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Hook Line Or Feather Interview On Marathon Fishing Charters Trips

There are many Marathon fishing charters scattered around the Middle Keys, but one in particular caught our eye, Hook Line Or Feather.

We contacted Captain Dick Waltz Jr about doing an interview, and he not only graciously accepted, he agreed to take us out for a full day on a Florida Keys fishing charters trip.

The boat was captained by Captain Dick Waltz Jr and Captain Danny Aldridge, with First Mate Todd Render handling the fishing gear and fish.

The following interview provides valuable information about the fine art of fishing Marathon FL and why it's important to go fishing with a qualified Marathon Key fishing charter company.

Captain Dick Waltz Jr of Hook Line Or Feather

Marathon Fishing Charters Captain Dick Waltz Jr

Captain Danny Aldridge was born in Key Colony Beach, and started mating at the age of 15. Over 45 years later he's still fishing Florida Keys and he possesses the uncanny skill and knowledge that's unique to someone who's fished these waters for a life time.

Captain Danny Aldridge at the Helm of the Grady 33 foot With Dan Sheehan As Passenger

Captain Danny Aldridge And Passenger Dan Sheehan

First Mate Todd Render has also been fishing most of his life. His capabilities as a first mate are outstanding as he diligently works to ensure your fishing trip is well prepped and goes smoothly.

First Mate Todd Render

First Mate Todd Render

Together, these three men create the ultimate fishing trip experience. Not only because they have the skill, they have the right equipment.

Their large, well aerated live well is capable of holding hundreds of live pilchard. More than enough to catch some of the biggest black fin tuna out on the Marathon Hump.

This Marathon fishing charters belief in being fully prepared, ensures they carry a broad spectrum of fishing equipment. Before any fishing trip, the crew rigs up a number of offshore fishing rods differently so they can quickly and easily target the different species of saltwater fish.

Deep Drop Reel

A Deep Drop Reel Is Critical For Deep Sea Fishing Florida Keys

If you're Florida Keys deep sea fishing and the fish aren't biting, you need to deep drop fish. You have to find structure, then locate the Florida fish, then adjust your speed and angle so you can drift over the structure while you're deep dropping to the spot the bottom fish are hiding at.

While you're implementing these important fishing techniques it's critical that you keep adjusting your fishing line, so you're just touching bottom and not dragging. All of this has to be coordinated before you drift off your mark. If you drift off, you have to reel in, and go back to get into position again, deep dropping back down to catch grouper, tilefish and other large bottom dwellers.

The deep drop fishing technique obviously takes serious coordination between Captain and First Mate. As Captain Danny Aldridge affirms, a bad day fishing can turn around very fast if you deep drop fish and bring in a large grouper or snapper.

Strobe Lights And Tuna Being Hooked Onto A Deep Drop Reel and Line

Strobe Lights Hooked Above Bait Are Essential When Deep Drop Fishing

A good Marathon fishing charters company that has a combination of skill, knowledge and all the right equipment will turn a bad day fishing into a good one.

This interview was taken aboard the 33' Grady as we headed out to the Marathon Hump. We were traveling at a speed of 26 knots (30 miles per hour) and we started off in just a few feet of water, finally fishing over the Hump at 480 feet, and then eventually over 850 feet of water.

It was here that we caught over a 20 pound snowy grouper, and then a few minutes later, the largest snowy grouper Captain Aldridge had seen. At first glance he thought it was a 30 pound snowy, but later it was determined to be well over 40 pounds.

40 Pound Snowy Grouper Caught On
Marathon Fishing Charters Trip
Dan Sheehan, Todd Render, Captain Aldridge

Charter Fishing Florida Keys

Waltz: A good fishing Captain should believe in nothing but the best money can buy, and then of course it's equally important to properly maintain your fishing equipment.

FKV: I know you've spent a lot of time and money outfitting your Marathon fishing charters with the very best fishing gear. Can you tell us about your fishing boats, and the fishing equipment you have?

