Summertime fishing in the Keys is a chance to catch a bit of everything ­­— from black fin tuna to a box full of lobsters.

It’s beautiful out on the water and an excellent time of year to go fishing. First, the wind has died down and the summer storms are not popping up as much. Beautiful weather makes for a sunny, relaxing day on the ocean. Also, The Keys have started to clear out. Summer vacations are over and kids are back in school. Less people in the area means fewer boats on the water. The reef is no longer full and you don’t have to leave the dock at 5 a.m. to be the first one at The Mararthon Humps. Overall, there are far fewer people out fishing which usually means a better day out on the water. This is a great time of year to fish the reef, the wrecks, the bridges and all the spots that get hit hardest during the busy tourist months.

By the end of season, the fish, and the fisherman, are worn out. Many of our snappers, groupers, dolphins, etc., won’t fall for the ‘ol hook, line, and sinker bit anymore. That’s why captains and anglers use fluorocarbon leaders, light tackle, and other techniques to get these picky eaters to bite. During the slow season, local fish get a break and are more receptive to the bait or lure that is presented to them. Less people out on the water usually means more fish in the cooler.

Another reason why this is an excellent time of year to fish is that the water is still likely to be relatively calm. Yes, from time to time we may get some wind that creates a slight chop on the water. But in general, September and early October offer extremely comfortable conditions for anchoring on the reef, or venturing offshore for tuna, dolphin, or swordfish. Also, if you’re prone to getting seasick, now is a great time to get on the water since the winds and water are generally calm.

An additional reason why now is an excellent time to get out on the water is there is a wide variety of fish available to catch. September and October are great months for reef and wreck fishing. The reefs are packed with fish for great action with mangroves, yellowtails, muttons, and grouper. Plus on the wrecks, you just don’t know what you’re going to pull up when you drop down a bait. You can catch your usual target species of mutton snapper, amberjacks, and groupers, but’s there’s also a good chance you may hook up with a big cobia, wahoo, or kingfish.

Oh, and don’t forget the lobsters! If you went out and tried to catch them during the end of July and August, you may have noticed that many of the holes were cleared out. The big lobsters were already gone and all that was left were undersized ones. But as the traffic on the water starts to lessen, with many of the summertime divers and bullynetters gone, the big, legal sized lobsters are returning to their holes. I went out diving for lobsters last month, and set out to hit my regular holes. Unfortunately, someone else beat me to it. Many of my usual spots were already emptied with only the tiny bugs left. I went out lobster diving again last week, and thankfully, had a much better experience. A few weeks of less people diving in the water, trying to fill their cooler with Florida spiny lobsters, had made all the difference. My same holes that only a month ago were completely empty, we’re now crawling with nice sized lobsters.

Finally, during slow season, it’s easier to find better prices throughout the Florida Keys. Hotels, restaurants, and even some fishing charters will often lower their normal rates. So don’t hesitate to book your Marathon vacation during September or October, and remember to include a fishing charter on your trip. You’ll be able to get out on our beautiful blue waters, and there’s a good chance you’ll have it all to yourself!


Capt. Ariel Medero is the captain of Big Game Sportfishing, located at the Hammocks of Marathon, MM 48. For more information, check out his web site at or email him at [email protected]. Friend him on Facebook, too.


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