One of the photos USA Today ran in September 2017 to show damage after Hurricane Irma was of Bud N’ Mary’s Marina, an icon of the Florida Keys on Islamorada that has been around since 1944. More than 40 fishing captains and guides tie up there, and the docks were utterly mangled.
Today, it’s like none of it ever happened.
“Our part of the Keys, and I think probably Keys-wide, everything’s back to normal,” says Stephen Byrd, the marina’s assistant manager. “Especially from Marathon up to the north—you won’t see probably any sign of any damage.”
Even better, he says, since Irma left, inshore fishing has improved. Florida Bay was “flushed out,” with old water gone and newer water in.
“It’s a refreshing of sorts,” he says. “The bonefishing is better now, snook fishing is great, tarpon fishing—it’s good.”
Offshore fishing is also still solid, he says, because Irma didn’t wreck the reef. As of December 2019, sailfishing was just as hot as it’s always been off Islamorada, and Byrd is expecting March and April to bring the same kind of bonanza that this time of year has meant in the past.
“March usually is the beginning of the spring season, so we’re still having cold fronts, but you start seeing the change in the weather pattern, and with that, the species start to change,” he says. “March is a really good time to fish because you still see the winter sailfish, the cobia and others, but you also start to see tuna showing up. It’s in the middle, so it’s a cool time.”
It’s a windy time too—winds are typically easterly at a minimum of 10 to 15 knots—but if yachtsmen can handle that, he says, then the only other consideration is getting a slip. Because so many marinas had to rebuild after Irma, locals moved their seasonal slip reservations around, taking some slips that used to be transient. Thus, visitors arriving by boat may need to adjust their usual dockage plans.
“Things just shifted,” Byrd says. “You just want to call ahead.”
Bud N’ Mary’s Marina on Islamorada has a limited number of slips available for visiting boats up to 45 feet length overall. Gas and diesel are at the fuel dock, and there’s a shop with bait, tackle and ice.