Sad to say it, but summer has past us by once again. It’s just a tad cooler these days making it pleasant to sit outside in the evenings. The breezes are kicking up which helps to keep the biting critters away. We are also seeing the first sightings of the Keys Snowbird as their annual fall migration to the south gets into full swing.
We are currently in the second transitional phase of the year, from summer fishing to winter fishing. As the days get shorter and the temperatures fall, the water temperature surrounding the flats and backcountry areas dips into a more comfortable range for the bonefish and permit that frequent the shallows. Fishing is also productive and comfortable throughout the day for us anglers and guides, now that things have cooled down. No more 4am wake up calls to get out there in the dark!!
This is a fun time of year for me. My schedule is pretty open which allows me to get on the water to do whatever. Most days, my buddies and I will fish the flats pursuing permit with a fly rod. But if we get word that something is going on offshore, we’ll try to get out to the deep water and troll around for the day. I love to fish for yellowtail snapper on the reef, so when conditions present themselves and schedules all line up, it’s off to the reef to hopefully bring back a few dinners worth of snapper. And lastly, when the opportunity arises, I will go diving for lobsters and hogfish.
One of the best parts about this time of year is that there is no one around. The island is quiet during the week and I hardly see any boats on the water. I will have huge areas all to myself and not see another boat near me if I am far enough away from Key West, which isn’t very far. Even the weekends are fairly quiet on the water with most people heading to their favorite sandbar for the day to hang with friends.
It’s still business as usual on the flats around Key West. Bonefish and permit are all over the oceanside and backcountry flats and baby tarpon can be found amongst some of the mangrove islands. Baitfish are usually plentiful. They consist of pilchards and glass minnows that will usually result in a tarpon feeding frenzy, especially on those flat calm early mornings. The tides are really good this month with plenty of good low water periods to hunt for tailers.
As I stated earlier, we are in a transitional phase from summer fishing to winter fishing. What I mean by that is we will start seeing and catching those species we spend a lot of time fishing during the cooler months of the year. On the flats we will see more and more big barracuda as we head into the winter months. Sharks also will make a comeback as the water cools. One of my favorites, the big jacks on the stingrays. Much like the early spring months, there will be twenty rods laying out ready to go for whatever we may encounter.
In the deeper backcountry waters, the winter fun species start showing up. Sea trout, jacks, ladyfish, pompano, redfish, snapper, etc. will make their return once again. I will primarily fish the flats for the glamour species, but when conditions are less than ideal for sight fishing, the backcountry fishing will save the day with lots of action.
With a wide variety of species to go for, comfortable conditions and few boats, autumn is a very special time of the year to be fishing the flats and backcountry waters of Key West.
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