Windy Day Fishing
We all know that the weather in the Keys can be unpredictable. Some days the sky is sunny and the seas calm. The next, the winds are howling and the seas roaring.
Fortunately, the Keys offer a variety of places to fish close to home. So even when the wind is blowing too hard to journey offshore or anchor up on the reef, you can always find a haven to wet a line and reel in trophy fish.
One of my favorite fisheries to explore on those unfavorable weather days, as well as when conditions are ideal, are the lagoons and protected harbors located throughout the Keys. Whether it’s a secluded basin, or a cut between mangrove islands, these bodies of water not only offer refuge from foul weather, but also allow you the chance to catch a wide variety of species. Many of these locations are home to a tremendous number of game fish, including snook, tarpon, redfish, snapper, grouper, barracudas, jacks, and sharks. Plus, for those of you who tend to get a little seasick, inshore fishing in these calm water areas allows you to enjoy the water without having to worry about rolling waves.
Just keep in mind that not every body of water holds fish. That’s why it’s important to start out fishing with a guide who can show you not only where to fish, but also which baits to use, the tides to fish, and what time of day to go after different species.
Last week I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon inshore fishing with the father-and-son duo of Mike and Max Butensky. Max, a marine biology major at UC Santa Cruz (the Banana Slugs!), was fascinated by all the fish we can catch so close to home. Both Mike and Max landed their first tarpons ever, and had a blast reeling in resident tarpon, redfish, blacktip sharks, jacks, and more. Overall, it was a great day, and the Butenskys had a great time discovering the wonderful inshore fishery we have in the Florida Keys.
For those of you looking to fill the cooler with tasty fillets, especially on days when it’s blowing out of the South/Southeast, Florida Bay offers plenty of islands to anchor up behind and catch dinner. Just a few miles from home, we’re catching good numbers of mangrove snapper, as well as keeper red grouper. The snapper aren’t as big as the ones we’ve been catching at the reef, but they’re plenty large enough to take home and fry up. For targeting the mangroves and grouper fish, the cuts and any good structure you can find. Live and fresh cut pinfish and ballyhoo are the baits of choice.
Inconsistent weather and currents have stirred things up a bit on the reef, however the yellowtail snapper bite remains consistent on the deep reef, and the big mangroves continue to chew on the patches. If fishing the patches for mangroves, keep in mind that you may only pull up four or five keepers at each spot. The fish have thinned out, so if the bite slows, don’t hesitate to pull up your anchor and move on to a new location. Also on the patch reefs, the cero mackerel are beginning to show up and provide excellent battles for those looking for some light tackle action.
Strong current edges are helping form nice weedlines 15 to 20 miles offshore that have been holding quality dolphin. The dolphins have been staying down deep, so trolling has produced the best results for these gaffer-size fish.
Your Best Bet for the Week Ahead: Don’t let the weather deter you from fishing.
There are tons of protected basins throughout the Keys where you can fish on those windy days. So even if you can’t venture offshore or to the reef, you still can enjoy fantastic light tackle action close to home. Stop by one of the Best Bet boats, located on the Sadowski Causeway in Key Colony Beach, and we’ll be happy to take you out and introduce you to this wonderful fishery.
Max Butensky with his first tarpon.
Redfish are commonplace in the coves around the islands.
Expect tarpon up to 40 pounds this time of the year.