Email Capt. Rick Stanczyk
or call/text 305-747-6903 for more information!
If you are interested in booking an islamorada tarpon fishing charter you’re in the right place. While just about every backcountry/inshore fishing guide does some tarpon fishing throughout the year, many have other things they specialize in or prefer to do, especially during non-prime tarpon season (later summer/fall, late winter). You can bet if the conditions are right and tarpon are around, I am spending some time on my charters trying to catch them. I don’t mind getting up early, going later in the evening, or spending extra time catching the bait to try to give you the best shot at catching a tarpon. Knowing where the fish are, what tide/time they are feeding on, where the bait is, etc… is essential to productive tarpon fishing. I pride myself on trying to keep up with that information on a daily basis. I’ve fished over 300 trips a year in Islamorada and Everglades National Park some years, plus have a close working/friendly relation with other great Islamorada tarpon guides so you can bet I’ve done my homework before we leave the dock! Here is a rundown of the most frequently asked questions and my best answers to them.
How do we go about booking a fishing trip?
You can contact me directly for booking information or trip related information. Please remember I am often fishing every day, especially in our ‘busy season’ so it may take a day for me to get back to you sometimes.
Capt. Rick Stanczyk
If you already know when you want to fish, and want to secure a date ASAP, the best thing to do is contact Bud n’ Mary’s Marina directly. I’ll usually have people call them to reserve when they are ready anyhow. They have my calendar and know when I am available. Just ask to book Capt. Rick for a tarpon fishing trip on the day of your choice, and they will take a deposit to hold the trip. You can reach them at:
Bud n’ Mary’s Fishing Marina
305-664-2461 / 1-800-742-7945
Though please contact me after you have booked, as depending on time of year, possible conditions, etc… I may suggest fishing a different length of time or hours.
Note: If you are driving a long distance to meet me for a fishing trip (from Key West, Miami, etc…) my policy is we always meet at the dock in the morning to decide if we go fishing, regardless of what weather forecasts say. If you do not want to do this, then I will not take your booking – simple as that.
What types of trips do you offer, and how much do they cost?
We offer several different trip types and depending on the time of year, I sometimes recommend longer trips vs. shorter ones. Of course any time you can book a full day it is usually better as it will give you more time to fish different areas and tides. Though certain times of year we definitely are fishing half days and usually getting it done in that time. Other times we are running further into the everglades and it requires more time. Also depending on the weather some times I may recommend cutting our trip to a half day, if the wind is howling or their is weather incoming, and it doesn’t really make sense to run very far. But generally we offer half day trips (4 hours), 3/4 day trips (6 hours), or full day trips (8 hours), and certain times evening trips (4 hours). Please be punctual for your tarpon fishing trip, if you show up late it can have major repercussions on our day. Tides play pivotal roles in tarpon feeding patterns and I plan my fishing around them. Also catching bait is imperative for good tarpon fishing and if we aren’t out there at the right time to do that, then sometimes you just aren’t going to be fishing for tarpon if the bait is too hard to catch.
For the 2019 season I am getting a brand new Contender 25 Bay Boat built with a 300 hp motor. I’m not sure exactly when this boat will be done at this point. This boat will get us to the fish much quicker and be a much more comfortable boat especially for 3 anglers. My rates will be as follows for 2020, starting Dec 25, 2019:
Half day (4 hours) 2 people – $635 / 3 people – $735 / 4 people – $835
3/4 day (6 hours) 2 people – $835 / 3 people – $935 / 4 people – $1035
Full day (8 hours) 2 people – $1035 / 3 people – $1135 / 4 people – $1235
How can we pay for our fishing charter?
Cash or check is preferred, though I can take a credit card as well. For above listed prices, I am offering a $35.00 discount if paying with cash or check as opposed to credit card.
What is standard gratuity for a fishing charter?
This is entirely up to the customer, however most people tip in the 15%-20% range for a good day on the water. While catching a lot of fish or a large fish usually encourages a good tip, we can’t always control whether that happens or not. Though if you felt I worked hard for you putting in the time and effort, was courteous and pleasant to be around, had a clean boat in good shape, and you enjoyed your time on the water, then a tip is appreciated.
How many anglers can you accommodate on your boat?
