Hawks Cay Resort
Duck Key, Florida Keys, 800-432-2242, www.hawkscay.com
Location: Hawks Cay Resort is located at mile marker 61 in the Florida Keys, 60 miles from Key West and 90 miles from Miami. A few miles offshore lie lush coral reefs that drop to deep-blue ocean currents. To the north, the estuarine Everglades National Park provides juvenile habitat for many game fish.
Fishing seasons/expectations: Top inshore species include tarpon, bonefish and permit. Peak tarpon season occurs March through May; a half-day charter might see three to five hookups on fish to 200 pounds. Fish for bones primarily from April through June; expect shots at four to six fish from 6 to 12 pounds in a half-day. For permit, target May through July and also in December. Permit average 15 to 25 pounds; expect two to four shots in the shallows, more on reefs and wrecks.
Offshore, target sails from December to March, when you can expect double-digit shots in a day's time. Prime dolphin season is April through July and again in November. Expect multiple shots at fish to 50-plus pounds. Blackfin tuna numbers peak from February through April, though they can be caught through July.
Lodge records: None recorded.
A typical day's outing: Morning charters leave by 8 a.m. and return by noon. Afternoon trips leave at 1 p.m. and return at 5. Full-day trips are also available.
Inshore trips usually involve running to a flat where the guide quietly poles the skiff, looking for tailing bonefish or permit. Using fly or spin tackle, anglers cast to spooky fish. On tarpon trips, guides anchor along channels or near bridges and use conventional gear with live baits or cut mullet.
Offshore trips usually involve a run of 30 minutes to an hour. For sails, captains launch fishing kites and use live baits or troll dead baits. Dolphin fall prey to trolled baits and lures; anglers often catch smaller dolphin along weed lines with small jigs. For tuna, captains usually fish behind shrimp boats.
Average climate/weather expectations: Temperatures average 70 to 85 degrees. Winter winds pick up with frontal activity; in summer, southeast trade winds tame the tropical warmth, and afternoon showers become expected. The Atlantic hurricane season runs June through November, but peaks in September.
Getting there: Typically guests fly into Fort Lauderdale (127 miles), Miami (100 miles), Key West (59 miles) or Marathon (charter jet, 10 miles), rent a car and drive the Overseas Highway. Shuttle services also make daily trips between mainland airports and Keys destinations (www.fla-keys.com).
Vessel information: For reef and offshore fishing, charter boats include:
Tailwalker 1 - 1993, 43-foot Viking (full-cabin sport-fish), twin 8-cylinder MANs
Tailwalker 2 - 2000, 50-foot Viking (full-cabin sport-fish), twin 10-cylinder MANs
Final Final - 1992, 38-foot Buddy Davis (full-cabin sport-fish), twin 671 Caterpillars
Eagle Eye - 2005, 26-foot Regulator center-console, twin 225 Yamahas
For backcountry/flats fishing:
Soc-Et-Tu-Um - 1993, 20-foot Hewes, 150 Honda four-stroke
Tarpon Time - 2002, 17-foot Grandslam, 115 Yamaha four-stroke
All boats are equipped with GPS/fish finders. Skiffs use Power-Poles, trolling motors and casting platforms.
Available tackle: Guides use tournament-grade Fin-Nor, Penn, Shakespeare, Quantum and Shimano rods/reels, Momoi and Sufix brand lines and circle hooks. Fly-fishing outfits are also available.
Accommodations: Hawks Cay offers 177 newly renovated guest rooms and 225 two- and three-bedroom villas for families or groups. Each villa has multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, full kitchen, living room and private deck.
Hawks Cay's five restaurants offer foods prepared with fresh local ingredients. Hawks also offers a wide variety of outdoor sports from kiteboarding and stand-up paddle boarding to scuba diving and snorkeling.
2011 packages: Bundle fishing and accommodations to save money (use promo code SFM). Base packages (standard room/half-day inshore charter) begin at $525 per night.
Provisions for taking home fish: Hawks arranges shipping through an offsite vendor. Captains filet and package fish for guests. Guests may purchase a cooler as a carry-on bag.