The Florida Keys Has a Lot to Offer Anglers Right Now
The Florida Keys has lots to offer anglers looking to catch that once in a lifetime dream fish or just bend a rod with your family and bring home dinner.
There are many different ways to fish the backcountry this time of year and several species to target successfully. Unlike tarpon season I will typically have a wide range of clients with a wide range of abilities and experience levels during the winter months. This means that one day I will be slinging bait in the deeper channels and passes with a family of three. While the next I will be poling while we fly fish for redfish and snook on the shallow water flats that surround Flamingo.
Weather is definitely the determining factor when it comes to where we fish in the backcountry. Last year we year we experienced several days of heavy fog that made transversing the bay a challenging endeavor. I do not know of any flats boats equipped with radar, yet. The days leading up to a cold front tend to be calm and warm making the options for fishing endless. Once a front passes we typically experience several days of windy, cold, and cloudy days, which send anglers looking for places to hide in the backcountry. Luckily there are several areas that fish very well and are quite protected in the backcountry making getting there the worst part of the trip. During the cold windy days I usually fish shrimp live or dead on the bottom of deeper channels and passes catching black drum, redfish, snook, seatrout, jacks, and the unavoidable catfish. The bite can be very slow during the mornings, by which I mean that the fish will eat then sit still conserving their energy. Example: I watched my clients rod tip bounce while he was not paying attention then a minute later I asked him to check his bait. When he lifted his rod he thought he had snagged the bottom only to watch the bottom pull back. After a short fight, a 15lb black drum came to the boat.
During the calmer days, mackerel fishing is a great option for full or half-day trips, and provides lots of excitement on light tackle. I typically use ¼-3/8 ounce chartreuse jigs tipped with shrimp and tied to some light wire for leader, either jigged along the bottom or quickly retrieved. The mackerel average 2-4lbs with fish as big as 7-8lbs and more a possibility every trip. Mixed in with the mackerel tends to be mangrove snappers of varying sizes, jacks, ladyfish, seatrout, sharks, and the occasional cobia. I almost always chum heavy for mackerel and try to chum in areas where the wind and tide are both moving in the same direction. This helps disperse the chum faster over a broader area, attracting more fish to the back of the boat. Kingfish are not really talked about when mackerel fishing in the bay, but over the past few years more and more sizable kingfish have been caught while targeting the mackerel. I always carry at least one heavy rod for such encounters. A few years ago a friend of mine brought home a 42lb king caught while fishing in 16 feet off Sprigger bank.
There is a lot out there for anglers this month so head down to your local marina and ask for a guide recommendation.
For those of you who know me, know that to me, fishing is more than just a game, it is a way of life. So fish hard and fish often!
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