Conditions in the Middle Florida Keys were quite windy over the past few days, but that didn’t stop us from getting on the water and catching quality fish. Due to the choppy conditions most of our efforts focused on fishing the shallow patch reefs and the edge of the deep reef. This time of year the reef offers a chance to catch a variety of species, while fishing in more comfortable conditions when the wind is blowing.
On the shallow patch reefs (between 20 and 30 feet of water) we had consistent action for yellowtail and mangrove snappers, as well as grouper and cero mackerel. For targeting yellowtails get the chum flowing and freeline chunks of shrimp or other cut baits. The patch tails have been of good size and will provide you with a nice cooler full of delicious filets.
For targeting mangroves, fish live pilchards on a jig head and work your bait down closer to the bottom. The mangrove fishing has cooled off a bit, but we have been catching a few nice fish over three pounds on nearly every trip.
Grouper season is closed but it’s still fun catching and releasing big black groupers on light tackle on the patch reefs. Most of our larger grouper we’re caught on pinfish or large pilchards fished on the bottom with jig heads.
On the deep reef, fishing for the large flag yellowtails continues to be solid. If heading out this week just make sure that the wind and current are going in the same direction before setting up shop. You’ll be more comfortable and will catch more fish when yellowtailing in proper conditions.
As far as sailfishing goes, we’re still not seeing a ton of fish yet in the Middle Keys. We are seeing fish here and there, but we’re waiting for that big push to pass through. In Islamorada several boats had multiple sailfish hookups last week, so hopefully this is a good sign of things to come in the weeks ahead.
Inshore, the windy conditions didn’t prevent anglers from getting in on the redhot redfish action, both in the creeks of the Middle Keys, and over the in backcountry waters of Everglades National Park. Best results have been with slow jigging live shrimp and casting bucktails. In addition to the great redfishing, the same techniques have yielded good results for snook, speckled trout, black drum, and more.
Over on the deep Gulf wrecks the cobia action continues to be very good, providing anglers with a great chance of bagging a keeper on nearly every trip. In addition, the Gulf wrecks have provided consisted action for grouper, jacks, kingfish, Spanish mackerel, and snapper.
Your Best Bet for the Week Ahead: Yellowtail Snapper Fishing!
The yellowtail snapper bite has been excellent on the patches and on the deep reef.