Cuban Time Warp

Sometimes, a once in a lifetime opportunity comes your way and you just have to jump on it. When I received an email from Albemarle Angler about some upcoming hosted trips, it was sheerly by chance that I clicked the link to read more about one. At this point, I don’t even remember what the trip was, because I very quickly got distracted by something that was way cooler. A legal week long trip to Cuba for bonefish, permit, and tarpon. To a virgin fishery. Before Americans are generally allowed to go Cuba. I called up Scott (he’s guided me a couple times before for smallmouth bass on the Shenandoah) to ask a couple questions. It didn’t take much before I was booked. Only 9 months on the calendar until it was trip time.

The preparation phase of this trip was probably the worst. I had done one day of fishing for tarpon on the flats, but other than that, never before done any sort of tropical fly fishing. I was no stranger to the flats targeting redfish, but this was a different beast. Other than pictures, I had never even seen a bonefish or permit before this trip. I had no idea what to expect, what flies to tie, or how much gear I really needed to buy (OK, buying the gear was fun). Luckily, Scott and crew were always a phone call away to make sure I came all set up, well stocked, and well prepared. Note: as good as they are, they can’t force you to remember to pack that rain jacket. Brrrr.

20160220_125946Finally, it came time to get on the plane to Cuba. Well, to Canada first, since we still don’t have commercial flights. My excitement really started building as we’re approaching the Cayo Cruz airport. You could see incredible expanses of flats everywhere. Wetting a line was only a day away, but felt like it was still an eternity.To be honest, I wasn’t even sure I was going to make it on the trip. I got a lovely diagnosis of the flu four days before I was supposed to leave. Luckily, that tamiflu stuff is a beast.

We landed, hopped in a couple taxis, and made the two hour drive to the lodge. It quickly became quite obvious that we were not in a place we were used to. There were very few cars – although there were far more new cars than I was expecting mixed in with the classics. Sugar cane fields were absolutely everywhere. And the main mode of transportation for people was donkey carts.  Upon arrival to the lodge, we were warmly greeted by the staff and were quickly fed some mojitos. After dinner, we did introductions, met the guides, and planned out the following day. The fishing area is broken out into 6 zones. Generally, they only have one boat operating in each zone, although they’re big enough that you could never run into each other if you share a zone.

OK, well this one wasn't my first, but close enough!

OK, well this one wasn’t my first, but close enough!

The marina was about a 30 km drive from the lodge, which took a little over an hour due to the terrible roads. We got to the marina early the first day to rig up our rods, then hopped in our boats and went off. This is where my forgotten rain jacket would’ve come in handy. The boat spray and the downpour we had in the first hour made for a chilly morning. The first day, I fished with Carson, the owner of Albemarle Angler and co-host of the trip, and our guide Nelson. Carson knew I had never caught a bonefish before and wanted to get some footage of my first. We waded a massive lagoon (it took us over 6 hours to fish half of it), so I had Nelson and Carson’s eyes helping me look for my first bone. It took a while, but we finally found a school of about 10 bonefish swimming right at me. I dropped my Gotcha into the fray and had one bite, but I couldn’t connect. I kept stripping, got another strike, but couldn’t connect again. A quick recast and I got tight. The bonefish took off screaming, but my Hatch Finatic 7 Plus was no match for slowing it down. Before long, my first ever bonefish was in hand.

After the rush of my first, Carson started fishing on his own as well. It was tough conditions with a cold front having come through and lots of clouds. That didn’t stop the fish, nor stop us from catching them. Carson and I combined for 22 bonefish to the hand by the end of the day – 13 for him and 9 for me. I got one barracuda, which was a blast, and had a lemon shark eat about 10 feet from me, but he broke me off 10 seconds later.

As the week progressed, conditions got better and better. On my second day, I finally got a shot at a permit. I dropped the fly in front of the fish, and heard the guide yell “Strip! Strip! Strip! SET THE HOOK!” A long pull with my left hand and…. I pulled up two feet of slack and watched the permit spook away. Whoops.

