Key Largo Backcountry

by Capt. Mike Makowski

Key Largo Backcountry

Summer is in full effect and things are starting to slow down for us as we continue to move out of high season. Fishing continues to be hot; tarpon, permit, and bonefish continue to dominate my clients’ ambitions and, whether we are fishing fly or spin, the opportunities are endless. Weather has been the determining factor as to where and when we fish, as no one likes lighting, and, as I tell my clients, it is the only thing I am afraid of during the summer. 

This time of year, I go from being booked every day for weeks, to having a handful of trips every week. I can totally sympathize with women that suffer from postpartum depression, as I go through the same thing in my own way. That is in respect to it being a difficult adjustment. But, it also has its benefits as I can now repair my gear, boat, and get my taxes done. However, I still get up every day at 5 a.m., as my body has been trained over the last few months to do so. 

July and August are my favorite months to target permit on the flats, either with fly or spin gear. During this time, I will typically have a dozen or more small crabs waiting for their time. That being said, it is a great time of year to catch a flats slam and this can be done in a relatively small area--no need for long rides to distant areas. It goes without saying that we have some very hot days during this time. Over the years, I have learned to carry not only water and Power aid in my cooler, but also coconut water, and encourage you to do so as well. 

FishMonster Magazine-July/Aug 2017Patch reef fishing is another great option for those looking to catch dinner or bend a rod and can be done during half-day trips. Species like grouper, snapper, and hogfish are available and can be caught with live or dead shrimp fished on the bottom. If you want to target more snapper and grouper, pilchards are the bait of choice and can be found most days on the ocean side in big schools. The only catch is that lobster mini-season takes place the last Wednesday and Thursday in July and opening day is August 6th - once divers start jumping in the water, the patch reef fishing slows down. 

The backcountry is a great place to escape the crowds, especially during mini-season. Out back, redfish, snook, seatrout, tarpon, and sharks keep anglers busy all day long. Most days, artificial lures are more effective than bait and can be used with more efficiency. Top water lures in the morning and jerk baits in the afternoon. I suggest ¾ to full day trips if you are planning on fishing the Bay.

A recent client reminded me of this story and I cannot believe I forgot it. When I first started guiding, there was a guide that had a scary encounter with lightning while out in the Bay. He had the idea that if he installed a copper tube on his platform that it would act like a lightning rod and redirect the lightning down and into the water. Once I saw this, I told him that it was the worst idea in history, as he was now asking to get hit by lightning. Several other guides told him the same, and, after a few weeks, he removed it from his platform. DO NOT DO THIS! Everybody has ideas, but not every idea is a good one. Your best bet is to avoid lightning at all costs; just download a radar app to your phone and keep your eyes on the sky. 

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!




Capt. Mike Makowski
Capt. Mike Makowski

Author

A true South Florida native with a deep passion for fishing and a flare for local history. Offering guided flats and backcountry trips in the upper Florida Keys and both Biscayne and Everglades National Parks. Contact him at 305-481-0111 or go to blackfootfishing.com



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