Bring On The Cold Weather

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Yes, old man winter is coming and we are preparing the best we can for temperatures that most likely will dip way down into the low seventies. Keys’ residents will be dusting off old flannel shirts and our heavy coats for what likely will be a harsh three months. Winter in the Florida Keys is not all bad though. With the colder temperatures come our winter bait runs and, like clock work, an abundance of game fish that follow. Sailfish are showing up in our waters with more frequency. Look for these lanky acrobatic showmen to be chasing that bait up on top of the reef, as well as just off the outside edge of the reef. When sailfish are chasing bait on top of the reef it is truly a sight to see. Absolutely amazing visuals with bills and sails out of the water and bait fish flying out of the water, while birds are in full attack mode from the air--it’s total chaos. Frigate birds will lead you to the action as they try to capitalize on the feeding frenzy with their own display of acrobatic air assault on the fleeing bait fish. It is hard to describe in words, and will leave you speechless when experienced in person. Weather conditions are important. While wind is not that much of a factor, an easterly component is preferable. Sun is critical as is clear water. Bright skies and crystal clear water not only help the fish find the bait, it helps the birds and us find the fish. Live bait is the key to success--ballyhoo, large pilchards or threadfin herring. A tried and true saying is “match the hatch”. If they’re chasing, ballyhoo catch the ballyhoo catch the sailfish. Cobia are also showing up in good numbers and can be found in a number of different venues. Look for these amazing gamefish traveling the color changes in Hawks channel, the channel wrecks, or in the sandy bottom of the reef following the big stingrays and the bay or Gulf of Mexico wrecks as well. Heavy bright colored jigs tipped with a plastic eel work well for casting at Cobia that are on the move. Live grunts are far and away the go to live bait. It helps to have a rod set up for each when traveling to and from your fishing spots, as it is very common to come across these bruisers swimming on the surface. Wahoo and kingfish are arriving daily and taking up residence on the outside edge of the reef and the deeper wrecks. Dragging baits is a fairly effective tactic for both species, but if you put in the time and up your game with live baits, you more often than not will be well rewarded. Blue runners, small jacks, ballyhoo and large pilchards all work well. Wire is mandatory for these toothy predators. December is the final month of grouper season and there are grouper to be caught on the middle keys reefs. The snapper and grouper action has been outstanding on the area reefs and wrecks and is forecasted by me to remain so through the entire month.
...while wind is not that much of a factor an easterly component is preferable.
Be prepared for all of these fish. Make sure you have good line on your reels, your drags are serviced properly, and your tackle is fresh. The Tackle Box in Marathon can service your reels and spool them with fresh line prior to going to battle. They also have all of your tackle needs. Fast, friendly, courteous service is their specialty. Make no mistake; all these fish will put your gear to the test with blistering runs and heart stopping acrobatics. God I love winter! The Keys are home to some of the world’s greatest fishermen and women. All are happy to talk to you about fishing in our area. Hit the docks or pick up the phone and let us build an adventure for you. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy New Year!


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