Hurricane Irma has come and gone and I can assure you everyone down here in the fishing and tourism industry is ready for 2018 season to begin! Luckily, we are almost there and things have normalized somewhat over the last couple months.
The Upper Keys were very fortunate as we were spared much of the catastrophic winds, though we did get some tidal surge and wind damage, especially on the Oceanside. Many properties along the Atlantic did take a beating, including my family’s Bud N’ Mary’s Marina. Thankfully, we were lucky enough to get her back open in a limited fashion the first week of October, and she is almost back to 100% now.
While the hurricane impacted all parts of the Keys a little differently, it definitely hampered business all around and made our normal off season extra slow. We’d been very fortunate for many years now not having to deal with hurricanes, having great fishing during the ‘off season’, and still having a fair number of tourists down here in October and November. Hopefully, once Christmas gets here, we will have very busy weeks and can march into 2018 and never look back.
So, enough of that! What’s been going on with the fishing?
Well, it’s been a little strange since Irma, although, overall, it’s been good. In the backcountry Everglades, I’ve noticed many areas have been cleaned out that had been filled with silt and mud for years from past storms and algae blooms. However, now that things have settled, much of the vegetation that was killed and displaced by the storm has been decomposing, creating new nasty zones. Some of this dirty water seems to come and go with the winds. Areas will be nice and loaded with fish for a period of time, and then the wind will crank up or change directions, and you get nasty colored water in there and everything moves out. I think if we (hopefully) get some good, cold weather this winter, that may finally help to push a lot of that stuff out and away like it did last year, with the algae blooms we had suffered the previous summers.
On a recent trip, I was out with my dad and a couple friends, and we fished several areas we hadn’t fished in a long time, as well as did some exploring. We were pleased to find a good amount of redfish and snook in several of these areas, and the water looked absolutely beautiful. It was so nice to see the redfish--especially because if you ask anybody that fishes back there, they had been fairly tough to find the last few years. Late October, we had a little bit of cold weather and we had a good push of black drum and redfish as well.
At the end of November, I had Terry and his dad, Paulie, out for a day of fishing. Paulie was 90 years old and it was a pleasure getting him out on the water for a day. Luckily, the weather was just about perfect – nice, light northerly breeze of 5 mph or so. We fished the Cape Sable area for snook and, while it wasn’t a red-hot bite, we did manage a good handful of fish. He landed a few, and Terry caught a few as well. Paulie got the nicest sized one though and, boy, did they battle! We also got to see some cool crocodiles and various birdlife in those areas.
After that, we tried the Gulf of Mexico for Spanish mackerel. I hadn’t really had good mackerel fishing yet, the handful of times I’d tried, which normally we do have by November. Though, with the lack of cold weather and possibly the storm, they may have just not pushed down quite yet. On this day, we had a good bite going and probably hooked 18 or 20 fish. They weren’t staying on the hook very well, but the boys each managed their share to the boat, along with some bluefish, ladyfish, and blue runners. They were thrilled with the variety of fish and the gorgeous day we enjoyed in the Everglades and the Gulf.
I’ve had some good days out on the patch reefs on the Atlantic side the last month, too. Please keep in mind hogfish is closed now, so you’ll have to stick to snappers, porgies, and groupers for your table fare.
I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Hopefully we ring in 2018 with a bang and forget all about hurricanes for a long while!
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