Waltz: Well I've been in this Keys fishing charters business for a year and a half. I've got $200,000 in the 33' Grady. It holds 350 gallons of marine fuel, is newly refurbished and is equipped with new Yamaha 4 stroke 300 twin engines. All the electronics are Garmin and I have radar, a depth finder, and GPS. Plus one of the things that enthralled me was ping technology so I added that too. Ping sends out multiple frequencies instead of one frequency so it really shows the fish and let's you see what's below.

Marathon Fishing Charters Boat Rigged With Best Fishing Gear

The Best Fishing Gear Is Aboard This Marathon Fishing Charters Boat

I also have $65,000 in my 23' Panga, and $30,000 in my flats boat, the 16' Maverick Mirage.

I probably have $10,000 in fly rods and reels. I've got $5,000 in spin casting rods and reels. Plus I have my $3,500 deep drop reel. I believe if you're going to do something, you must do it to the best of your ability.

FKV: It certainly does! Now you mentioned that you've only had this Marathon fishing charters company for about a year and a half. But you have over 40 years of fishing experience yourself, and your crew is fully proficient with Florida Keys fishing.

Waltz: Yes. Captain Danny Aldridge has been fishing here since he was 15, that's over 45 years. First Mate Todd Render has been fishing here for a long time. Basically you've got the culmination of everybody's best efforts and fishing experiences.

Marathon Fishing Charters Grady 33' Fishing Boat

Grady 33 Fishing Charter Boat

If you totaled it all up, at this very moment we have 126 years of fishing experience between the 3 of us.

FKV: You probably have one of the most experienced crews. I also believe you're one of the most equipped Marathon FL charter fishing companies with some of the best fishing gear. Yet with all your qualifications and fishing equipment you're far from being the most expensive.

Waltz: That's correct, we're definitely not the most expensive Marathon fishing charters company out there!

FKV: Well all these factors certainly translate into an excellent Florida Keys fishing adventure!

What To Expect On Your
Marathon Fishing Charters Trip

FKV: Can you tell us how old does someone has to be, in order to arrange Marathon fishing charters with you?

Waltz: If I have the parents written permission, I will take anyone who's 18 or older out on my Marathon fishing charters.

FKV: Do you have an age limit on children who are on a fishing trip with their parents?

Waltz: No, there's no restrictions on age.

FKV: What about a small child on a deep sea fishing trip?

Waltz: That depends on the conditions. If the ocean is very rough, I would say no. But I have all the necessary life preservers, for small children and adults. I also have a GPS epirb, so if something should happen, say the boat capsizes or sinks, the automatic epirb sends out a signal to the boat docks on a special preprogrammed frequency that belongs to me.

FKV: Sort of like a float plan on steroids.

Waltz: (Chuckling) Yes.

FKV: Now over and above your years of military service, your business administration degree, your master plumbers license and owning a highly profitable plumbing and heating company you also have EMT training. You're fully qualified to deal with bad situations, and help anyone who's gotten sea sick or ill on your boat.

Basically as a charter fishing Captain, your responsibility, according to your own "Have It Your Way" policy, is to ensure your clients get to "have it their way", while staying safe.

High Speed Boat Wake

High Speed Marathon Fishing Charters Boat Wake

Waltz: Yes, safety is our number one concern.

FKV: Your Marathon fishing charters company believes safety is the best policy, especially when on offshore fishing charters where it can get really rough. I know a lot of people think they can go Florida Keys fishing by themselves, but if they don't understand the water, and they don't know where to fish, it can be very unproductive and possibly dangerous.

Can you tell us why it's so important to go out at least the first few times with a professional Marathon fishing charters captain so you can learn how to go about properly fishing Florida Keys?

Waltz: People often think they can read books and watch DVDs and this will teach them how to catch Florida Keys fish. However, until you get out on the water and actually do it, you just don't get the experience.

The reason to use a professional Keys fishing charters captain is that they know the important basics such as how to anchor over the GPS spot. To catch Florida Keys fish, this is critical, challenging and takes real skill.

