Brrrr! The recent weather has been a little cold and windy for my liking. On a positive note, it isn’t snowing like it is in many parts of the country. Still, temps in the 50s are well below what we’re accustomed to here in the Keys. I guess it’s just Mother Nature’s way of reminding us how good we have it most of the year.
While last week’s weather wasn’t ideal, the fishing was nothing short of exceptional. From Hawk Channel out to the blue water, anglers who did leave the dock were rewarded with excellent catches of a wide variety of species. Offshore, the cooler waters pushed many of the sharks away from the Humps, making it easier to target and land quality blackfin tunas. If heading out to the Humps I suggest trolling feathers to target the abundance of fish feeding on the surface. Live baits will also produce, just keep in mind that frenzied tunas will also attract the sharks that decided to stick around. Beef up your tackle and get the blackfins to the boat before the sharks turn your catch into their own holiday meal!
The cooler water temperatures did thin out the dolphin fishing. We caught a few fish here and there; however I wouldn’t dedicate an entire day to targeting dolphin right now. If you are offshore and come across a strong current edge or thick weedline don’t hesitate to put a spread out. There are fish still around and that’s where you’ll find them this time of year.
Out on the deep wrecks the mutton snapper have really been chewing. We caught several nice fish in the eight to 12-pound class last week, with a few slob pinks mixed in as well. Live ballyhoo and large pilchards have been the baits of choice, and if you keep getting cut off there’s a good chance the wreck is also loaded with kingfish. If the wreck is full of kings and you’re primarily targeting muttons, either move to another spot, or live chum the kingfish to the surface. Usually if you catch a few of them, the rest of the school will thin out. It’s a fun way to catch a few smoker kings, and save some hooks in the process.
Closer to shore, the reef is filled with life. Cero mackerel and all species of snapper have been active on the patches. And the large schools of ballyhoo on the patches and deep reef continue to lure in the pelagics, including sailfish, wahoo, and even blackfin tuna. While anchored on the reef keep your eyes peeled for frigate birds and bait sprays. The sailfish action has been red hot and these are great indicators of where the fish are.
If a strong wind is blowing out of the north, look no further than fishing the channel humps of Hawk Channel. Not only will conditions be more favorable than out on the reef, but this cold front should really turn the grouper bite on. Medium pilchards, small pinfish, and ballyhoo will all produce, as well live shrimp which could also land you a tasty hogfish.
Your Best Bet for the Week Ahead:
Full-Day Fishing Charter
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Three generations of the Chichar family enjoyed a great day on the reef aboard the Best Bet. The group limited out on mangrove snappers and Dave felt bad for having a bigger dolphin than his son Doug so his 30 pounder was released.
Ryan Yancey with his first sailfish caught this past week aboard the Best Bet. Pictured with Best Bet First Mate Bobby Manske