Play It Where It Lies
October is a little like golf. Play it where it lies. If cool temperatures brought by early front’s fire up the grouper and snapper action on the patch reefs by ushering in the ballyhoo, so be it. If on the other hand, the weather stays warm and calm, keeping the lobster inshore and the dolphin offshore, well I can also live with that. Give me anything short of a hurricane and there will be something to do in October. Yes I know, my fishing ADD is showing.
Don’t get me wrong, there is precious little time to take advantage of our artificially short grouper season as it is, without getting in at least three months of fishing the patches. We are unceremoniously and prematurely forbidden our fair share of the shallow water grouper catch. So if we get cooler temps early in October, bring it on.
One of my favorite activities on the patches is live baiting ballyhoo in the chum line. You really never know what will strike next. The usual suspect near the surface is the cero mackerel. They have a way of sky rocketing in on a bait that is akin to an ICBM launched from a submarine. They can easily get twenty feet up in the air on a strike and cover easily fifty linear feet on a jump. I used to think that they were only striking a bait on the way out of the water until I had one hit one bait on the way out and another on the way back in. I do not know how they steer through the air, or calculate their trajectory, but I tell you that they can and do.
Cero are not the only critters too take ballyhoo from the surface. Mangrove, mutton and yellowtail all are happy to help themselves. They are not put off by a trace of steel leader meant to keep the ceros from parting the line. Grouper also will leave their comfort zone near the bottom for the promise of a ballyhoo dinner. Of course when I target grouper and snapper, I prefer a bait placed near their lair.
If on the other hand the weather stays warm you will not hear a peep of complaint from me. An additional trip or two offshore chasing dolphin is a great way to round out a season. The wahoo and tuna sushi will also be more than welcome. All of our offshore game fish will stick around until the temperatures tell them that it is time to head to the Caribbean for Mojitos. They will be of course replaced by king mackerel and sailfish, however I find neither very tasty.
I am one of those anglers whose personal angling preferences are ruled by my taste buds. I find it hard to get tired of lobster dinners, and if I have to place myself into the waters to do so I will until the temperatures leave the life giving 80 degree zone. I will leave the wet suit donning to the folks with thicker blood than I. Somehow this season the lobster powers that be have chosen to smile upon us. There is a bountiful supply of the tasty treats in the bays this year. I have been able to return to my favorite spots on a weekly basis and have found them restocked over and over again.
One more addition to the crustacean dinner menu gets going this month and that is stone crab season. Any resident with a boat who neglects to take advantage of their allotment of five traps is truly missing out on a world class taste treat. Crabbing is neither expensive nor difficult. There are few unproductive spots in near shore Keys waters. Our own Cudjoe Sales will be happy to set you up with everything that you will need to get going in this fun and easy fishery.
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