Winter is almost over as we are preparing to roll into the warm (and usually windy) spring time here in the Florida Keys. This often marks the beginning of busy season for the area down here. Usually by mid-February, most of the hotels are packed and seasoned fishing guides are getting out on the water just about every day. It is a welcomed time of year, especially after the tough off season we all suffered due to Hurricane Irma. I’ve been lucky enough to have had a fairly busy schedule the last couple months and fishing overall has been really good. The last few weeks especially we’ve seen some of the coldest, windiest weather we can get here, followed by some flat calm, warmer days that you dream of – the weather really hasn’t been able to make up it’s mind.
I recently had two of my favorite customers out, Jim and Gwen, who have been fishing with me since I started guiding almost ten years ago. Our first day on the water was one I’ll remember for a long time. It was right after a harsh cold front where it had dropped down into the 40’s in the Everglades. The wind had laid out to almost nothing and we were at the beginning of a warming trend. We stumbled on to a pristine area with nice, clean water that you just knew the fish would have to be hanging around in. When you get to fish as much as I do, you can often pull into an area and ‘just know’ when things look right.
We proceeded to catch a half dozen of the biggest snook I think I’ve ever caught on my boat. One of the snook was close to 25 lbs, and the rest were in the 15-20 lb range! While they can get bigger than that in other areas, we just don’t get them all that often here. We also caught over a dozen black drum, that were in the 8-12 lb range, with one that was 15+. It was just insane. We had to take off after many of the fish as they were screaming drag trying to race us into branches and structure. We can usually just turn snook the other way by applying pressure with the rod at a certain angle, but not when they were that big!
I experienced similar fishing the following day with my client Joe and his dad Harold. It was hard to believe we could get on a bite like that, especially two days in a row.
Then the following day, I had Jim and Gwen fishing with me again. This time it was to catch Jim’s favorite, tarpon. I told him the water was still a bit chilly (64 degrees when we started) so that it might be unlikely, but we’d give it a try. By late morning, things started to warm up. We caught some tarpon bait and checked some of the channels for tarpon. Sure enough, after we sat for a little bit, I saw a few tarpon showing and started to get excited. The water was still chilly, but I was amazed as it went from 66 degrees when we got there to 73 by the time we left, and that was in a matter of 3 hours or so. We ended up catching a big tarpon of about 85 lbs, and almost had a second one but it threw the hook. We also caught several big blacktip sharks that put on quite a show. That just goes to show that when you get the right conditions, anything can happen... even tarpon in January!
The following day I fished with Bo, who was down to go in any condition (as long as it’s safe I said). We put in a long day and struggled in the early part of the day but did catch a handful of black drum and trout. We were rewarded with a stellar snook bite the last hour of that day, catching them every cast. We even hooked a couple tarpon.
The nice thing about fishing the backcountry in the Florida Keys, is that we really can get out in just about any wind condition. I wouldn’t always expect it to be as good as I’ve just described, but like I always tell my customers, you don’t know unless you go. Anyhow, this was just one example of a week in my life of fishing. Hopefully that lucky streak continues for me. I hope you’ll come on down to experience some of the great fishing the Florida Keys has to offer, we are all ready for you!
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