The cooler weather has arrived here in Islamorada and we are all looking forward to the approaching holiday season. The Upper Keys will be thriving with people, which means most all the charter boats will be busy. We are all hoping Santa brings lots of nice weather and hungry fish. The reef ’s edge will be where the action is on the days when there’s good water clarity and current. The mackerel bite should be game on, live cigar minnows or pilchards on a small treble on 4 wire will get you bites without losing the fish to cut mono filament. The cero mackerels will be on the shallower depths and the kings should be holding on any structure from 60’ out to 150’. Don’t forget to send one rod deep with at least a 20’ leader to pick up the deeper swimming kings.
Live bait trolling some ballyhoos in the 100’-200’ depths should get action from mackerel, sailfish, bonitos, blackfins and mahi. Slow trolling around a current edge or color change will get your best results.
Days when there’s enough wind flying some kites dangling live baits produces some cool bites. On days when the water is a little dirtier, anchoring anywhere from 50’ – 90’ and drifting with bait should provide plenty of action. Lots of chum is key here along with some thawed chum mixed with oats.
To mix it up, put a live bait or 2 on a kite or rigger for sailfish or kings. Also putting a rod on the bottom with a live pinfish could score you a nice grouper.
The shallower patches can also be very productive on days when there’s little water clarity. Drifting for yellowtails in the chum slick and any bait or cut plug on a knocker rig should produce some mangrove snapper. A live bait on a spinner will pick up some mutton snapper or grouper bites. My favorite way to patch fish is to have the wells loaded with small-medium pilchard - live chum to really get all the fish feeding.
Winter time fishing here in the Upper Keys is my favorite season. You don’t have to go 25 miles and burn a full tank of fuel, the fishing is close and the options are endless.
The Keys will be jam packed with people over the holidays so everyone please be safe on the roads as well as on the water.
New Year’s Day there is the blessing of the fleet. Most all the charter boats and whoever wishes their vessel to be blessed are welcome to participate in the boat parade at Whale Harbor Channel at 10:00am. The parade is followed by a huge buffet BBQ cooked by Captain Shannon Attales. Shannon really does it up with pulled pork, hamburgers, hot dogs and all the fixings. There is a donation taken for the plate of food with all proceeds going to the Islamorada Charter Boat Association.
Hope everyone has a safe and blessed holiday. We'll see you out there!
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