There was something about me and my boat that seemed to attract permit. I had by far the most shots at permit, delivering the fly to around 20 fish. I only got two fish to eat – that first one, and the very last one I saw – but couldn’t come tight to either. One of the other guys had a bonefish steal the fly out of a permit’s mouth. But, that was the closest anyone got to catching one that week. It was tough conditions all week for permit and not prime time, but we still go in our shots.

Toward the end of the week, we had a glass-calm morning. The guide said we were starting out looking for tarpon. With the calm weather, we had a good chance at finding some of the resident tarpon rolling. We saw the first roller only a couple minutes after getting to the flat. We pulled up, the guide pointed a fish out, and I dropped in the fly. A fish ate, but I only stung his lip. Next cast, another eat, but I set too soon and pulled it out of his mouth. Nothing on my third cast. Fourth cast brought a mangrove snapper to hand. My fifth cast turned out another eat. I yanked on the line and got solid contact. The guide starts telling me to set the hook again. The tarpon started running directly at me and past the boat. As I’m trying to keep from getting slack, let alone another attempt at a hook set, I get jumped. I turned over the bow to my boatmate after that, but we couldn’t get another shot. Carson ended up landing one the next day.

Barracuda stichedOf all the fish I caught the whole trip, my favorite by far was barracuda. I caught two on the trip, with the second being a pretty hefty specimen. These fish will take 100 yards of backing in about 10 seconds. Apparently, most jump, although I only had my second one jump. He was a feisty one. Once hooked, he started jumping and tailwalking as if he was a sailfish. With each jump, he’d easily clear 40 feet of water before going back to swimming rather than flying.

IMG_2714There were quite a few unique things about the Cuban fishing. First, these bonefish are stupid. You can completely miss your cast, even dropping it 5 feet behind the fish, and it’ll come back and destroy your fly. You can get a bad hookset, pop the fly out, and it’ll pick up the fly again. Even with a couple cold fronts coming through and less than ideal conditions, bonefish were always fairly plentiful. Over the week, I caught about 30, despite focusing on permit several days. The flats are quite unique as well. There are more than a few areas where the flats go on as far as you can see. Some are easily over a square mile. While I have no comparison since this is my first trip, I was told some individual flats are bigger than all of Ascension Bay. Lastly, no matter what flat you’re on, you always have a chance at seeing a permit. In fact, there wasn’t a day where either I or my boatmate didn’t see a permit. Because of that, more often than not, I wound up throwing my 10 weight Helios 2 just in case we ran into a permit. But, that didn’t stop the bonefish from putting up one heck of a fight. Many would take us well into our backing. While the fish weren’t necessarily too long compared to other destinations, they were far fatter. The average fish was 4-5 pounds, with quite a few hitting the 10 pound mark.

So far, the Cuban fishery has been amazing. Hopefully, it will stay that way. Luckily, the Cubans are very proud of their environmental resources and actively try to protect it. However, as things begin opening up with the US, who knows what will happen. Surely, it will get way more expensive. If you want to go, make some moves quick. Albemarle Angler is hosting another trip to Cuba in December 2016. I highly recommend getting in before things start to change!

Offshore Trip with Hot Shot Charters

This past Sunday marked the final day of my trip to South Florida. Having taken care of the backcountry fishing, it was time to do some offshore fishing. I got in touch with Sig Ozols of Hot Shot Charters and set up a full day offshore trip, this time bringing along my old college roommate, Kyle.

We met up with Sig for a 7 AM departure out of Dinner Key Marina in Coconut Grove. Sig’s mate, Chris, grabbed our bag – and more importantly our beer. We pushed off and started off to the fishing grounds. The inshore bite was dead according to reports, so we made the run to the further fishing grounds, about halfway to Bimini. That may sound like it’s really far away, but it was still only a 30-45 minute run.

