There’s no denying it, the recent cold front has had a profound impact on our inshore fishery.
Just glance in any canal or basin throughout the Florida Keys and you’re likely to see belly-up fish that couldn’t withstand the significant drop in water temperature. I can only speculate, but it may take a little time before the inshore fishing returns to what we’re accustomed to. How long? We’ll just have to wait and see.
Fortunately though, the cold front has shown no ill effects on the offshore and reef fishing. If anything, the fishing has actually improved as shallow water species have sought refuge in the warm, deeper waters of the Atlantic.
This is especially apparent on the patch reefs where the fishing has been nothing short of outstanding. All the popular snappers (muttons, mangroves and yellowtails) are chomping away at baits presented on the bottom; while the mackerel species, including ceros in the 12-pound class and big smoker kings, are actively feeding on schools of ballyhoo near the surface. All of these fish offer loads of fun on light tackle, and with the snapper bite as hot as it is, you should have no trouble filling the coolers with tasty fillets to enjoy for dinner when you return back to the dock.
Normally, when fishing a charter this time of year on one of the Best Bet boats, we will fish the patch reefs for a while, and then head offshore reef in search of the big game fish. With the warm Gulf Stream currents pushing closer and closer to shore, many of the high-fighting pelagic fish can be caught just a few miles from the marina. Last week we had success catching kingfish, blackfin tuna, cobia, sailfish, and the occasional dolphin or wahoo in water as shallow as 100 to 120 feet.
If you plan on heading out and trolling for these pelagics this week, I suggest tacking back and forth from the edge of the reef out to 200 feet. When you find a depth that is producing consistent bites keep working that area. In addition, if you want to mix things up while trolling offshore; don’t be afraid to drop a live ballyhoo down on a deep wreck. The wrecks continue to hold good numbers of big mutton snapper.
As noted, the cold weather has really shut down the inshore fishing, as well as the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico and Florida Bay. If you’re thinking about heading out back my recommendation is to wait until the water warms, and for now, focus on fishing in the Atlantic.
Whether you’re looking to troll for trophy game fish, or anchor up and fish the reef for snapper or mackerel, there are plenty of fish to be caught.
Your Best Bet for the Week Ahead: Fish the reef and offshore.
Don’t let the cold inshore waters deter you from heading out and fishing the edge of the reef and the patch reefs. Just a few miles from the dock we’ve been catching everything from snapper to sailfish and the action should remain red hot for the weeks to come. Stop by one of the Best Bet boats, located at the the Key Colony Beach Marina on the Sadowski Causeway, and we’ll be happy to offer you some local advice, or set you up on a fishing trip-of-a-lifetime.