Summer Fun in the Keys

by Capt. Mike Bartlett

Summer Fun in the Keys

Summertime is a great time to be in the Keys.  So many different activities to choose from, on and off the water, minus the crowds.  Yes, it does get hot, with daytime temperatures in the low to mid 90's, but not quite as hot as most of the country.  The sun, however, is a little more intense here in the lower latitudes; but, with even a slight breeze off the ocean and a little shade, it is quite comfortable.

Summer is when those of us that make a living on the water get to finally have a little fun ourselves.  With schedules opening up and plenty of calm days to take advantage of, it’s time to do some of the activities that lured us here in the first place.  Being a flats fishing guide myself, I mostly head out to the flats with my fly rod to see how many fish I can scare in a day!!  Heck, sometimes I get lucky and catch a few!!  The primary motive though, is to scout areas for upcoming charters and tournaments.

As much as I enjoy being on the water fishing, I equally enjoy being in it hunting for fish and lobsters.  I got into spearfishing with a buddy when I first moved here 17 years ago.  I love going and everything about it, but, like bird and small game hunting in the field, the critters are mostly safe.  I simply just don't do it enough.

Over the years, many people I fish with have asked when the best time of year to come fishing is.  There are several answers to this question; it really all depends on what type of fishing you wish to do and the species you wish to target.  So, for flats fishing, especially if anglers are wanting to target tarpon, permit, and bonefish, summer is by far the best time of year.

Why are the summer months so good for flats fishing--especially for the big three?  Firstly, these are fish that live in the tropics, preferring water temperatures between 75-85 degrees; we definitely have that in the summer when water temperatures are usually in the mid 80's.  Secondly, we generally experience better and more stable weather conditions in the summer; no cold fronts and light warm breezes.  Lastly, the tides are better this time of year; lower low tides and higher high tides means more water moving throughout the day. Negative low tides, early and late, tend to concentrate fish around the edges of flats, creating tailing conditions, and who doesn't love that?!

Above all, and this is more a personal preference rather than any sort of weather or tidal condition, there are far fewer boats on the water during the summer. This holds especially true for flats fishing as it is more specialized than other forms of fishing.  All of the seasonal guides and snowbirds (some of whom fish the flats return north) are gone, and most of the locals work during the week and don't fish the flats.  So, this means I'll have huge areas all to myself, maybe seeing a boat or two drive by.  A few times I've been to the Marquesas and have not seen a boat all day, which is a rarity.

If you are looking to catch that elusive Keys flats grand slam, summer is your best opportunity to do so. Between the months of June and October we can usually count on lots of fish, good weather, excellent tides, and no one else around.  It just doesn't get any better than that!

The lobster mini-season also opens at the end of July.  There will be more boats on the water those two days than we will see at any time during the year.  Please be safe and respectful to other divers, fishermen, and the environment around you.  Take your time when near other boats and give way more room than you think is necessary.  Assume that every boat has people in the water, whether a dive flag is present or not, and that some hapless chap has wandered too far from the boat.  The few extra moments you will bear are well worth not seriously injuring or killing someone and, it's the law.




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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