As a Marathon fishing charters Captain I have to know how fast the current is running, how fast the wind is blowing, how far out to put your anchor, and how to use your engines to control your position. If you're not able to anchor over the GPS spot that's holding the saltwater fish, you simply aren't going to catch any.

FKV: What about all the prep work you do, and the fishing equipment you bring along?

Waltz: Marathon fishing charters require a lot of preparation and it's essential to be ready for any circumstance. That's the key to our success. Our philosophy may be different from some of the fishing charters Marathon Florida has, because we know it's essential to put in the extra prep work so our clients have the best fishing trip experience possible.

For example, I have probably 30 different rods, spin casting and trolling rods that we can rig for the different species of saltwater fish the customer will likely want to target on their Marathon Florida charter fishing trip.

Sometimes a client will only want to go on a deep sea fishing charter, trolling for dolphin. However, if the dolphin aren't biting that day, and if we weren't prepared, we'd have to stop and rig up the offshore fishing rods for the other species of saltwater fish we could target.

Doing this takes away from valuable fishing time, so that's why we mix it up, and have lots of rigged offshore fishing reels and rods so we're totally prepared for the different species of saltwater fish our client can catch.

FKV: I have another question for you. I know that a lot of the Florida Keys fishing charters keep an eye on their watches. Whether you have a fighting fish on the line or not, when the time is up, they make you reel in and they head back. What do you do when a person has a fish on the line?

Waltz: We don't go in. We let the person fight the fish and then we go in. We're here to help our clients have the best fishing experience they could possibly have. The only exception to us going in, is if it's a half day Marathon fishing charter and we have to meet another Keys charter fishing group.

Choosing The Right
Marathon Fishing Charters Trip Duration

FKV: Do you recommend going out on deep sea fishing trips for just a half day?

Waltz: We can do it, and we certainly have, but you must remember, part of that half day is spent getting out and getting back. Marathon fishing charters booked with the 33 foot Grady are also more expensive charters than going out in the 23 foot Panga for a half day inshore charter fishing trip.

The price for a full day with the 23 foot Panga is the same as a half day Marathon fishing charters trip in the 33 foot Grady, so it's certainly more economical for our clients.

FKV: Tell us more about the Panga, and do you typically use the Panga on your inshore fishing trips out on the reefs and wrecks?

Waltz: The 23' Panga charter fishing boat is used almost exclusively in Mexico and South America. It's an extremely dry boat and stable for it's size and it draws 9 inches of water.

I use the Panga whenever people want cheap fishing charters because it can basically go anywhere. However if I feel it's going to be too choppy for the client I won't. I had a client where the woman was pregnant and I wouldn't take them out in the Panga, it would have been too rough.

Client's can also book different Marathon fishing charters durations with the Panga. However the difference between full day fishing trips or half day Keys fishing charters is only about $150.

That may seem lopsided, but the reason there isn't much difference in price between the 2 fishing trips is the prep time. No matter how long your fishing charter is scheduled for, it still takes a good hour to an hour and a half to get ready for your Marathon fishing charters trip.

FKV: Of course when you get back, you also have all the clean up to do.

Yes, we clean the client's fish, we put them in plastic bags. Then comes the process of unloading all the offshore fishing rods and reels. The drag has to be loosened on every rod and reel. The rods have to be washed down to get the salt out of the fishing gear, they have to be properly stored, and then we have to clean the boat and flush the engines.

(Chuckling) Even though a day spent deep sea fishing usually means we get a lot of chum all over the boat, our boat never has a fishy smell. It gets a thorough cleaning each time.

Empty Chum Box

Empty Chum Box

Different Florida Keys Fish To
Target On Marathon Fishing Charters

FKV: How do you help the client decide where and what to fish for, so they have the most productive fishing trip?

Waltz: The fish have seasons. I'll ask them if they want to take fish back for food, or if they want the sport of Florida Keys fishing. Then I'll tell them about the different saltwater fish species that are here for that time of year.

