It is finally a new year. Let’s face it, 2017 wasn’t exactly the best year for us and our friends here in the Keys. Of course, our unity and strength have pushed us forward into 2018 and we are up and running.
January brings some of the most consistent and exciting fishing we have on the flats. I remember years ago, when I was running offshore charters in north Florida, we would supplement income by fishing for kingfish commercially. We called it NASCAR fishing because we would do left hand turns for hours around nearshore wrecks, dragging silver spoons. We used drone spoons on planers tied off to the rail of the boat. No rod and reel, straight handlining. The faster we could sling these slime sticks into the boat, the faster we could be done and go home. When the bite was on, there was only one thing that could slow us down. Where there is structure, such as a boat wreck, there are barracudas. Some of the biggest cuda I’ve ever caught were from fishing like this. Hardly a challenge. Many people turn their noses up to the idea of fishing for them for this reason; they can be a nuisance offshore.
Barracudas have long been the recipients of mistreatment by fishermen, commercial and recreational. It was thought that their numbers were so large that killing them for sport was the norm. We now know that they aren’t an expendable species. In fact, they are a very important part of our marine ecosystem. Not only that, targeting them by sight fishing on shallow water flats is about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on!
I look forward to winter fishing because of barracudas. This is when the big ones push up onto the flats looking to warm up and ambush prey. They can be seen nosed into the current on the grass, or sitting in a sand hole just waiting for a needlefish or mullet to swim by.
There are many lures that will get a bite from a big cuda. The most popular is the old reliable tube lure. Red, green, and yellow are the colors I make my tubes. Most use a very fast retrieve, but there are some very experienced guides who use a variety of “secret” retrieves. They tell me that that’s how they can get a bite from the big, picky fish. I haven’t been able to extract the secret from them, but hopefully one day I will be privy to this information.
When I am blind casting I like to use Waxwing lures. They have a great movement in the water and cast a country mile. They are great for covering ground and also when it’s cloudy and fish are difficult to spot.
So, this winter get out there and hunt down these amazing high-speed predators. Remember, that though these fish look fierce and dangerous, they are, in fact, quite delicate. Fight them hard and get them to the boat as quickly as possible. Get a quick picture and get ‘em back in the water. Make sure you completely revive them before release. Take care of the barracudas so we can have a great way to make it through the winter.
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