WahooOnce we got to our fishing grounds, Chris rigged up the rods, clipped them to the outriggers, and we started our troll. Not 5 minutes in, our down bait gets hit. I grab ahold of the rod and start cranking away. A couple minutes later, I have a beautiful 10-15 lb wahoo at the boat. Chris gaffed it and tossed it in the icebox. The morning was off to a great start. Chris reset the bait as Sig kept the troll going. A little while later, we start getting another hit on the down bait. This time Kyle grabs the rod, and brings in a smaller mahi mahi. Chris reset the baits and we readied ourselves for the next one.


Mahi MahiThe morning grew later and Kyle and I were relaxing with a beer (come on, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere), when suddenly we saw a mahi mahi skipping through the air behind the boat. Sure enough, seconds later, it took a bait. I grabbed the rod and started the fight, but it managed to shake the hook. Through the rest of the morning, we put two more mahi mahi in the boat. We were hoping to find a school of the mahi so we could toss a fly line out to them, but no such luck. Sig asked us if we wanted to change things up, which meant it was time to go sailfishing. Sig set course for the sailfish grounds while Chris got the spinning rods rigged up.

With a few hours left, Sig got the Hot Shot into position, and Chris let out the baits. A little time went by with no action, but we saw a sailfish hooked and dancing across the surface behind one of the boats several hundred yards away. We knew we were in the right spot, and it was only a matter of time before it was our turn. Not long after, we could see one of our baits start to get nervous. It was exactly what we were waiting for – a sailfish. It took the bait, and I grabbed the rod and started the fight. While I was grabbing the rod, we realized another bait was getting nervous. About 30 feet behind the boat, my sailfish crashed through the air as Kyle’s rod doubles over. We’ve got two sailfish hooked! Kyle’s starts jumping about 150 feet behind the boat, and his drag starts screaming. All the fun proved to be too much of a distraction for me, and I didn’t keep enough tension on my fish and it threw the hook. Kyle’s was still fighting strong. Kyle battled back and forth, with Sig passing along instructions and controlling the boat, while Chris stood by Kyle’s side to lend a hand when needed.The battle went on for about 5 minutes before our luck took a turn for the worse and our line got caught up, and the sailfish broke off.

SharkAfter we collected ourselves from losing the double, we had about an hour’s worth of fishing left, and we were optimistic for another shot. We reset the baits and began the waiting game again. Another nervous bait, and another fish on the end of the rod. I picked it up, and started battling. It felt like a pretty good fish, but we didn’t see any surface action. After a couple minutes of the fight, we were pretty sure we didn’t have a sailfish, but still knew it was something with decent size. The fish was close to the boat, and we realized we had ourselves a Silky Shark. The shark proved to be our last fish of the day, and while it wasn’t a sailfish, it was still a fun fight.

Hot Shot ChartersBack at the docks, Sig cleaned and bagged our fish while Chris got the boat cleaned up. Sig apologized for the “slow” action, but I never would’ve guessed that action would’ve been considered slow. If that’s supposed to be a slow day, I can’t wait until the next time I fish with Sig and it’s a great day! Sig has a very laid back personality, and loves being on the water and having a good time. He’s your ticket to a great day on the water.

Ready to book a trip with Sig Ozols aboard Hot Shot Charters? You can contact Sig via email at or call him at (305) 608-3913 or (305) 667-2129. Visit his website at for more information. Sig leads trips inshore, offshore, and on the reefs for everything from snapper to mahi-mahi, tuna, and wahoo to sailfish and marlin. Check out all our pictures from our trip on our Facebook album.

Everglades National Park Backcountry Trip with Scales 2 Tales Charters

I had been getting the itch to do some fishing down in Florida lately. Growing up on Cape Cod, I’ve done plenty of striped bass, bluefish, and bluefin tuna fishing, but have never had a chance to experience any warm water saltwater fishing. To solve the problem, I booked a plane ticket and signed up for a full day backcountry trip with Chris Hanson of Scales 2 Tales Charters.