I take a max of 3 anglers, especially for tarpon trips. Any more than that is just uncomfortable, and if everyone is wanting a good shot at catching a fish then that is much harder to accomplish. Since I also catch a lot of my own bait, that gets much harder to do with more than 3 people on the boat besides me (and even with 3 sometimes it is harder, depending on how tough the bait is). For serious anglers, I really don’t recommend more than 2 people. It just makes it harder to maneuver around the boat to fight fish, makes it harder for me to get around when I need to catch bait or do something quick to help you catch your fish, etc…
Do you ever offer discounts?
Most of the time no I do not, and especially not during our busy season February thru July (which coincides with prime tarpon season). It doesn’t really matter how many days you book in those times frames, as I am always fishing every day I want to during those times. However in the offseason, I have started offering some discounted rates. You can find info on those trips here. But truth be told ‘you get what you pay for’ is as true a statement with fishing as it is anywhere. Charters who offer discounts regularly are usually not going to burn the fuel, put in the effort, buy the extra bait/tackle/etc… so they will be making it up somewhere, usually at your expense some way or another.
What styles of fishing do you offer?
I am primarily a bait fishermen. I don’t currently offer any fly fishing tarpon trips, though I can recommend other guides for that. We fish a variety of live and baits (depending what is available, and what the tarpon are biting). So you don’t really need any fishing experience to fish this way which is great for the majority of my customers. Occasionally we may throw artificial but that is dependent on conditions. We fish mostly large spinning gear set ups with braided line, which are the easiest setups to use for our styles of fishing.
Do you fish for other things aside from tarpon?
Yes we fish for all different types of inshore species, however tarpon is definitely what I specialize in and am doing 95% of the time during our ‘tarpon season’ (March – August). Duing non-prime months (September – February) we often mix it up with other species and may try for tarpon all day if conditions look right, or just for a portion of the day if it doesn’t look like great conditions. In the winter when it’s cold we usually are not tarpon fishing much at all as it’s just usually not very good – but if its warm it can be worthwhile.
Do I need any prior fishing experience to catch tarpon?
No you don’t, but some fishing experience is always helpful. Though I have people who have never fished before catch tarpon on a regular basis. Actually many of these people do better as they don’t have any ‘bad fishing habits’ and listen to my instructions well. However being able to get around the boat, know how to operate the rod/reel, adjust the drag accordingly, see and know where the fish is, etc… definitely helps. Feel free to read my tarpon angling tips section for more info on landing a tarpon.
How many tarpon may I expect to catch in a day?
Well this depends on a lot of factors, but generally I tell people if you catch a tarpon you’ve had a good day. Lots of things can happen and tarpon aren’t easy to catch – that is why we enjoy doing it so much – for the challenge! They break lines, throw hooks, get eaten by sharks, go through bridge pilings, get under the boat and motor, and all kinds of things. Some times the fish are very large and take an hour or more to land. By the time this happens the ‘bite’ may have slowed down or be over with. Other times we are catching smaller size fish that you can land in 10 or 15 minutes, and you can catch 2 or 3 of them in that same amount of time. A lot of how long it takes to land one depends on how well you fight the tarpon (yes their is proper technique involved in doing so). Some days the conditions just suck and you may fish all day just for one possible bite out of a tarpon, other days it may be very good and you may get over a dozen bites. But if you read my tarpon fishing reports you can see which months are the most productive for me, and feel free to email me to get my personal thoughts.
What is the best time to come catch tarpon in the Keys?
The short answer – Spring or Summer April through July. Though please read my page about the Florida Keys Tarpon Season for more detailed information as we do catch tarpon here year round. Feel free to email me as well.
Where do we meet you for our fishing day?
I dock at Bud n’ Mary’s Fishing Marina. It is located at 79851 Overseas Highway in Islamorada, FL, 33036. If you are familiar with the Mile Marker system in the Keys, it is at MM 79.8 (just south of 80), next to Tea Table Relief Bridge. You can usually just pull in and check in at the front office and have them find me, or if you are meeting me off hours/early morning, just email/text me and I’ll find you.
What about inclement weather?
