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For another challenge, try tarpon--one of the most agile and acrobatic fighters in the sea. As soon as it's hooked, it'll do a dramatic walk on water called the "tail walk." Shark fishing is also popular.
For a look at real competition, watch the charter captains and their bookers in and around Mallory Square. Booking through one of the kiosks in town is usually the most costly way to go. Realize that most bookers earn 20 percent of a captain's fee per person in addition to an additional monthly fee. So you can usually save yourself some money by booking directly with a captain or going straight to one of the docks. You can negotiate a good deal at Charter Boat Row located at 1801 N. Roosevelt Ave. (across from the Shell station) where there are more than 30 charter fishing and party boats. Whichever you are looking for, just show up to arrange your outing, or call Garrison Bite Marina, 305/292 8167 for details. The advantage of the more expensive but smaller charter boats is that you can call the shots, ask to go where you want, catch what you want. These "light tackles" are easier to maneuver, which means you and one or two others can go to backcountry spots for tarpon and bonefish as well as out the open ocean for tuna and dolphin. You'll really get to feel the fish and get some good fights.
Larger boats which can carry up to six or seven people work out to be cheaper and are best for kingfish, billfish and sailfish. The huge commercial party boats are more for sightseeing than serious angling, although you can get lucky and get a few bites at one of the fishing holes. One especially good deal is the Gulfstream II, 305/296-8494. This all-day charter goes out daily from 9:30a.m. until 4p.m. You'll pay $30, plus $3 for a rod and reel. This 65 foot party-boat usually has at least 30 other anglers. Bring your own cooler or buy snacks on the boat. Beer and wine is allowed.
However, for serious anglers, nothing compares to the light tackle boats that go out from Oceanside Marina (305/294-4676) in Stock Island, at 5950 Peninsula Avenue, a mile and a half off US 1. It's a 20 minute drive from Old Town on the Atlantic side. Here there are more than 30 light tackle guides, which range from flatbed, backcountry skiffs to a 28 foot open fisherman. There are also a few larger charters and a head or party boat that goes to the Dry Tortugas. Call the dockmaster for details.
Key Largo Sailfish Tournament
Cheeca Lodge Presidential Sailfish Tournament
Over The Hill Rip Off
Marathon Kingfish Extravaganza
Holiday Isle Sailfish Tournament
Hog's Breath King Mackeral Tournament
Islamorada All Tackle Spring Bonefish Tournament
Holiday Inn Key Largo Dolphin Tournament
Key West & Lower Keys Fishing Tournament
Texaco Key West Classic
32nd Annual Marathon International Tarpon Tournament
Marathon Dolphin Scramble
Holiday Isle Dolphin Tournament
Don Hawley International Tarpon Tournament
Women's World Invitational Tarpon Fly Championship Tournament
Big Pine & Lower Keys Dolphin Tournament
Gold Cup Tarpon Fly Fishing Tournament
Key West Gator Club Dolphin Derby
South Florida Fishing Classic
TNT/ Golden Fly Invitational Fly Championship
Coconut Cove Resort Dolphin Tournament
6th Annual World Class Angler Light Tackle Classic
Key Largo Dolphin Derby
Dolphin Daze Tournament
Oceanside Marina Shallow Water Challenge