Captain Steven Lamp is a third-generation Florida waterman. In 1994, after stints in the Coast Guard, as a dive boat operator, and a competitve spear fisherman, he decided to become a flats fishing guide. He moved to the Keys, below Seven Mile Bridge, and Capt. Lamp has been doing it full time ever since.
Funny thing is, Capt. Lamp doesn’t love fishing in a general sense. Rather, he loves guiding.
“I like being on the water, and I like meeting and being around people who are fulfilling a dream,” he says.
Captain Lamp has much respect for those who came before him and helped him learn his way around the flats.
“I’m a product of the older generation of flats guides — the legends of flats fishing. I tried to imitate them. Then I took what they did and put my own spin on it.”
He acknowledges standing on the shoulders of giants like Vaughan Cochran, an artist who expresses his love of flats fishing in his work, and founder of Blackfly Outfitters.
But Capt. Lamp also loves standing on the bow of his flats skiff dropping flies in the faces of permit and bonefish — when he’s not busy guiding for Dreamcatcher Charters, one of Key West’s top charter companies (they’ll do tour and diving charters, as well as fishing).
“Are you coming down to pole for me?” he asked. Probably not — but I get his point.
Even so, when Capt. Lamp has the time, enticing a skittish bonefish or a big, round permit to hit his fly still satisfies.
“Just getting one fish makes my day, and I’m happy,” he says.
He’s had years of experience catching bonefish. His personal best was a 10-pounder — which is a beast of a bone (the IGFA all-tackle record is 16 pounds, caught in the Bahamas) — on live shrimp. Captain Lamp’s no slacker with a fly rod, either, having boated a nine-and-a-half pounder. But a client caught the biggest bonefish he’s boated, at a beefy 11 pounds.
These days, Lamp says, you need to head up toward Big Pine Key to find the bigger bonefish. But in the Key West area, where Dreamcatcher is based, you’ll typically see bonefish in the two to six pound range, with an average of three to four pounds.
When he gets the chance to fish for himself, he uses a spawning shrimp or a small crab pattern, which allow for targeting both bonefish and permit. As a fly angler, Capt. Lamp is challenging himself these days by chasing permit, which are hard-fighting but notoriously tough to catch.
It’s finding the chance to do so that proves tough sometimes. Captain Lamp estimates that since its founding in 1994, Dreamcatcher has run 21,000 charters. As, Lamp says, you can only do that many by using top-of-line equipment. All of his charters have been run using Mercury Marine outboards. He also relies on Yellowfin Yachts for his bay boats and Daiwa gear for his clients.
Captain Lamp doesn’t do as many charters as he used to. But he still gets out pretty often.
“It’s a good time. And sometimes I get to be the hero.”
Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?