Captain Samantha Zeher Champions Free-Spirited Island Living

Captain Samantha Zeher Champions Free-Spirited Island Living

By Laura Myers

Captain Samantha Zeher, 29, owns KeyZ Charters and works out of Islamorada’s popular Robbie’s Marina as its only woman charterboat operator. She’s also been the captain of her own fate — earning her license at just 18 while still a college freshman.

Zeher offers sightseeing charters that include snorkeling and sunset cruises, paddleboard, eco-tours and Everglades excursions. Among her other offerings are island trips exploring Indian Key, Lignumvitae Key and Alligator Lighthouse, each with a history dating back to the 1800s.

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Tarpon feeding by hand in the Florida Keys

Tarpon feeding by hand in the Florida Keys

ISLAMORADA —
Just under the surface of the waters off Islamorada awaits a hungry beast.

“You don’t use a pole or a hook for this,” explains fourth-grader Ava Stamper.

Rather, you use your hands.

“Down, down, down…” shouts father Dave Bull, from England, as he encourages his son to get close.

“Just do it,” Bull adds, as his son leaps and swears while our camera rolls.

“Don’t swear. You’re on the telly,” Bull tells his son, laughing.

Yes, yes you are. Just off the Overseas Highway in Islamorada is a natural phenomenon of sorts. For decades, tourists from around the world have visited Robbie’s Marina in the Florida Keys to feed tarpon by hand.

“It’s the only way to feed them,” Bull says. “You got to do it and touch — if you’re brave enough.”

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The tarpon are hungry at Robbie’s in the Florida Keys

The tarpon are hungry at Robbie’s in the Florida Keys

Just off U.S. Highway 1 at the north tip of Lower Matecumbe Key in Islamorada is a little gem called Robbie’s.

This popular tourist pit stop has fishing, snorkeling, shopping and dining options, but the main attraction is feeding the tarpon.

A dollar gets you to the dock, and $3 gets you a bucket of fish to feed the giant fish, which can weigh more than 100 pounds and often linger around the docks all day waiting to be fed by generous visitors.

All you have to do is hold one of the baitfish a couple of feet above the water, and the tarpon will do the rest, jumping up to grab the snack out of your hand.

The Hungry Tarpon, an on-site restaurant and bar, serves up bar food and fresh seafood. It will even cook up your fresh catch of the day.

A variety of shops and booths are also on property.

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