If it's summer and a client wants to catch fish for food, we troll for dolphin or fish for yellow tail. Yellowtailing however is a hit or miss type of deal because they have very sharp eyesight. When yellowtail fishing you sometimes have to fish with 12 pound leader and you can end up breaking a lot of fish off. If you use a light leader, you'll have to chum prolifically, shaking the chum bag to get out as much chum as you can.

FKV: If you're chumming won't you also bring up the sharks?

Waltz: Well the sharks aren't actually attracted to the chum so much as they're attracted to the electrical signals that fish give off when they're caught and fighting.

FKV: Hmm, that's interesting. Now I know that a lot of people like to go yellowtail fishing at night.

Waltz: Yes, in clear water, yellowtail snappers have very good eyesight and they can see your bait and line. At night, that vision is reduced, so your chances of catching yellowtail improves immensely.

FKV: That's like swordfishing at night.

Waltz: Correct, fishing for swordfish is best at night, because the squid comes to the surface to feed. Squid is the main diet source for a swordfish, and so they follow the squid to the surface.

If you're on one of our Marathon fishing charters, and you're fishing Florida Keys for swordfish in the daytime, the spots we have to typically fish at are about 1,700 feet deep. You can swordfish that deep with a rod and reel, but you'd better have someone who can takeover because you're going to get tired real fast. That swordfish will be going up and down, up and down for hours.

FKV: That's a lot like grouper, they're deep and when you start to bring them up, they pull back down. That's why you have an electric reel, it's to exhausting otherwise.

Dan Sheehan, Todd Render and Cathy Sheehan With 2 Large Snowy Grouper Caught Deep Sea Fishing Florida Keys

Dan Sheehan, Todd Render and Myself With 2 Large Snowy Grouper

Waltz: Yes it is, and regarding grouper, the goliath grouper has begun to take over much of the fishery. Quite frankly we all wish they would lift the ban on fishing for grouper. They're gobbling up the lobsters and the crabs and it's become a real shame.

FKV: The goliath grouper were a seriously endangered species, but since the ban they've made a very strong comeback.

Waltz: Oh, goliath grouper are all over the Gulf.

FKV: So tell us Captain Waltz. The big question everyone always has is, "How do you know where to go fishing?"

Waltz: That's sort of a trade secret. I spend a lot of time slowly cruising around finding spots nobody else has. There's nothing more frustrating then going 15 - 20 miles out to a GPS spot to find someone else fishing there.

FKV: That's like going out to the Marathon Hump. Everybody's out there and it can get real messy. Lines tangle, boat wakes interfere with the live bait you're throwing out, it can become very unproductive at times.

Waltz: Yes, but the backcountry is the worst culprit. I have my own secret spot and I won't tell even my mother or father where it is!

Unfortunately, with technology we've developed a new dilemma. Most fishing charter boats have advanced electronics on them. Out on the water I can see a boat a mile off fishing. All I have to do is put my cursor on that boat, press a button and grab his GPS coordinates.

FKV: That's like bookmarking!

Waltz: (Laughing) That's cheating! That's why so many fishermen won't give out their coordinates because all their best spots get taken.

Marathon Fishing Charters
Ocean and Backcountry Fly Fishing

FKV: Can you tell us about backcountry fishing?

Waltz: Well first of all, the backcountry is filled with wrecks and objects that people have dropped illegally over the years. Washing machines, drums, barges, piles of cement blocks have all been dropped out in the backcountry. The reason they do this is because the bait fish hide amongst the objects they've dropped.

When we're backcountry fishing the water is super shallow and we'll often use the 16' Maverick Mirage. This flats boat has a shallow draft and can easily move around in water as shallow as 6 inches.

FKV: What kind of motor do you have on your Maverick Mirage?

Waltz: On my flats fishing boat I have a 40 horsepower 4 stroke Yamaha and GPS.

FKV: So if you're in the backcountry fishing, you're not using your motor, you're pole fishing, correct?

Waltz: Yes, however I don't go into the shallow water unless I'm targeting bonefish, tarpon or permit. That's because they're on the oyster beds, and the sandy bottoms, and sometimes they're in only 6 inches of water.

FKV: Of course they're also very skittish in the shallow water. I know permit are very hard to catch when flyfishing the Keys.

