Article Courtesy: marlinmag.com | Originally Published: 2/12/2021 | Click here for original article
A History of Bud N’ Mary’s in the Florida Keys
Location was also the motivating factor for the 15 charter boats, 20 backcountry guides, and a dive and headboat named Miss Islamorada that call Bud N’ Mary’s home. “I know I am prejudiced, but to me, it’s the best charter dock in Florida. Always has been,” Stanczyk adds. “Islamorada—along with Bud N’ Mary’s—has more IGFA records than any one place in the world.” And it began with what most people say was one of the deadliest and most destructive hurricanes ever to hit Florida.
No one believed you could catch sailfish in 15 feet of water back then, but Starr did, says his then-mate, Capt. Alex Adler, now the veteran captain of Kalex at Bud N’ Mary’s. The witty fisherman proved his point during the Islamorada Charter Boat Association Sailfish Tournament in 1972. Bored after two days of trolling dead bait, he withdrew from competition to chase sailfish his way. Starr would hang offshore fishing in the traditional manner until he spotted the bait showering inshore, Adler says. Issuing terse “lines in” and “spinning rods ready” orders, he would head full-throttle into the melee of frenzied ballyhoo and sails, which he described as “organized confusion in mass form, punctuated by chaotic behavior.” In the end, Starr caught 23 sailfish in two days, which was three more than the combined 40 boats caught collectively in four days.
Running the bar at night and fishing by day, he was dangerously close to burning out, so he sold the business for what he called “a ridiculous amount” in 1977 and did what any sensible person would do: He bought an interest in an Alaskan gold mine. “I was living in a 4-by-8-foot shed with plastic for a roof. I lasted eight months,” he says with a laugh. Leaving a failed marriage and the mine behind, he headed back to Miami with a dream to create his own version of Pier 5 in the Florida Keys.
His first introduction to Bud N’ Mary’s came about almost by accident. In the 1960s, he owned a 60 mph 29-foot Cary, which he would take to the Bahamas. “I could leave Miami and be fishing off Bimini in an hour,” Stanczyk says. In 1969, he found himself partying at a calypso beach bar with a woman named Mary, whose stage name was Sexy Mama. One thing led to another, and he invited her and her girlfriend to fish the Native Tournament. “My mate then was 15-year-old Percy Dottin, who rigged a schoolie dolphin that we hooked a blue marlin on. Percy had several shots at it, but we lost it after seven hours. I was so upset, I started drinking and blacked out on the dock. I remember someone shaking me awake. It turned out to be Harold Adler, Alex’s dad, offering me a bunk on Miami Herald.”
The two stayed in touch, and the next year, Adler contacted Stanczyk, asking to borrow the Cary to fish the Islamorada Sailfish Tournament because Kalex was disabled. “The deal was that Jimmie Albright would run it while I mated,” Stanczyk says. It was his first introduction to light-tackle billfishing. They fished 16-pound-test with mono leaders and ended up winning. It was also his introduction to Bud N’ Mary’s Marina. “The place registered with me,” he says. “There weren’t many offshore boats, but all of them had first-class captains, including Jimmie Albright.”
Albright and Adler introduced Stanczyk to Jack Kertz, the owner of Bud N’ Mary’s. Years later they would meet again when Stanczyk was scouting property in the Keys. As much a businessman as charter captain, he had a vision of what Bud N’ Mary’s could be and set about making it successful, not only for himself but also for the more than 45 families who depend on the marina for their livelihood, says his son, Nick, now a well-respected captain in his own right. The effort was magnified after Stanczyk gave up alcohol. “At 10 a.m. on March 7, 1990, I quit drinking for good after my oldest son, Rick, who was then just a little guy, overheard me having an argument with his mother. I remember catching a reflection in the mirror of the man I had become, and I fell to my knees, asking for God’s help. It was my epiphany.”
Richard and Scott Stanczyk spent hundreds of hours talking about the problems of catching them in the Florida Keys, with its rocky bottom and current—the question being how to tame the current while keeping the sport in swordfishing. It was no easy task, Richard says; there were a lot of variables to overcome. These included determining where to fish—they favor 1,500 feet—to what baits work best—they found that dolphin and bonito bellies work better than squid because the swordfish can’t whack them apart as easily—to using Stanczyk’s unique breakaway concrete weights to keep the bait in the strike zone off the bottom. After 12 years and participating in the capture of 500 swordfish, including seven in one day, they just quit. “I still think they are the ultimate offshore challenge but not on electric reels,” he explains.