I almost always tell my customers to show up at the dock when we are scheduled to depart and to make a game time decision regarding the weather. You can never really trust forecasts, especially long range ones. I’ve often gone fishing on days where they called for 80-100% chance of rain, and never had a drop hit us. And I’ve been out when the chances were slim, and gotten soaked briefly. Unless there is bad lightning, or it really looks to be raining cats and dogs for several hours, then we usually go fishing. Actually some of the best tarpon fishing during the day occurs on overcast, dreary looking days sometimes. As far as the wind goes, if it is 20 mph or under, we usually go fishing. If it is blowing 25-30+mph I leave it up to the customers. We often fish for tarpon very close by to the marina (within half a mile sometimes). So even when it is super windy, we don’t always have to go far and we can stay in protected water that is fairly calm. This way you can get your trip in and still often catch a nice tarpon.
Can we keep tarpon?
No it is illegal to posses tarpon and to pull any ones larger than 40 inches out of the water, they are strictly catch and release. They aren’t any good to eat anyways. We usually try to get pictures holding them boatside, in the water. Though occasionally in certain areas you can get in the water with them. If you are interested in keeping one for a mount we take measurements and use Grey Taxidermy which creates beautiful fiberglass replicas.
What about getting pictures of tarpon?
I’m more then happy to help get quality photos of tarpon with your camera/phone or with mine that I can send you. However there are certain things to remember. Tarpon over 40″ are not allowed to be removed from the water any longer and it is against the law, so most of the time we get a ‘leader shot’ of the angler just holding the fish on the leader over the side of the boat. Though occasionally we are in areas where it is safe to jump in and hold the fish, in the water, on a shallow sand bar flat. If you are interested in doing this let me know and if we are in such an area we can attempt it.
What do you provide on the trip?
I provide all the bait, licenses, tackle, light rain jackets, and a cooler with ice.
What should we bring on the trip?
Lunch and drinks are a must, I have a medium sized cooler. Though please pack accordingly as the boat is only so big, you don’t need to bring everything in your fridge for a 4, 6, or 8 hour day. I’ll have room for a small bag or two of personal effects in dry storage. A good hat, sunscreen, and polarized glasses are recommended. For clothing I usually recommend wearing light weight, dry fit, long sleeve shirts. Light weight pants or shorts are usually recommended. In the summer (june – september) horse flies can be bad so pants are usually recommended then. A sun buff/face mask is usually good if you are worried about getting burned, and can help with bugs as well. Light soled tennis shoes are also recommended, no black/dark soled shoes please. You can wear sandals if you like, though you’ll notice most guides do not as fishing boats can be dangerous places for exposed feet.
Anything we should not bring on the trip?
Please no hard liquor on our tarpon fishing trips. This isn’t a booze cruise and the handful of customers that I’ve had bring hard liquor on trips I’ve usually regretted taking them. If you bring it and I even have a hint it’ll be a problem, the charter will be cancelled. A few beers are fine but again we are fishing for trophy fish and you’ll need to keep your wits about you. Under no circumstances are any illegal drugs or firearms allowed on board (this includes marijuana, even if it may be legal where you live). I also usually tell people to try and avoid spray-on sunscreen (it can make the boat very slippery if applied on board). Also black soled shoes are not preferred as they can mark up the boat. While not as big of a deal, avoiding bagged crunchy food is usually preferred (chips, popcorn, etc…) as it often blows all over the place and I especially don’t like it getting in my storage areas as it attracts rats which in turn can eat my wiring and such. Candy bars, cookies, single-serving snack packs, and more solid-type snack foods are preferred.
Will I get sea sick?
I’ve never had anybody get sea sick on a tarpon fishing trip. We are often fishing in more protected water so even when it is windy, the seas aren’t large with big waves. However this isn’t always the case, and some times we do fish more open water when it is windy as I have a larger boat that can do so. Though if you think it will be a problem, we can fish elsewhere. If you are really worried about it, I recommend taking seasickness medication the night before the trip, and again first thing in the morning when you wake up.
Are there bathrooms available while we are fishing?
I don’t have a bathroom on my boat so most people just have to hang it over the side. If we are fishing locally in the Islamorada area though there are usually bathrooms nearby that we can run in and use. Though that obviously can cut into your fishing time. When we are fishing back in the everglades, bathrooms aren’t always as accessible, though occasionally there are places we can go. If it is a necessity, we can figure something out.