Monday, May 11, 2015

Feeding the Tarpons at Robbie's in Islamorada - A Florida Tradition

Feeding Tarpon at Robbie's in Islamorada, Florida
(Photo courtesy robbies.com)
Anyone into game fishing will tell you that there is nothing like catching a tarpon. Known as "silver kings", these fish are huge, measuring 4-8 feet in length and weighing 60-260 pounds. Not an easy fish at all to catch, they put up one heck of a fight when you try try to reel them in, leaping as high as ten feet out of the water.

You don't have to be a game fisherman to see a tarpon up close. If you are in the Miami area, head south to Islamorada - the "Village of Islands" - located in the Florida Keys midway between Miami and Key West. While soaking up the Florida sun and breathtaking views, be sure to stop by Robbie's and take part in a Florida tradition - feeding the Tarpons.

It all began about 22 years ago when the owners of a local charter fishing business, Robbie and Mona Reckwerdt, saw a tarpon struggling in the water. When they realized its jaw had been torn open, they called "Doc Roach" who stitched the tarpon's jaw up, using mattress needles and twine. After nursing "Scarface" back to health in an oxygen-rich shrimp tank, the Reckwerdts set the tarpon free. Scarface didn't stay away long; he returned again and again and soon started to bring friends - lots of them!

Today, Robbie's is an Islamorada icon. Known as one of the very best charter fishing operations in all of Florida, there is so much more to do than just hire a boat. More than 100 tarpon arrive every day for feeding time and hang around for hours. For a couple of bucks, families can purchase fish to throw to the tarpon and watch the feeding frenzy. Frequently, you will see one of these massive fish leap out of the water and catch the tossed fish in midair!

After having fun feeding the giant silver fish, you can shop at nine different places that dot the Robbie's complex. Everything from handcrafted jewelry to unique sculptures and art pieces, to sunglasses and beachwear can be found.

Yes, you can rent 18-21 foot boats and go out on your own for a day of fishing or Florida wildlife watching. Some of the very best fishing spots in the Atlantic Ocean are here, after all. If you'd rather not captain a boat, yourself, a variety of party boat fishing charters, snorkeling trips, ecotours and romantic sunset cruises are available.

If snorkeling is your thing, both Alligator Lighthouse and Cheeka Rocks offer shallow water reefs with coral heads only a few feet from the surface. Less than a mile away, the Spanish Galleon, San Pedro, is buried beneath the Hawk Channel, off Lower Matecumbe Key. See cannons, ship ballasts and a variety of fish, eels and crustaceans that make the sunken ship their home.

Whether visiting Robbie's in the morning, midday or at night, you can grab a bite to eat at the Hungry Tarpon restaurant. A typical keys-style "fish shack," the restaurant may not be much to look at on the outside but the great food, friendly service and fantastic views never disappoint. Not surprising, the lunch and dinner menus are almost exclusively seafood but there are burgers and hot dogs for the little ones who may not have acquired a taste for seafood yet. Best of all, they'll even cook what you catch - either blackened, grilled, fried or panko encrusted.

Robbie's is located at 77522 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, FL 33036. If you want to rent a boat, charter a boat or go on a boat tour, reservations are strongly recommended. Restaurant reservations are also highly encouraged! You can make boat reservations by calling them at 305-664-8498 and restaurant reservations at 305-664-0535.

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