Off Season in the Keys

by Capt. Rick Stanczyk

Off Season in the Keys

The 2017 season is almost coming to a close as we approach September and October here. Luckily, it was a good one, as it seemed to be pretty busy and the fishing, overall, was good, as was the weather. A little windy in the spring, but the summer calmed down, as usual, and we’ve had a good tarpon bite as of late.

I have still been focused heavily on tarpon and the summertime Off Season in the Keys, Tarpon- FishMonster Magazinefishing is some of the best we get all year. I had a couple guys down from Miami for a tarpon trip. They had been reading my blog and knew that we’d been killing it lately. Unfortunately, that day, things had finally gotten tough after several weeks of being so easy. But, we still managed to get a nice 60 lb. tarpon at the end of the day, and had plenty of sharks in the meantime to keep us busy. I think the full moon had them turned off for the daytime bite, as sometimes they gorge themselves at night when that happens. The previous week we’d been averaging four fish a trip, so it’s funny how it can go from “red hot” to “not” sometimes.

The fishing the last couple months has been stellar, which is refreshing. Last year it was not as easy since we had lots of bad wind and funky wind direction to contend with, as well as big algae blooms in the backcountry bays. The good tarpon fishing can continue through September and even into October as fall approaches. Last year, we had the best fishing all year in September and October for tarpon as far as I was concerned. It was the most consistent it had been all year and it stayed that way for a while.

We get hordes of black mullet down the coastline this time of year, and tons of other smaller white bait too. Sometimes you can watch these baits getting destroyed by all kinds of fish for as far as you can see. The nice thing about this time of year is hardly anybody else is out there fishing. Some days you won’t ever even see another boat, which is becoming more and more of a rarity these days. But, this is the time of year you can have it all to yourself.

The weather is typically very good, barring any tropical storm systems. Good weather and conditions are the most important things you want for targeting any species here. Forget about worrying about the time of year, as we catch every species here all year round--it just gets more difficult when the temperatures and the winds are changing.

You can usually find a good deal on a hotel room and your guide may occasionally offer you a break as well, especially if you are considering booking multiple days. Other than late season tarpon, we usually have good snook fishing in the Everglades, along with plenty of the usual suspects--trout, snapper, and jacks--in the Bay.

This year the bonefish fishing has been fantastic. I don’t do much of it myself as my boat is a little large for chasing them, though many of the guides I know that do, have been having good luck. Spots that haven’t held fish for years are suddenly alive with bonefish and other critters. The fall used to always be a great time for bonefishing here in the Keys, as we get the flood tides and fish push way up onto the flats, where they can forage.

Again, the little pressure that these fish get this time of year is also to your advantage. Other opportunities include fishing the Gulf wrecks where you can still find permit, triple tail, cobia and Goliath groupers. This fishing can get better and better as things cool off in the fall. The permit start to thin out, but the others get stronger and we get the Spanish and king mackerel starting to show up.

Off season in the Keys is a great time to catch a bite…and a fight! Be sure to get out on the water and take advantage of these excellent fishing opportunities!




Capt. Rick Stanczyk
Capt. Rick Stanczyk

Author

I fish a 1977 20’ SeaCraft open fisherman offering backcountry, gulf, and shallow reef trips catching everything from tarpon, permit, redfish, snook, sharks, cobia, goliath grouper, mackerel, snapper, and more. You can find me at Bud ‘n Mary’s (www.budnmarys.com) if I’m not out fishing, or call me at 305-747-6903 or email me at rick@seethefloridakeys.net



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