The Upper Keys Winter Forecast

by Capt. Mike Makowski

The Upper Keys Winter Forecast

For the past month, fishing on the edges of Florida Bay has been hot for Spanish mackerel and tripletail. This will continue through the next few months and can be done during half and full day trips depending on the weather. While most days I am fishing pompano jigs tipped with shrimp on wire leaders with spin tackle for the mackerel, other days, my clients are throwing 8-9wt fly rods with shiny streamer patterns, enjoying lots of rod bending excitement. As we move from spot to spot, everyone has their eyes peeled on all the passing crab trap buoys looking for tripletail. While their numbers vary from week to week, some of my best trips take place during this time of year. Additionally, there is always a chance of encountering cobia, jacks, sharks, seatrout, and snappers when fishing these areas, so every day is different.

Over the past few years, I typically mention the great patch reef fishing we experience, and this year will be no different with lots of different species available. Everything from snapper to hogfish is on the table, with each trip producing a few surprises every time. I do not call these fishing trips, rather catching trips, which are great fun! These trips do not require a lot of fishing skill to have a good time. Shrimp is the best bait to fish with as we continue to experience shrimp runs these next few months. Remember, everything eats shrimp!

In the backcountry, snook tend to be one of the most abundant species available, along with redfish, black drum, sheepshead, and snappers. I try to encourage my clients to book full day trips, as most days we travel deep into the backcountry depending on temperature and tide. Again, live shrimp is the bait of choice, while Gulp-tipped jigs, and gold or silver spoons, are a close second to bait.

During February of last year, we experienced many calm winter days in which Florida Bay was inundated with lots of schools of tarpon; 40-60 lbs. with even larger ones pushing 100 lbs. or more. This only lasted a few weeks, until a strong cold front dropped the temperatures, pushing the tarpon out of the Bay. But, during that time, my clients experienced some of the best wintertime tarpon fishing I have ever seen. Now, I am not saying that this will happen again this year, but the possibility is always there.

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!

It’s wintertime here in the Upper Keys and, as we say goodbye to 2016, we look forward to 2017 and all of the new opportunities and challenges that we now face. The Chinese calendar calls 2017 the “Year of the Rooster”, but, to me, it will be remembered as the “Year of the Hog”, or hogfish, to be exact. This is because, as of January 1st, 2017, when fishing hogfish, they must now be 16 inches in length, with a limit of only one per person. That’s right. Things are changing. And if you want to avoid a fine the next time you go out, make sure you carry a current copy of the fishing regulations that can be found inside this, and every, issue of FishMonster Magazine




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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