Yes, permit are probably the hardest saltwater fish to catch on a fly rod. They're so wary, you have to learn not to cast over the fish. False casting, where you put your line forward, back, then forward again, is absolutely out. You have to be proficient enough to have your line ready to do your back cast, and then cast to the fish.

Hand Tied Saltwater Fly Fishing Lures Made By Captain Dick Waltz Jr.

FKV: So you don't double flip it. You have to get it in front of the fish so you don't spook them.

Waltz: Exactly.

FKV: Bonefishing Keys is one of the more popular fly fishing vacations people plan on. So if you're bonefish fly fishing, what is the best fly to use?

Waltz: Crab or shrimp, and it's important to know where and how to fish with your flies. For example, let's say you're fishing an oyster bed that's only a foot deep. When the tide's going out, all the bait fish and fish are carried out with the tide, so you fish downstream of the tide. When the tide's coming in, it's bringing the bait fish back in and you fish against the tide.

First Mate Render: Tide is the real dictator, and the trick to bonefish fly fishing is knowing when and where. Bonefish have their own routes or predictable patterns during certain tides and it takes time to figure out how they come up on a flat and where they come off.

Waltz: That's true, plus when Florida Keys fly fishing you need to be equipped with different rods in different weights. This way you have the necessary specific weight for the particular saltwater fish you're targeting at that moment.

If you're tarpon fishing you would use at least a 10 weight fly rod. When backcountry fishing for Spanish mackerel or bluefish you'd use at least a 7 or 8 weight fly rod. Bonefish fly fishing or permit fishing you'd use an 8 or 10 weight fly rod. Permit are very hard to catch on a fly but if you use a crab pattern and have patience they're worth the challenge.

FKV: Captain Waltz, do you tie your own flies?

Saltwater Fly Fishing Lures Hand Tied By Captain Dick Waltz Jr.

Waltz: I have thousands of dollars invested in fly tying equipment. I have different flies for the species of fish we can target, and have different packs of flies in various sizes.

FKV: It sounds like fly fishing is your favorite form of fishing.

Waltz: Fly rodding is my all time passion. I started out fly fishing in freshwater which is fabulous, but so is saltwater fishing with a fly rod. Saltwater fly fishing however takes a completely different set of skills, because there's a lot of a wind, and you have to know how to cast. Double hauling is absolutely critical to learn if you're going salt water fly fishing.

FKV: What is double hauling?

Waltz: It's when you pull on the fly line when you're rod is back at it's furthest position. You give the fly line a jerk, it loads the rod, and when you go forward, at your forward most position you give it another jerk. This loads the rod with even more power and it casts a lot further.

FKV: Do you ever fly fish in the ocean?

Waltz: The Florida saltwater fish other than spanish mackerel, bonito, wahoo, and dolphin, are not surface fish. Snappers and yellowtails stay down in deeper water. If you chum, you can get these saltwater fish up to the surface and then you'll have a better chance of catching snapper and the deeper bottom fish on your fly rod.

Of course when you're fly fishing for dolphin, once you get a dolphinfish to the boat, all the other dolphin follow it. This is when you can throw just about anything out, and you'll just keep catching more dolphin.

FKV: (Laughing) That's like a herding feature, no wonder they call them bulls and cows.

Waltz: (Chuckling) That's it!

Marathon Fishing Charters
Deep Sea Fishing Trips

FKV: So now Captain Aldridge I'd like to ask you a few questions. I understand you've done a lot of fishing in the Keys. How long have you been here?

Aldridge: I was born in Key Colony Beach and I've been here my whole life, 61 years. I started mating when I was 15 years and in the business ever since, that's 45 years.

FKV: Out of all the types of Florida Keys fishing you do, what's your favorite?

Aldridge: Mostly billfishing for marlin and sailfish plus I like targeting tuna. I used to enter a lot of the sailfishing tournaments. I had a real good team that I fished with for years and we won a lot of the Florida Keys fishing tournaments. I also entered a lot of Bahama marlin tournaments. In fact the winnings from those tournaments bought my house on the Key Colony side.

