Let's Go Fishing!

by Capt. Mike Bartlett

Let's Go Fishing!

Happy New Year!! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season. Now that all the traveling, celebrating, eating and drinking are done, let’s go fishin’!

A great way to get rid of the holiday hangover is to get out on the water and take in the cool, crisp, salty air of the Key West backcountry. If you are anything like me and dislike freezing cold winters up north, then you will love it here during those cold winter months. It’s just cool (cold?) enough to give you that invigorating chill, but not so cold you feel like you’re going to die. One might call it comfortable!

The next couple months are a time of plenty on the flats and in the backcountry channels and basins. Barracudas take the spotlight now as they are the most reliable during this cool period of time. The cuda can be found just about anywhere, so getting into a place where we are out of the wind is usually best on those blustery days.

Permit, though very reliable all through the year, can be tough to find when water temperatures drop into the 60’s. Even then, we do manage to find a few and, during warming trends, it can be ridiculously good. It’s always advisable to have a rod ready, rigged with a crab, for when one pops up.

Bonefish and tarpon, however, are bit of a challenge now. I always say to people who inquire that, like everything else, it will depend on the weather. If we are in a calm and warm weather pattern, then we have a good chance of finding them, especially so if the tides are right. If it’s cold and windy and cloudy, I don’t bother. There are plenty of other stuff to chase around and have fun with, rather than struggle looking for a fish that probably won’t be around.

For those cooler periods, and when conditions are less than ideal for sight fishing the flats, the backcountry channels and basins abound with life. Jacks of different species, ladyfish, pompano, sea trout, snappers, groupers and sharks will all put a bend in a rod (some more than others) and a smile on your face. Backcountry fishing is meant to be active; it’s quantity over quality. Lots of action is what we are looking for here, fish on every few casts is ideal.

This time of year can be very frustrating as well, as the weather can change on a daily basis. Cold fronts are the big obstacle we have to overcome. They will come through every three to five days and sometimes be quite strong, delivering cold and windy conditions for a couple days. This is when fishing the flats is toughest, as water temperatures can drop 10 degrees overnight in the shallows, pushing those fish we love to pursue most, off the flats into deep water where conditions are more favorable for them.

Well, that’s wintertime fishing the inshore waters around Key West in a nutshell. But, before I go, there are some size and bag limit changes taking affect and being discussed this year worth mentioning. Barracudas, mutton snappers and hogfish are three I can think of off the top of my head. Other contributors will discuss these changes more in depth in their articles and you will always find the regulations printed here in each edition of FishMonster Magazine. You can also check the FWC website for the latest official updates. I highly recommend signing up to receive emails directly from FWC. I find them very informative and to the point.

I wish you all a very happy and prosperous 2017 and, most importantly, lots of good fishing!!




Capt. Mike Bartlett
Capt. Mike Bartlett

Author

Capt. Mike Bartlett runs shallow water sight fishing charters for tarpon, bonefish, permit, barracudas and sharks in Key West. Reach him at 305-797-2452 or on the web at www.keywestflats.net



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