Well, the inevitable finally occurred— the first named storms of the Atlantic Hurricane season took shape off the coast of Africa and began their tracks towards the United States. Fortunately for us in the Florida Keys, Tropical Storm Ana withered to a mere thunderstorm, and Hurricane Bill, at the time I write this, is heading in a northerly direction far away from the islands.
Unfortunately, however, we have still had our share of bad weather over the past week and have been experiencing fair amounts of wind and rain that have made fishing conditions less than favorable. I hope that we will remain out of harm’s way when it comes to dodging hurricanes this season, but if the late summer breezes stick around a while longer we will just have to focus on the types of fishing most suitable to the weather.
One of my favorite places to hit when the waves pick up is the reef. My 30’ Island Hopper is the perfect vessel for anchoring up in windy conditions and has a stable platform that substantially minimizes the rocking and pitching that causes most of us to get seasick. In addition, it has ample room to fish and move around the deck, which is of the utmost importance when fishing the reef this time of year-as the action is non-stop!
As summer winds down and the large masses of tourists head back home, the reef experiences a dramatic decrease in fishing pressure, and the highly sought after species become much more prevalent and willing to take a bait. Over the past week, we have had good success catching yellowtails, mangrove snapper, grouper and kingfish, as well as the predators such as bull sharks and black tip sharks.
Large schools of ballyhoo remain at the reef and, if you’re able to land a few for the live well, either by throwing a cast net, or hooking them on hair hooks or sabikis, drop them down for a chance at a big mangrove or mutton, or freeline one out on the surface for a shot at a big king in the 30 to 40-pound class.
Offshore, the winds and six to eight foot seas have made it difficult to pursue the dolphin, tuna, Wahoo and other deep-water game fish. If you are able to venture out there are still steady numbers of big dolphin spread out in the 30-pound range and larger, and the blackfin and skipjack tuna bite remains red hot at the humps.
Daytime sword fishing continues to be excellent as well, and if we get a break from the winds for a couple days I highly recommend heading out with one of the Best Bet Captains for your chance to catch a once-in-a-lifetime fish.
Another alternative when the winds begin to blow is to head over to Florida Bay in pursuit of the mangrove snappers that have finished up their reef spawn and have returned to the Bay waters and are hanging around off the flats and around structure. While you’re back there you should also be able to find plenty of sharks and goliath grouper hanging around, so have your heavy rods ready to test your strength.
Inshore, Captain Chris Morrison of Marathon ( http://www.captchris.com ) reports that while the tarpon fishing has been a bit lackluster of late, the permit fishing has been off the hook. Chris also reports that bonefish remain around in good numbers with the best time to target the elusive fish being early in the morning just after sunrise.
Your Best Bet for the Weeks Ahead: Book a Half-Day Reef Fishing Trip
For an affordable, constant-action, cooler-filling, enjoyable experience for the entire family (we can take up to six anglers), nothing beats a half-day reef fishing adventure. It is only a short ride from the dock (so you’ll actually spend your time fishing, not just going for a boat ride), and you’re certain to reel in you share of hard-fighting and delicious tasting species.
Stop by one of the Best Bet boats located at the Key Colony Beach Marina (just before Sparky is Landing), or call the number below to book your trip. Don’t let the winds deter you from enjoying your vacation and experiencing some of the best fishing the Florida Keys has to offer.
Mangrove: Best Bet Captain Josh Gilmartin helping hold up a nice mangrove snapper caught by this little guy at the reef.