However, my crew isn't together anymore and even though I enjoyed the Florida Keys fishing tournaments, there's a time for everything.

FKV: There isn't much you don't know about fishing Florida Keys.

Aldridge: (Chuckling) Yeah, but you can learn something new every day.

FKV: On your Marathon fishing charters do you do a lot of inshore light tackle fishing? Inshore reef and wreck fishing?

Aldridge: Oh yeah, we do everything. Gulf side, ocean side, we literally do whatever anyone wants us to do. Like right now the cobias are out on the wrecks in the Gulf about 15 - 20 miles out. We'll head out there and go fishing for cobia. The next day I'm yellowtailing in the ocean off the reefs 4. 5 - 5 miles out. Catching yellowtail snapper, dolphin fishing, live bait fishing for sailfish, we can do it all.

FKV: Don't cobia usually travel in large schools, and what do you usually use when you're cobia fishing?

Aldridge: Yes they sometimes travel in schools, however in the Gulf on the wrecks they don't. You might see 12 pop up or 1 pop up, you never know. Typically we use pin fish and spinning rods when we're fishing for cobia. We don't use any weights because they're popping up and we're feeding them on the surface. If the cobia aren't popping up we'll switch out and use a 3 oz sinker and go to the bottom for gag grouper, or something like that.

FKV: So when you're 15 - 20 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico, how deep are you fishing?

Aldridge: On these Marathon fishing charters we're fishing at only about 15 feet deep. The Gulf of Mexico stays shallow for about 25 miles out. However, if you go out to the ocean side, and get 4 miles out, it starts dropping off to a 100 feet, and then for every mile you go out, it's another 100 feet deeper.

FKV: The Marathon Hump is probably world famous. Almost everyone knows about this hot Marathon fishing charters spot. Of course, due to it's popularity not only are Florida Keys fishing charters out here, there are numerous avid sport fishermen, even commercial fishermen. Can you tell us a bit about the Hump?

Commercial Fishermen Fishing the Marathon Hump For Amberjack

Commercial Fishermen Deep Drop Fishing Marathon Hump For Amberjack

Aldridge: The Marathon Hump is like a mountain range on the bottom of the ocean that towers up with the shallowest point on the Hump being 480 feet. To fish the Hump we're going to get up current a bit, and give the black fin tunas a chance to find the pilchards. Then we're going to get 1 or 2 tunas on and then we're going to try and get the tuna away from the sharks.

FKV: I've heard there's a lot of sharks on the Marathon Hump.

Aldridge: Yes. Typically you'll see bull sharks and silky sharks, what I call Cuban night sharks. When you're fishing the Hump you have to reel in fast, because otherwise these sharks will grab your fish and take it before you can get it in.

FKV: So you're battling your catch and shark all at the same time! So tell us what else we'll do when we're fishing the Hump.

Aldridge: We'll live bait the tuna so you can get the bigger tunas popping up. The pilchards we're keeping in the live well get thrown out a few at a time.

Pilchard bait fish in live well

Pilchard Live Bait Fish In Live Well

The pilchards go straight down and all of a sudden these 'freebies' find the tunas. The pilchards get scared, and come straight back up to the surface, and then you see the tunas surface busting to get the pilchards.

On tuna fishing trips, pilchards are the best way to get the bigger tunas. You look around and see the different boats out here on the Hump. I'd say on any given day on the Marathon Hump, if you've got 20 fishing charter boats and sport fishing boats, probably only 1 will have live bait. That's why we have the pilchards. That's what separates us from the average weekend fishermen and from most of the other Marathon fishing charters.

FKV: So what are the other Keys fishing charters using to catch tuna?

Aldridge: They just trolling with feathers or deep jigging and they're getting the little tunas. Don't get me wrong the little black fin tunas are good eating too, but if you want to catch the big tunas, only the pilchards will bring them up.

If you catch any of the small black fin tunas surface busting after the pilchards, you can keep them for bait and use them on marlin fishing charters and for other saltwater fish.

