As the dense fog rolled into the Middle Keys this past Tuesday, I had an eerie feeling that we were all part of a Steven King novel. What a perfect setting for his next horror plot: A sleepy fishing village miles away from the mainland; only one road leading in or out of town; and no chance for rescue when “The Fog” made the islands disappear. Okay, maybe I’m getting a little carried away. After all, in the northeast fog is an everyday occurrence in many of the coastal communities. But in the Florida Keys, seeing these gray clouds of cool air creep in, especially in the evening, is something we don’t witness everyday.
In regards to the fishing, the fog symbolized the arrival of yet another cold front, albeit mild compared to the great chill of 2010. Taking a look at windfinder.com (a great online tool for boaters), early forecasts call for northeast winds from 15-18 mph this weekend, before lying down to calmer conditions midweek. All-in-all we have very fishable days ahead, and now is a great time to get on the water and take advantage of a variety of different fisheries that are really heating up.
If heading offshore, be prepared to travel a little further out in search of your pelagic species. Heavy tides and consistent north winds have stirred up the water, pushing many of these fish out deeper. So instead of targeting pelagics in 100-150 feet, you may need to fish deeper than 200 feet to find the fish. Look for strong easterly current edges of clear blue seas and you may find sailfish, wahoo, blackfin tunas, dolphin, and kingfish.
Those looking for a tasty meal closer to home need search no further than the patch reefs. We’re still having great success with mangrove snappers as well as the occasional mutton. Live pilchards and small live pinfish fished on jig heads are producing the best results. Just keep in mind that in these cooler water temperatures mangroves have a tendency to shut off without warning. If you catch a four or five fish at a certain spot, and the bite suddenly slows, don’t hesitate to pick up anchor and move on to another location.
One species that we are finding in consistent numbers in the cooler waters of the Atlantic are cobia. From Hawk Channel, to the reef, out to the deep wrecks, the cobia are really beginning to show up, and we’ve caught several quality fish up to 50-pounds over the past couple weeks. When targeting cobia always be prepared with a pitch that you can cast a long distance, rigged either with a large live bait or buck tail jig with a twister tail. Cobias are a notoriously spooky fish, and it’s best to cast to them and before the boat scares them off.
Out on the deep wrecks we’re still been catching big mutton snappers, with live pilchards, ballyhoo, and pinfish being the baits of choice. The big amberjacks are also starting to bite steadily on the wrecks and make for great battles for anglers wanting to wrestle with one of the sea’s strongest fighting fish. Just drop a large live bait or butterfly jig to the bottom and hold on. In addition, we’re catching good numbers of kingfish on the wrecks. Fish a butterfly jig or live bait with a stretch of wire at various depths and you should be able to hook a few quality kings for the smoker.
Your Best Bet for the Week Ahead: Find the Blue Water
Stained water has pushed the pelagics out deeper. Find the clear blue water and you’ll have a shot at sailfish, dolphin, tuna, wahoo, blackfin tuna, and more!