Even mainland Floridians can appreciate the unique environment and culture of the Florida Keys. Between the laid-back island atmosphere, tropical temperatures closer to that of the Caribbean than the rest of Florida, and a wide variety of amazing inshore and offshore fishing opportunities—highlighted by the only living coral reef system in the continental United States—the Keys offer the perfect getaway, even for our neighbors just up the road.
Last week, the Stowe family decided to make the quick, scenic drive down from Jupiter, Florida with their sites set on fishing the reef and loading up on delicious filets to take back home with them. We began the trip by anchoring on the patch reefs in 25 feet of water, and getting a nice chum slick flowing. Before long, small ballyhoo swam up in the chum line and we were able throw the cast net and fill the live well. (Note: for those of you that do not have a cast net, pitch out a small hair hook tipped with a piece of shrimp on a float). In a little over an hour we were able to load the box with quality mangrove snappers up to 3 ½ pounds. For live baits, we fished a ½ ounce jig heads, and ½ ounce jig heads for the fresh cut chunks of ballyhoo. Both methods produced well.
After loading up on mangroves we headed out to the deep reef (85 feet of water) for some yellowtail action. Due to the strong currents in the Atlantic we used 1/16 jig heads with glass minnows, keeping the line steadily moving in the current. Fortunately, because the current was so strong the fish stayed on the surface and we didn’t have any trouble with sharks like those that we’ve been having recently. After a little more than an hour, we caught our share of nice tails between 16 and 20 inches, and it was time for the Stowes’ to head back in and enjoy their catch at Sparky’s Landing in Key Colony Beach.
Elsewhere in the Keys, the mangrove snapper fishing is really heating up in Florida Bay. Find any kind of structure in six to eight feet of water, anchor up, and get the chum flowing. Small pinfish and ballyhoo should do the trick for bait, and if you don’t have any live bait, take a cast net or a couple sabiki rigs and you should be able to catch pinfish behind the boat. September is a great month to fish the bay for big mangroves, and if you’re having trouble located them on the reef don’t be afraid to head to the other side of the islands.
Offshore in the Atlantic, the dolphin bite is still not as hot as we would hope. We’re still catching gaffer-sized fish up to 20 pounds here and there, but not with the consistency we’d expect. Your best bet offshore right now is to head to the Marathon Humps and take advantage of the excellent blackfin tuna bite. Last week we had great success trolling feathers for quality tunas around 12 pounds.
Your Best Bet for the Week Ahead: Come on Down!
Even if you live in Florida, the Keys offer the perfect weekend escape where you can fish, dive, and enjoy the exciting island atmosphere. Just stop by one of the Best Bet boats located on the Key Colony Beach Causeway and we’ll be happy to get you on the water and show you what the Keys are all about!
Those from Jackson Michigan enjoyed a 1/2 day aboard the Best Bet reef fishing.