Small Black Fin Tuna Used For Bait Fish

Small Black Fin Tuna Used For Fishing Bait

But we're after the big tuna here on the Hump, so we're going to take live pilchards and try to get the bigger tunas up. To do that we'll go to just the current side of the crown of the Hump, toss out the pilchards, they'll go down, the bigger tunas will find them and push the pilchards back to the surface.

After, we can go off the Marathon Hump to a few sweet spots I know where we can get snowy grouper and tilefish, all sorts of good stuff. It's a big ocean but when you're on a good spot, and that rod bends down hard, you know you've got a big one and it's pretty exciting!

Marathon Fishing Charters Fishing Info On
Best Live Bait And Fishing Tackle To Use

FKV: Obviously to have a successful fishing trip, using live bait is critical.

Waltz: It is, and not all Marathon fishing charters bother. It's time consuming and expensive, but we know it's essential for our clients to have a successful and fun fishing trip.

The way we catch our live bait is we take out our flat boat with a 10 foot cast net, and look for pilchard. To find them, you stand up on the bow, and when you spot them, you cast the net out to catch the pilchards. This can be a 4 - 5 hour proposition. Then you have to keep it alive in a live bait pen.

Live Bait Pen

Live Bait Pen

FKV: What is the best bait fish to use?

Waltz: Pilchards are the best bait fish that the bigger fish like to eat. Goggle eyes are only caught at night, and they're in specific places. Ballyhoo are another bait fish, but you can't keep them alive. The only thing you can do with ballyhoo is put them in a salt brine and then into saltwater or freeze them. You can also use pinfish and mullet. Pinfish are probably the second choice for all around Florida Keys fishing and they're used mostly for grouper and snapper.

FKV: So that's why pilchards are the name of the game, easy to catch, easy to keep alive, and all the big fish like them! Can you tell me more about the rigging of your offshore fishing rods. For example, what's the difference for the way you'd rig for dolphin fishing vs wahoo fishing.

Wahoo Fishing Ballyhoo Lure

Wahoo Fishing Lure

Waltz: Wahoo fishing is what I call luck fishin'. You have to troll for wahoo. A lot of deep sea fishing charters troll at 5 or 6 knots. But wahoo are the fastest fish in the ocean. They can have spurts of 60 miles an hour. So to cover a lot of ground we do what's called fast trolling. That means we're traveling at 15 knots and we believe that's the best way to go wahoo fishing.

FKV: That makes sense because if you're a fast moving saltwater fish, you're going to be more stimulated by something moving faster than slower. To me it's all logistics.

So what kind of weight of line would you use when trolling for wahoo?

Waltz: When wahoo fishing we use 100 pound test braid with 8 oz to 1 pound high speed trolling wahoo weights. Plus if the saltwater fish we're targeting is a toothy fish like wahoo, we also use a bimini twist knot and then we use an 80 lb leader off the bimini twist.

8 oz - 1 pound High Speed Trolling Wahoo Weights

8 oz - 1 pound High Speed Trolling Wahoo Weights

FKV: Can you tell us more about the bimini twist?

Waltz: The bimini twist is a loop that's specially formed at the end of the knot that creates a shock leader. It actually stretches so when the fish hits hard you get shock.

FKV: I see. So what would you use if you're dolphin fishing?

Waltz: Dolphin fishing you use ballyhoo. Ballyhoo are sometimes rigged naked, with no feathers on them. Other times they are rigged with a feather with a ballyhoo behind it. If you're Florida Keys tournament fishing you would usually also put a lead up under the nose of the ballyhoo to get more action. You can also go dolphin fishing with a straight trolling feather and no ballyhoo.

FKV: Of course you're also dolphin fishing with your lines going out at different lengths.

Waltz: Yes, that's very important. I have brand new Taco outriggers and we rig 5 lines with either naked ballyhoo or feathers, and we put them out at different lengths behind the boat. When dolphin fishing we're fishing on the surface and we want the naked ballyhoo to imitate swimming. To do that we have to adjust the boat speed so it's not skipping over the water, but so the ballyhoo is actually swimming in the water.

