Preparing for the New Season

by Capt. Rick Stanczyk

Preparing for the New Season

It’s hard to believe 2017 has arrived, but, sure enough, it has and that means it’s busy time once again. Our most recent off-season seemed to be a little slower than in year’s past; at least from what I could see. It was good to get a break though, and enjoying the holidays with family is always important.

I’ve been getting out a couple days a week, on average, and fishing has been fairly good as of late--though a little up and down with the winds and weather. We haven’t had a whole lot of colder weather yet, aside from one front that lasted a couple days right before Thanksgiving. Personally, I’m hoping we get a good bit more, as I always enjoy the cooler wintertime fishing here--it’s a good change from what we do the rest of the year.

The Spanish mackerel have started to show up in force these last months, and this fishery should stay strong into the springtime. I fished for them the last couple of days I was out, and both days it was constant action the entire time! A lot of larger fish, up to 5 lbs. too, which is usually the case when they begin making their way back to our waters. We’ve had to run far to get them though, as we are still dealing with lots of algae in the Florida Bay. If you are in that dirty green water, there usually hasn’t been much life.

With the slightly cooler weather, our live shrimp supply has been much better and you can get decent-sized shrimp most days. The macks have been eating them readily, especially when you tip a flashy-colored jighead.

Further out there in the Gulf, we’ve bagged a few cobia and tripletail. A few weeks ago, I had one of my anglers catching mackerel and cobia on a wreck, and we had a 400 lb. goliath grouper come up and try to eat both fish! He actually got the mackerel! Thankfully, we were able to pull the cobia out of his mouth, since he was on a much heavier leader. It was quite the show and one of the reasons I love fishing in the Gulf – you never know what you might see out there; it’s really like the jungle sometimes.

FishMonster Magazine-Jan/Feb 2017The tripletail haven’t been all over the place yet, but, if you get in the right area, you can usually find a good solid handful. Much of the technique in finding them seems to be finding the right colored water.

In the Everglades, the tarpon fishing has slowed down quite a bit. Snook, redfish, black drum, and sheepshead are starting to become the norm. We’ve had a handful of good days catching these species, but with as warm and windy as it has been, not every day is red hot back there. I expect it to get much better as things cool off more. In the winter, we usually like the days when the water is a little chillier, or right after it has gotten very cold and warms up slightly. Those said species can stack up by the hundreds in some of the deeper runoffs, oyster bays, and creek mouths in the Everglades. When the water is 70 or below, shrimp is really all you need back there though. When it is warmer, pilchards definitely help--especially with the snook. Recently, we were back there and had a successful day landing a combination of 15 red and black drum, along with plenty of trout, jacks, ladyfish, and even a few pompano. The wind laid out in the Gulf and we finished our day with a nice cobia, tripletail, and a dozen Spanish mackerel as well. This was one of the overall better days I’ve had in the last month for sure.

On a final note, don’t forget that hogfish size limits are changing soon. The federal limit has already changed and it sounds like state limits (where we mostly fish) will be changing too, so make sure to check the regulations. Unfortunately, it may not be an option for table fare any longer this time of year, but, hopefully, the stock will make a successful rebound.

I hope you have all had a safe and enjoyable holiday season – and best wishes for catching lots of fish in this new year ahead!

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Capt. Rick Stanczyk
Capt. Rick Stanczyk

Author

I fish a 1977 20’ SeaCraft open fisherman offering backcountry, gulf, and shallow reef trips catching everything from tarpon, permit, redfish, snook, sharks, cobia, goliath grouper, mackerel, snapper, and more. You can find me at Bud ‘n Mary’s (www.budnmarys.com) if I’m not out fishing, or call me at 305-747-6903 or email me at rick@seethefloridakeys.net



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