Fall is in the air, or at least it has been these last few days. What a great week it was to open the windows, throw some logs in the fire pit, bake a warm pumpkin pie, and sip a mug of hot apple cider (with or without your favorite adult beverage mixed in).
Unfortunately, however, it wasn’t the greatest of weeks to go fishing. Those of you looking to head offshore were greeted with 20 to 30-knot winds, and six to nine-foot seas beyond the reef; not ideal conditions to say the least.
Thankfully, by the time you read this the front will have moved out and the winds died down. The forecast looks good for this weekend, with mild southeast breezes calming things down a bit, so get the boat ready and hit the water to take advantage of some fantastic post-cold front fishing opportunities.
Last week I theorized about the impact that the drop in water temperature should have on the fishing, writing that the cold front should push large numbers of wintertime pelagic fish into the Keys waters. This week, we will find out for sure if I was correct, and I fully except the fishing (especially the sailfishing) to be nothing short of outstanding.
This upcoming week I have trips lined up to pursue these migratory species, so hopefully I will have good things to report in next week’s article.
For those of you interested in targeting your table fare species, as well as looking for a refuge from rough seas when the wind does pick up, you can’t go wrong fishing the shallow patch reefs.
Before the cold front arrived I took a group of clients spearfishing on the patches aboard this Best Bet, and nearly all of the spots we anchored up on were teaming with hogfish, black grouper (in the eight to 15-pound class), snapper, and more. Look for the cooler water temperatures to get these fish fired up and more aggressive to take a bait.
For targeting grouper (as well as mutton and mangrove snapper), fish a live pinfish or pilchard on a 5/8 oz. jig head with a heavy hook that won’t straighten when you put pressure on the fish. Remember, the first 15 seconds are the most crucial when fighting a bottom fish and it is imperative that you get these fish (especially grouper) off the structure before it dives back down and rocks you up. For tackle, I use a 20# spinning outfit spooled with 20-pound mono or 30-pound braided line (for when I really want to put some heat on the fish), and a splice of 30 to 40-pound fluorocarbon.
Keep in mind that time is running out for targeting grouper, and come January (through April) all grouper species will be closed in the Atlantic Ocean for recreational harvesters. So you only have two months left to catch these delicious tasting and hard-fighting bottom fish. I suggest doing so before it’s too late.
Inshore, flats guide Shelby Bentley, fishing out of Big Pine, suggests that as long as the recent cold front doesn’t cause a profound drop in water temperature, it should have a positive effect of the flats fishing. Shelby says to look for bonefish tailing on the flats throughout the day (including during the afternoon), and that the cooler water should keep the fish in the shallows longer, providing anglers more opportunities to target them.
I’d also like to congratulate Shelby for his impressive Inshore Slam that he recorded last week; catching a bonefish, permit and tarpon all on fly! Pretty work Shelby!
Book a trip with Captain Shelby call 305-797-3665, or visit www.on-pointsportfishing.com.
Your Best Bet for the Weeks Ahead: Fish the Patch Reefs
Keeper grouper, snapper, mackerel and more provide constant rod-bending action on the patch reefs and can save your fishing trip when it’s too rough to head offshore.
Bonefish: Captain Shelby Bentley with a nice bonefish caught in the Lower Keys.
Grouper: Get your grouper fishing fill before the season closes in January.