When I moved to the lower Florida Keys from New Jersey in 1991, I was determined to become a bonefish, permit and tarpon fishing guide the right way. I spent two years boating, fishing and listening to veteran Florida fishing guides before taking anyone out for hire.
I was told there are no shortcuts to success and I can say it’s absolutely true. I fished on ugly days because I knew I’d have to someday. I experimented and explored fishing flats from Islamorada to Key West looking for bonefish, tarpon and permit.
When I guided my first customers in 1993, I knew immediately that I had found my calling. I had tried college back in New Jersey, but it wasn’t my thing. I knew I loved the outdoors and fishing, and the fishing I loved the most was site fishing in the Florida Keys for bonefish, permit and tarpon. I had a strong sense of how a business person should treat people. I packed up and moved to the Florida Keys to start my guiding career.
As you can see on these pages, it’s worked out great. I’ve guided my customers to their fair share of fish, but that’s not the only reason they come back. I talk to them like human beings. I can be intense, and I don’t apologize for it. Ask me a question and you will get a straight answer.
I fished up and down the Keys but chose to make Big Pine and the Lower Florida Keys my home base. The waters here are beautiful and much less heavily fished than other places.
You probably wonder how I entertain myself on my days off. I go fishing, of course. I like fly fishing when it makes sense, but I also like casting plugs to giant jack crevalle on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico. Every now and then, I can’t resist doing battle with a six-foot-long shark.
My idea of a road trip is to tow my boat to Everglades National Park or to the beaches of Sanibel Island.
Fishing is my life and guiding is how I share it.
Longtime client and permit fisherman Bruce Garland (left) with fishing guide Jeff Belsik and another big Florida Keys permit from May 2009.