Karla News

Islamorada Party Boat Fishing: A Fun & Economical Alternative to Private Charters


What is party boat fishing? That’s exactly the question I asked my husband while doing research on a recent trip to the Florida Keys; a fisherman’s paradise. We had seen many private fishing charters advertised online and in travel brochures. The ads explained that an experienced captain would take the two of us out deep sea fishing for a full day on the Atlantic Ocean all while coaching us based on his expertise. Then, back on dry land he would clean and fillet our catches so that we can take them to the restaurant of our choice and have them cooked to perfection.

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? And I am sure that it is, but the price tag for such an adventure, not so great. We were surprised to find that an average charter of this type can cost around $400-$500 per couple. For the seasoned fisherman, this probably wouldn’t be an issue, but for two Chicagoans who just had a desire to get out on the clear blue waters of the Keys with a couple of fishing poles, this was a little steep, especially considering what we were already going to spend for a week long Florida vacation. That’s when we discovered party boat fishing.

Basically, party boat fishing is fishing with a group of people. Robbie’s of Islamorada offers two daytime trips and one night excursion aboard the Captain Michael. For about $35 per person you can fish with a captain, co-captain and about 20 other people. You are given a short lesson, a fishing pole and all of the fresh bait that you many need for the four hour trip. And when you reel in that big one, the captain and co-captain are ready, willing and able to help you keep or release your fish depending on size and the local fishing laws.

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Aboard the Captain Michael, we had the pleasure of dealing with Brian and Sky who were extremely helpful and ever present when we needed them. One of the downsides to party boat fishing is that sometimes when the winds are rough, lines become tangled. This happened several times on our trip, but our captain Brian was always right there to untangle the mess, cut the lines if need be and quickly have us back to the task at hand; catching fish.

Speaking of which, despite the harsh March winds and fierce waves, many of us caught yellow fish, snapper and grunts. If they were large enough to keep, the helpful staff marked each one and later cleaned and filleted them for us.

On a side note, I not only caught several cool fish, but I also caught a seagull! No, this is not a typo. I really did catch a seagull! As I mentioned before, the winds were really harsh and somehow while reeling in my line a hovering bird trying for bait got hooked! Sky, the co-captain, had to actually reel the bird in and remove the hook while the poor thing squawked loudly. Everyone was amused and amazed at my “bird kite” and the captain assured me that this happens about once a week. Still, I have a feeling I’ll forever be remembered as the crazy bird girl from Chicago!

Also available at Robbie’s are Everglade tours, boat and kayak rentals and tarpon feeding. Robbie’s is like a funky, little fishing village complete with an outdoor café that will gladly cook up your catches and an assortment of unique vendors, selling anything from jewelry and purses to hats and tee shirts. All and all, Robbie’s of Islamorada and the entire party boat fishing experience was excellent, enjoyable and economical. Just watch out for those birds!