Spring Break on Long Key

keys blog rods

keys blog rods

After taking the family down to Cheeca Lodge in Islamorada for Spring Break last year, I didn’t think it would be possible to find a place that could compare...fortunately I didn’t have to look far.

Since I live by the motto “It’s better to me lucky than good,” it was appropriate that I stumbled upon this year’s Spring Break hot spot while putting on the Marlin University down in Costa Rica. Joan Vernon, one the great ladies in sportfishing, runs a tournament series called the Presidential Challenge and one of its stops is down in Playa Carrillo, where she also own a house. I usually see Joan at the Hotel Guanamar at least one night of our trip and sure enough, there she was after our first day of fishing, enjoying a tall frosty drink at the bar. After we chatted for bit I mentioned that I was wondering what I was going to do with my boys over the upcoming Spring Break. Vernon immediately suggested that we come and stay at her home on Long Key. She wasn’t going to be there and she said that she’d really like for us to come down and use the house.

After thinking about it for about 30 seconds I told her that I would contact her as soon as I returned to the states and had a chance to talk it over with the boss (wife). After getting the go ahead, I called up Joan and she set the wheels in motion.

Since I had to do a rehearsal for the upcoming season of the Chevy Florida Insider Report down in Miami, I brought the kids down with me on a Wednesday, so we could then travel on down to the Keys once the show was over. We knew if was going to be late, the show ended around 11 p.m., but we really wanted to get down there and start the relaxing proper on Thursday morning.

The rehearsal went well and Rick Murphy even offered up the use of his Mirage for the trip! I followed Rick to his house, picked up the boat and the kids, and headed down to the keys at about midnight. We rolled into the driveway of Joan’s house at around 2 a.m., and even at that late hour, we were blown away by the house and property.

The stilt house sits on the west end of Long Key on the ocean side, right before you come to the bridge, on a piece of land that used to house the Long Key Fishing Lodge. Simply put, the house and the setting are gorgeous.

We had our own private beach and dock, mere minutes from the 3-mile bridge and just a few miles from the edge of the reef.

Our first day we left the boat at the house and headed down to Key West so that the boys could say that they had been all the way to the end. My grandfather was born on Key West in 1928, after his father had finished working on the Flagler Railroad, so it was nice for the boys to see how our family’s history is so closely intertwined with Florida.

On Friday, my good buddy and regular Marlin contributor Capt. George Sawley came down from Fort Lauderdale to act as our fishing guide. Sawley grew up fishing out of Hawk’s Key and his local knowledge really saved our butts. When I told him that we wanted to catch some yellowtail snapper for dinner, he promptly got on his cell phone, called up a local charter boat buddy and put us on the fish. It proved to be a bumpy ride out to the reef in the little skiff, but the boys and I held on tight because the captain on the charter boat said he had “left them frothing.” He was right! We didn’t have a line out for 30 seconds before we caught our first keeper. That night Sawley did the shopping and made us an incredible meal of fish tacos...it’s great to have friends like George!

The next day the wind blew pretty hard in the morning so we decided to stay inshore and see what we could chum up in the channels. Spencer hooked a big barracuda that jumped all over the ocean and Jack caught tarpon fever after seeing a tarpon bust one of the live mullet we were fishing under the bridge. We never got a tarpon, but I know that the seed has been planted and I know that Jack won’t sleep easy until he gets one.

One last thanks to George, Joan and Rick for generously giving their time, effort and possessions to make our Spring Break a truly memorable one!