Friday, December 21, 2007

The Best Eco Tour in the Keys

If you want to go fishing, most people know we have world class guides and world class fishing. If you want to go snorkeling or diving we have the only living coral reef in North America and plenty of dive shops to take you there.

But what about eco-tourism and sight seeing? When you come to visit the Keys, you are in the middle of a National Marine Sanctuary, and right in our backyard is Everglades National Park, the most unique ecosystem in the world.

There's an outfitter in Islamorada who specializes in kayaking called Backcountry Cowboy. They have a really cool retail store with everything you could possibly need for kayaking and outdoor adventure but more importantly, they offer some really great guided kayak tours. The basic ones like the Backcountry Nature Tour and the Sunset Trip are inexpensive and close-in near the main islands; nice short trips to have a look around.

The ones that interest me the most are the Everglades Day Trips and Everglades Adventure Trips. You just can't beat this deal. For $120 they provide everything (including top of the line kayaks) for an unforgettable professional guided tour through the Everglades wilderness. The "Everglades Day Trip" is a guided three-quarter day trip to places where fish have never seen a lure. They also offer overnight trips for the more adventurous and more experienced paddlers.

With some back-country fishing trips now topping $500, this is a true bargain. Looking for something to remember, something adventurous, something different? This is a great choice and don't forget your camera!

Friday, December 14, 2007

How to Select a Fishing Guide

A lot of folks will be arriving soon and want to go fishing. Back-country or Off-shore, selecting the right guide to meet your expectations is crucial. I can't tell you how many times I've heard from disappointed customers who hired a guide and had a lousy day on the water. My first question is always: Who did you hire and then, How did you find them?

Islamorada has some of the best guides in the world. Please don't ask a total stranger for a referral and don't hire somebody you meet at the bar, the grocery store, or the tackle shop. Anybody you ask here in the Keys will likely say they are a guide, take you out in their boat, and take your money at the end of the day.

My advice is to get a list of names from somebody you trust. If you ask the hotel, your second question should be if they are paid a commission (great guides don't need somebody selling their trips). You need a list of guides because (in my opinion) personality is a big part of it. You are going to spend the whole day together in the boat. Select the guide who fits your style. Call at least 3 (more is better) and explain what you want and what your skill level is. Do you want to stalk Bonefish on fly and maybe have only one or two chances all day, or do you want to go fun fishing for whatever is biting? Guides do specialize in certain types of fishing. Don't hire the fun-fishing guide to take you looking for Bonefish.

You will meet the big Off-shore boats at the marina but many Back-country guides will pick you up at your hotel dock if you ask. The usual protocol is for the fisherman to bring the lunch and include the guide. Ask him what he likes on his sandwich. All tackle and licenses are provided. A tip of around 10% (+ or -) is customary and the guide will clean your catch too.

Through the years of operating Pines & Palms Resort, we've developed a short list of guides we send our customers to and they always come back happy. I'm sure other resorts do the same. Do your homework and have fun fishing!