Florida Bay

The plan was to fish the mangroves in Everglades National Park. We took off from the dock in Key Largo in Chris’s beautiful 18 foot Ranger flats boat and made the run over to the park. Since the weather was great, it was a quick trip thanks to the 150hp motor. Along the way, Chris was sure to point out some of the wildlife – everything from the birds to the crocodiles sunning themselves. After we shot across the glassy water, we cruised into the mangroves to our first spot.

Mangroves in Everglades National Park

Never having done this type of fishing, Chris rigged up a shrimp and showed me what to do, and what to feel for as the fish picked up the bait. Not even thirty seconds later, I feel a tap-tap-tap on the rod. I gave the fish enough time to swallow the hook, and started cranking. It didn’t feel big, but still had some fight to it. I had a small jack crevalle on the end of the line – not our intended target. Next cast, another jack. After that, a mangrove Redfishsnapper. You have to weed through some of the small guys before you get the bigger fish. Finally, after another couple snappers, I had a bigger hit. The fish made a bit of a run, as I fought him to the boat. I got the fish to the side of the boat, and Chris grabbed my first redfish. It was too small to keep, so we fired off a couple pictures and release him back to the mangroves. After tossing back a few more jacks and snappers, I got another big hit. This time, I brought in a black drum – another first for me. We got a few more jacks and snappers before things started slowing down a bit and Chris jetted us off to another spot. mangroves to our first spot.

Our next spot was a channel right at the edge of the Gulf of Mexico. We were in some faster current with the hopes of some bigger fish. We tossed out another shrimp, and shortly thereafter, another fish was hooked. I pulled up my first saltwater catfish. Chris has one rule aboard the boat – no catfish allowed inside. Luckily, I remembered before I pulled it aboard. I got another couple catfish before hooking into another black drum. I got another couple catfish before we decided there were too many kitties around.

TripletailLooking to give me some variety, Chris took me out to the edge of the national park for some tripletail. We cruised along the stone crab traps until we saw a tripletail hanging out beneath a marker buoy. Chris assured me I’d find tripletail fishing a blast. After driving past a few buoys, we finally saw our target hanging out just below the surface. We circled around, and I tossed out a shrimp. The tripletail immediately swam over to it and ate it. I gave it a couple seconds to swallow the hook and started reeling. The rod had a nice bend, but my immediate thought was “what was all the fuss about?” No sooner than I finish the thought, and the tripletail realized it was hooked, and made a drag screaming run. THAT is what all the fuss is about. I battled it as it made a few more runs. I got it to the boat and Chris pulled it in. I was all smiles as I held my first tripletail. I was astonished to find a fish that fought that hard turned out to be just short of the minimum size! Chris snapped a couple pictures of me, and we set off to search for a few more. My next one was a nice four pounder that put up another heck of a fight. We got another small one and another keeper before heading back into the mangroves.

Anchoring into another one of Chris’s sweet spots, he tied on a jig and topped it with a shrimp, and again showed me the right way to fish it. A mangrove snapper was the first to bite, but shortly thereafter, we got hit by a nice sized snook. Putting up one of the best fights of the day, I had my first snook in the boat after a few minutes. The snook smiled for Snookthe pictures before we sent him off to swim another day. As the tide began to turn, things slowed down briefly – but not enough to stop me from catching my first sheepshead. Once we had some water flowing again, the bite picked right back up. We put another few redfish, some ladyfish (another first for me), and plenty of snappers in the boat. We had one particularly good sized redfish in the boat, but as Chris unhooked it and we were prepping for a picture, it saw an opportunity for escape and took it. The sun started getting low, so it was time to head back to the docks, happy and tired from a great day of fishing. Back at the dock, Chris happily filleted and bagged my keep and threw it on ice.


