Hemingway ran with the bulls, Jordan played for the bulls and anglers are catching bull redfish in the Gulf! Bull redfish are the reds that can reach the size of an NFL kicker and they are known to run the Gulf waters in big angry herds. Fishermen have terms for the largest of the fish they catch; the nickname “Bull” is applied to the outsized dolphin and redfish we catch, “Hog” Largemouth Bass are called “Bucket Mouths,” sea trout over 28 inches are referred to as “Gator Trout” and so on.
I use the old Southern term of endearment of “Biggin” to cover just about anything that you gotta wrassel up in the boat or down to the ground, as in this example: Bubba caught a snook last week that was a Biggin and he ’bout had to wrassel it into the cooler! You will read about a widely used Keys bait called a Pilchard that goes by “White Bait,” “Greenie” and “”Shiner” up North.
The backcountry waters of Florida Bay are called the “Swamp” once a year and it’s time for the Swamp Guides Ball. This is a one-day, fun day tournament where everyone is welcome to fish out back in the “Swamp” for bonefish, snook and redfish. It’s a chance for Keys guides to fish a tournament as well as anyone else. There are divisions for kids as well; future guides will come out of the event. The kickoff dinner and silent auction will be on Saturday, Feb. 1 and fishing and awards are the following day at Lorelei Restaurant and Marina in Islamorada. For more info on this great event go to www.FKGA.org/swamp-guides-ball.
Fishing has been very consistent on both sides of the islands this winter; in particular, the blackfin tuna bite has been insane! I get daily reports of BFTs in the 25-pound-plus range being caught in the 200- to 300-foot depths from Key Largo to Marathon on live baits. Sailfish are on the bite as well and cobia are here for the taking too. The islands out back and the flats are holding huge numbers of snook, reds and sea trout.
Take the time this week to get out on the water, whether from a boat, bridge or hidden shoreline. While you are out here, do Mother Nature a favor and pick up any trash you will unfortunately see. Be one of seven billion; in other words, if we picked up around us on a daily basis what a sight to see the Earth would be.
Capt. Matt Bellinger is owner and operator of Bamboo Charters in Islamorada. He has a live fishing report that airs daily on three radio shows on two stations in the Florida Keys.