It’s not uncommon for tropical conditions to wreak havoc on our fishing plans this time of year. It seems whenever we glance at the radar there’s a line of thunderstorms somewhere over the islands forcing us back to the docks to wait them out. Unfortunately, summer storms are something we have to deal with. The good news however, is that these storms are generally scattered and leave clear weather windows that allow us to shoot out and catch fish. Just be ready to go at a moment’s notice. Have your boat gassed up, your rods rigged, and your baits in the live well. Then when you do get a few hours of calm seas and sunshine you’ll be able to take advantage of it.

One my favorite things about fishing in the Florida Keys are that we’re only a few miles from some of the best fishing grounds in the world. Whether you choose to stalk the flats for trophy bonefish, or fish the reef for your table fare species, you can be on the water and bending the rods in a matter of minutes. So don’t let a few summer thunderstorms ruin your vacation or your day off. Keep an eye on the radar, and when you do see a break in the weather untie the boat and shove off. All you need is a couple of hours to catch a day’s worth of quality fish.

This time of year, one of my favorite spots to fish is the reef. Not only is the reef just a short boat ride from shore, but it’s also generally one of the most consistent areas to fish. Currently the patch reefs are teaming with big mangrove snappers that we’re catching on live pinfish and small live ballyhoo that have been swimming up in our chum lines. In addition, large schools of cero mackerel are showing up and providing exciting light tackle action. For targeting ceros pitch a live ballyhoo out on the surface with a stretch of #3 wire, or if you notice them aggressively feeding, a silver spoon quickly cranked will also entice the bite.

On the deep reef, the yellowtail snapper bite continues to be excellent. The bad news is that the bull sharks are still hanging around making it difficult to land the bigger fish. Remember, when out yellowtailing try and get the fish to the boat as soon as possible —
you’re not the only one who’s trying to catch dinner! Also on the deep reef, we’ve been having success dropping live keeper yellowtails to the bottom for big black groupers. Just keep in mind that if the sharks are thick they’re likely to eat any bottom fish you hook. If this is the case, I strongly suggest not sending a bait down at all. There’s no sense in needlessly feeding the sharks.

If you choose to stay inshore during your weather window, you should be able to hook into a few resident tarpon. Captain Pablo Rodriguez of Slamtime Charters reports he’s been catching good numbers of tarpon in the 20 to 50-pound class on live baits, flies, and artificial lures, with the best bite generally occurring well after dark. Pablo says to fish the cuts and bridges, and be prepared to catch quality mangrove snappers while targeting the poons as well.

In the backcountry, Pablo reports the redfish bite has been phenomenal. Fish the mangroves on the outgoing tides with jig heads and live shrimp, or DOA shrimp on a popping cork. Pablo suggests using heavier fluorocarbon leaders when fishing the mangroves, as you never know when a tarpon or big snook might also slam your bait. In addition, large speckled trout have been aggressively feeding on small pinfish in 4 to 8 feet of water.

Your Best Bet for the Week Ahead: Don’t let storms ruin your fishing vacation.

Keep an eye on the radar, have the boat prepared, and be ready to fish at a moment’s notice. If you don’t have your own boat stop by the Key Colony Beach Marina and we’ll be happy to take you out on one of the Best Bet boats. We’re always ready to fish.

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