I really can’t say enough about how great it was fishing with Chris. He’s a fun captain to guide you through the backcountry or on any trip he offers. If you want peace and quiet, Chris is fine with that. If you want to blast some music, have some beers, and joke around, Chris is fine with that too. The whole experience shows how much Chris really enjoys his job as a guide. On top of that, Chris’s knowledge of the backcountry is impressive. He easily navigates the maze of mangroves, and knows exactly how much water will be in each spot at any given time. He has a GPS on board, but I didn’t see him use it to navigate once.

Ready to book a trip with Chris Hanson aboard Scales 2 Tales Charters? You can contact Chris via email at or call him at (305) 522-3772. Visit his website at for more information. Chris leads trips in the backcountry and on the flats for species such as snook, redfish, tarpon, black drum, and more! Check out all our pictures from our trip on our Facebook album.

Shark Fishing Aboard Commotion Charters

Last weekend I was invited up to Newport, Rhode Island for a fishing trip aboard Commotion Charters with Captain Dan Tye.  The “Commotion” is a gleaming 50 foot sport fisher. Originally delivered in 2009, this boat looks like it just took it’s maiden voyage yesterday! It sleeps 6, has an air conditioned salon, full bathroom, freshwater maker, refrigerator and freezers. If you’re making a family trip for the day, there is even a TV with PlaCommotion Chartersystation. While all the luxuries are great, the outside is what counts the most where you’ll be spending your time fighting the fish. Commotion Charters has all the finest gear, whether you’re targeting bluefish or bluefin. The outriggers gets you more exposure to the fish, while the tuna tower provides a great vantage point for spotting tuna and shark. When you end up reeling in dinner, there’s a large fishhold. Keeping the bait to land that giant is no issue either with the large livewell and bait freezer with an on board icemaker. The twin diesel engines will get you to the fishing grounds fast where you’ll put the gorgeous fighting chair to good use. Don’t want to sit? Commotion’s crew with strap you into the stand up fighting gear.

The weather was on our side with plenty of sun and calm seas – not like Commotion has any issue handling rough water. Our initial plan was to make a run to the Canyons, but fishing reports led us to make a game time change in plans to a shark fishing trip. We decided there was no point in spending the time to get all the way out there if the fish weren’t biting. Besides, that just meant I got to sleep in a little later.

Commotion Charters provided all the frozen bait we needed, but the captain suggested catching some live bait first. When live “bait” fishing for sharks is 3-5 pound bluefish on light tackle, how can you say no? That in itself makes for a great day of fishing! While trolling for blues with the backdrop of Narragansett Bay is great, that wasn’t the intent of our trip. We put our fish in the livewell and got ready for the real fishing.Commotion Charters

Commotion Charters

We sped off to the fishing grounds, got our chum slick going and our baits set, began playing the waiting game. It didn’t take too long before the first balloon dipped hard in the water – the first shark took our bait. After a nice fight, we had a 7 foot blue shark at the boat, photographed and released.

Commotion Charters

With the baits reset and our heartbeats back to normal, we continued chumming the water trying to attract another shark. We kept a spinning rod baited with a chunk of mackerel and about 10 feet of line off the stern. Our hope was a big shark would take the bait right in front of us. While that didn’t happen, a BIG 20-pound bluefish did take the bait.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t paying nearly enough attention and we lost the fish before I could set the hook. Our disappointment didn’t last long as we got hit by another shark. Another battle, another shark at the boat. This would be our biggest of the day – a 9 foot blue shark. Unfortunately, with the swivel at the rod tip, the shark made one last ditch effort to get away and snapped the line before we could get any pictures. We brought in one more 7 foot blue shark before calling it a day.

Commotion Charters

I had a great trip with Commotion Charters, and hope I’ll be able to join them on another trip soon!

Want to book your own trip aboard Commotion Charters? Contact Captain Dan Tye at (407) 463-9912. Commotion Charters sails out of Hyannis, MA during the summer and fall, and Florida during the winter. Commotion Charters targets everything from Striped Bass to Bluefin Tuna to Shark to warm-water species in the Canyons.