Despite dealing with weather ever since Irma landed on us and changed the landscape, things have recently made a turn for the better here in the Keys. Leaves are now back on the trees, and the roads are mostly free of debris. After the hurricane, we experienced a winter full of nonstop cold fronts. Temperatures dropped, and even our wintertime staple, the barracuda, developed a severe case of lockjaw. This only seemed appropriate as the most fun-filled tournament of the year was quickly approaching.
The Annual Cuda Bowl, which is held every year on the weekend of the Super Bowl, looked again like tough conditions were going to make fishing a challenge. It is well known that when you fish the Cuda Bowl you had best bring your foul weather gear. On the first day, the rain and fog set in and the water was still cold. Despite this, we found an area that held some nice fish that actually wanted to bite. The next day called for heavier winds, but, when we got out there, the water had warmed up and the fish were much happier. This year’s tournament turned out to be a huge success in the amount of fish that were caught compared to the past couple of years.
Since the days following the tournament, a big change has occurred. The water temperature has risen and the fish have moved from the deeper water up to the flats. I’m hoping that this trend continues all the way into summer. Schools of bonefish have pushed up shallow and are eating, and the permit have been showing well on channel edges and up on the flats and banks. Hopefully, we will begin to see the first batch of tarpon pushing into the backcountry channels, signaling the beginning of months of excitement!
It has been a challenging five months for the Keys--especially our friends to the east and north of us. Thanks to the help from local residents, people from the mainland, and volunteers from all over, almost everyone in the guiding industry is back up and running. There are so many stories of generosity from companies and individuals that love the Florida Keys who have helped. Without them the recovery process would have been even more tedious and slow.
Over the past couple of months, I have seen many misleading news reports, primarily on national TV. Many of them have said to stay away from the Keys; that the damage is too much and we are not ready for people to visit yet. These reports were obviously made by correspondence who may have never been here before--especially not recently. I ask that anyone who reads this spread the word far and wide that the hotels, restaurants, resorts, bars, and all water activities are definitely back in business. The best way for us to continue is to get everybody back down here to enjoy our islands.
Change is in the air; we can all feel it down here. Get down here and feel it for yourself!
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