In My Opinion

Houseboat makes fishing aficionados’ lives easier

 

scocking@MiamiHerald.com

Spending a day fishing the remote back country waters around Whitewater Bay north of Flamingo in Everglades National Park often yields superior catches of tarpon, snook, redfish, trout, and even largemouth bass. But just reaching those bountiful fishing grounds is time- and fuel-consuming, and once you get there, you’ve got to try to locate the fish — which easily can take all day.

But now there’s a floating oasis available for guides and anglers to tie up their skiffs and spend the evening — or several — eating gourmet food and sleeping in real beds before resuming hard-core fishing the next day.

It’s Blue Moon Expeditions’ 65-foot houseboat La Casa Marquesa, and it will be anchored in or near Whitewater Bay for a little while longer before heading south to the Lower Keys back country.

“This is somewhere you could come with your clients that you’ve never been before, have a good time, and kick back in the middle of nowhere,” said captain Shafter Johnston of Islamorada, who runs the business with his dad Shafter, Sr. “There’s nothing like it.”

The Johnstons, who have owned and operated resorts in Myrtle Beach, S.C., for years, launched their mother ship last year. Currently, it travels from Goodland on the southwest Florida coast to the Lower Keys, depending on what is biting where. But future plans call for expansion to other Florida back country hot spots. La Casa Marquesa is a posh double-decker that can accommodate six anglers, three guides, and two staffers for mostly two- and three-night packages that include three meals daily prepared by a professional chef.

The company recently hosted a week-long trip with legendary Islamorada fly-fishing pioneer/television personality/author Stu Apte, 82, who brought along his new 18-foot Beaver Tail signature series skiff. Various anglers rotated in and out of La Casa Marquesa throughout the week, hearing expert tips and fishing stories from Apte between fishing excursions with captains Dave Denkert, Steve Thomas and others in and around Whitewater and Ponce de Leon bays.

Joining Apte for a couple of days was captain Rick Murphy of Homestead — guide, tournament champion and television host — who considers the Islamorada great his mentor.

The weather for the first part of the week was either cold or blustery or both, churning the waters into frothing, brown cauldrons of Yoo-Hoo. Murphy, Apte and a guest motored to the protected inland waters of Tarpon Bay one morning, seeking to get out of the wind and catch whatever — never even picking up a fly rod. They spent an enjoyable few hours catching and releasing small snook and largemouth bass using Rapala Twitchin’ Raps and Skitter Walks.

“Fishermen who only want to fly fish are snobs,” Apte said unapologetically.

Murphy had to leave after a couple of days, so Apte went fishing with Shafter, Jr. and George Large, general manager of tackle maker Yo-Zuri America. The weather warmed, and Apte caught and released a tarpon estimated at over 100 pounds in Whitewater Bay using a Yo-Zuri Crystal 3D Minnow Magnum plug. The party also caught some cobia and released several snook on the same lure.

He also really liked the short runs from the fishing grounds back to the mother ship for four-course meals, satellite television, soft beds, and nightly serenades by guitarist/singer Lloyd Mabrey.

“I fished really hard,” Apte said when the week was over.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

To book a trip with Blue Moon Expeditions, call 1-800-518-9124 or go to www.bluemoonexpeditions.com.

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