For the fortunate travelers who’ve had the opportunity to experience the Florida Keys, it’s no surprise this narrow outcropping of coral islands extending from the mainland hold such a special place in the heart. With crystalline waters rivaling that of any tropical destination in the world, the Florida Keys are a true island paradise with characteristics of the Caribbean, all without leaving the country.
The drive to the Florida Keys from South Florida puts visitors in sensory overload as they take in the natural beauty on the ride down the historic Overseas Highway. While many speed right through the Upper Keys along the way to Key West, those in the know find it hard to pass the Sportfishing Capital of the World without taking notice. With a total land area around seven miles, Islamorada provides a true island escapist lifestyle and is a hotbed for everything saltwater. While Islamorada is graced with such an impressive title, it’s not just a presumptuous marketing gimmick. It’s the unique location of Islamorada along the Keys island chain that provides such a vast array of unique angling opportunities.
If only the docks could talk they would have incredible stories of the legendary guides, anglers and record catches that helped shape present-day Bud N’ Mary’s.
Bordering Islamorada to the south is the expansive Atlantic Ocean, providing anglers easy access to the nearby Gulf Stream. Heading through Teatable Channel and toward Alligator Reef Light you’ll pass numerous patch reefs leading up to Florida’s largest living coral reef system. Seaward of these spotty structures that parallel the coast the water begins to deepen and intermediate reefs of this extensive tract slope to deeper depths. The Florida Keys Reef Tract extends southwest all the way to the Dry Tortugas, some 60 miles west of Key West. The reef paralleling the coastline is primarily comprised of shallow spur and groove formations made up of a series of ridges and channels where bottom fish flourish. From here the depths quickly plummet and it is in the warm waters of the Florida Straits where local charter boats routinely encounter pelagic game fish in numbers visiting anglers dream of. Dolphin, wahoo, sailfish, blackfin tuna and more thrive in the fertile waters and are often more than willing to cooperate.
Shallow water anglers aren’t left out either, with ocean side shallows providing prime habitat for cruising bonefish and tarpon. Passing under one of the channels separating the five islands in the village and you’ll find yourself in Florida Bay with easy access to nearby Everglades National Park and thousands of square miles of widely diverse habitat. With the convergence of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean, literally every species of saltwater fish that exists in Florida swims in the waters of Islamorada. In fact, there are currently 51 active IGFA world records caught from local waters. In Islamorada you really can do it all.
While there are many marinas in the Florida Keys, there’s no competing with the lore and history of Bud N’ Mary’s Marina. Established in 1944 by Bud and Mary Stapleton, this weathered marina first began as a hotel and tackle shop. It wasn’t until Captain Don Gurgiolo built a small dock for his boat that the charter enterprise was established. Over the years some of the greatest angling innovators and pioneers called the marina home, including Cecil Keith and Jimmie Albright—of whom the widely used knot earned its name. If only the docks could talk they would have incredible stories of the legendary guides, anglers and record catches that helped shape present-day Bud N’ Mary’s.
Upholding the longstanding tradition, Captain Richard Stanczyk purchased Bud N’ Mary’s in June of 1978 and has preserved the marina’s iconic status as the most elite charter dock in all of the Florida Keys. Currently, there are 24 backcountry guides and 15 offshore charter boats that further the legacy of Bud N’ Mary’s. Alongside his brother Scott and sons Rick and Nick, the Stanczyks continue to be a driving force in the Florida Keys fishing scene. Weathered and welcoming, the marina is ground zero for the hottest fishing in the Keys. If you’re looking for a serious fishing escape we recommend staying on site in one of the nine waterfront units or three houseboats. Not far from home and amazingly affordable, Bud N’ Mary’s Marina provides visitors with easy access to the best boats and captains in the entire Florida Keys, of whom many are third and fourth generation conchs with thirty or more years of experience charter fishing in the local waters. While the legend and lore runs thick on the old dock, we highly recommend you visit Bud N’ Mary’s and start making your own memories. You just might never leave.
Cast Net Cure:
Since cast nets are handcrafted from monofilament, they need extreme care. Rinse after every use and hang dry, but don’t let the lead line hang off the ground. Store your net in a dry environment and avoid exposing it to the sun for extended periods of time. Never store with bait residue stuck in the mesh, and always inspect and mend tears or cuts.
FWC Rules & Regulations
While there’s no recreational size limit on striped mullet, silver mullet or fantail mullet, you may not be aware that there is a 50 fish vessel limit from September 1 – January 3, and a 100 fish vessel limit from February 1 – August 31. Be sure to check for Special Acts of Local Application regarding more restrictive seasonal bag limits, nighttime closures, and net and mesh size limitations that exist for specific counties.