy Chris Trosset, he answered in that way he always does:  “Sure Boss, I’m with you”

That was all I needed to hear.  I got on the phone with Chris right away, he put a few days aside, and Juan and I left Miami in the dust.  The great thing about the Florida Keys is the variety of fishing that’s available, and Key West offers the very best of Florida.  Off Key West, the Atlantic and the Gulf come together to create one of the richest fisheries in the world.  If you are looking for a mixed bag, on fly or conventional tackle, then Key West is it.


  • Travel : Easy
  • Lodging  : Great Options
  • Food : Excellent
  • Captains :


Key West 101Ariel Pared, our good friend at SeaVee, arranged a 32 for our use during the filming days, and Chris met me and Juan in Tavener to run the SeaVee down to Key West. The weather wasn’t much better than what we were seeing in Miami, frequent squalls and churned up water, but that wasn’t going to slow us down any.  I was excited to introduce Juan, my good friend and mate from Islas Secas Panama, how to fish Key West style; and when you fish Key West, you almost always start with live Pilchards.  If you can fill your well with a haul of these baitfish, the sky is the limit.  More often than not, you can wake up a sleeping ocean by chumming live Pilchards, and big fish lose all sense of caution.  You can literally create a frenzy out of nothing, and the fish that key into live Pilchards can’t resist eating your plug, fly, or a hooked bait.

On the first day of fishing, Chris decided to take us to the sub, a popular wreck to target wahoo and blackfin tuna.  I have been through this Blackfin routine many times, and it is one of my all-time favorite places and species to fish.  We took our time in the 6-foot seas, but once we arrived it was obvious that we were in for a great day.  There was a ton of life showing in the area.  The sub is a wreck that provides vertical structure in a virtually featureless area, and in turn holds bait and attracts game fish.  When we powered down and got the first scoops of bait thrown in the water, Bonito and Blackfin were busting all around us.   Juan quickly hooked up on a live bait, and I got bit while casting a Yo-zuri Mag Darter.  We were doubled up just minutes in, and would have remained so, if the Man in the Gray Suit hadn’t eaten my tuna.  One of the problems with the chumming in a good population of game fish is the ongoing issue of sharks.  It was a problem we would gladly deal with, as long as the tuna kept busting.

Key West 097Every drift over the sub was full of showing fish.  All three of us were catching and losing tuna.  It was a great way to introduce Juan to the Keys, and by the end of the day we knew we had managed a great show for the film crew.  There was no shortage of action, and we still had 2 days with Chris, and his plans were only just taking shape.

The second day we headed out to fish some of the shallow wrecks on the edge of the Gulf.  This is where the great variety that distinguishes the Keys really gets featured.  Jacks, ‘Cudas, Snapper, Permit, Kingfish, Cobia, Sharks…  you just never know what might be on those wrecks.  I was really hopping to get Juan into a big Cobia or some Permit, but got a bigger surprise instead.  This trip was all about ‘firsts’ for Juan, and after catching a mixed bag on the first couple wrecks, we stumbled upon a third that was loaded with Goliath grouper.  I hadn’t really come quipped with the tackle for those bruisers, but Juan and I put our heads together to come up with an outfit to land a Key West monster.  Our rig was a Shimano Trevala Jigging rod with a Stella 18,000 loaded with 80-pound Power Pro.  Though we weren’t certain that we were up to the task, it was a true highlight to watch Juan turn all of his determination to getting a Goliath to the boat.  I shouldn’t have worried; by the end of the day, we had caught dozens of fish, the best being Juan’s Grouper that tipped the scales around 200 pounds.

Day 3 in Key West, Chris decided to throw another wrinkle into the diversity of things.  We decided to explore the corner of the reef with a load of live Pilchards.  As expected, we had non-stop action on Kingfish, Dolphin, Yellowtail Jacks, and Grouper.  I was shocked that the sailfish did not show, but when we saw the Tiger Shark I knew we would be able to provide another first for Juan.  Tiger Sharks are one of the rarest sharks to spot; in all of my fishing years, I have only seen a couple, and I’ve only ever caught one.  We had a shark rod rigged, and we got a bait in the water immediately, but what was there one second was gone in a flash.  I was sure that the Tiger was a lost cause, but Juan was game to wait and see, and Chris was confident it would return.  Juan began a process of dropping a half of a bonito in the water and drifting it back until it was out of sight, before reeling it back up and doing it all again.  After tens of these retrieves, the Tiger re-appeared, and followed the bait up to the transom.  Juan quickly dropped the bait back, and the shark ate it just 10-feet from the boat.  We were tight with Juan’s first Tiger Shark!  Juan handled himself like a champ, and after a 20-minute fight we release a beautifully marked, perfectly-proportioned shark.

All in all, it was another great trip to Key West.  The crew got loads of footage, with lots of great fish catches, some amazing visuals, and two shows that emphasize the great friends we’ve managed to make in fishing.