FKV: So what do you do when someone says to you, "My whole life's passion has been to go sailfishing?"

Waltz: (Laughing) We'd go take them out on a Marathon fishing charters trip sailfishing! However, sailfishing is more productive when the water is rough. You can kite fish where the kite is bouncing the goggle eyes on the top of the surface but that can be hit or miss. You have to realize that sailfish are migrating, so it all comes down to whether you're in the right place at the right time.

FKV: Where do your Marathon fishing charters go for sailfish?

Waltz: In rough weather, sailfish can be fished for in as little as 30 feet of water, or you can go all the way out to 1600 feet depth of water. Remember, the key is rough water, and if it's rough that will be your best chance of spotting sailfish. A person stands up as high as they can and looks in the waves. Usually the waves are 5 - 8 feet in height and when you look around you can actually see the sailfish surfing the waves.

FKV: Why are the sailfish surfing? Is it to catch food or are they just playing?

Aldridge: They're surfing to buck the current. The reason they're on top in the spring time, what we call tailing condition, is that they're migrating south in March and April, and they don't want to fight the current so they get up and ride the waves. The current is going hard east and they're traveling west, so they surf down the waves.

FKV: That's really cool, I didn't know that. So now that we know more about sailfishing, what fishing gear would you use if someone wanted to coordinate marlin fishing charters with you?

Aldridge: I'd use big marlin lures, and troll around 20 - 30 miles out.

Fishing Boats Fishing The Hump

Fishing Boats On Deep Sea Fishing Trips

FKV: You're out on the edge of the continental shelf, right?

Aldridge: Yes, that's where I've caught most of the marlin. (Chuckling) There and the Bahamas. But yes, that's called the 200 Fathom Curve. 200 fathoms is 1,200 feet, and it drops off and is just like a wall. This feature is what holds all the bait fish, and that's the best place to go marlin charter fishing.

That being said, there have been many times in the summer when we were only 14 miles out on Marathon fishing charters dolphin fishing when a marlin has popped up right behind the boat. The marlin was trying to eat the dolphin that were chasing our fishing boat.

FKV? What's the biggest marlin you've ever caught?

Aldridge: 680 pounds and that took about 2 hours, but I've had bigger on than that. In Australia I had a black marlin that was probably 1200 - 1300 pounds.

Good grief! How long was the battle?

Aldridge: (Laughing) That was short, because we lost him!

FKV: Can you tell us about snook fishing and Marathon tarpon fishing?

Aldrige: Snook fishing in the Keys is not as good as in the Everglades, but it can be quite productive if you're live bait fishing for them around the pilings at Seven Mile Bridge and Long Key Bridge.

In the Marathon Key area, tarpon fishing is also very good at the Seven Mile Bridge and the Long Key Bridge.

On our tarpon fishing charters we'll use live pinfish, bucktail jigs and other artificial baits. The trick is to watch the currents. It's impossible to go fishing when the currents are ripping because the current goes through the bridge quick.

On any Marathon fishing charters trip it's only possible to fish the last 2 hours of the incoming tide and the last 2 hours of the outgoing tide at the bridge channels. If you get there when the current is smoking through the bridge you simply can't do anything.

20 pound snowy grouper held by Todd Render and Cathy Sheehan

First Mate Todd Render and Myself With The 20 Pound Snowy Grouper

Additional Fishing Gear And Supplies
Used By Good Marathon Fishing Charters

Wahoo Fishing Lures

Freezers Full of Bait Fish

Lure Dehooker and Large Ice Maker

I want to thank Captain Dick Waltz Jr, Captain Danny Aldridge and First Mate Todd Render for taking the time to share with us and our Readers what it's like to go out on the water with a truly professional Marathon fishing charters company.

They took the time to answer our questions, and to show us what we needed to know about deep sea fishing with them. They kept us safe, and worked diligently to ensure we had a great time.

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Local Weather Zip Codes

Key Largo - 33037
Marathon - 33050
Key West - 33040