Cold fronts aren’t all that bad. I agree that they don’t make for ideal swimming, snorkeling, or sunbathing conditions. And yes, the strong winds can make fishing difficult at times. But there are several positives that come along with these cold and gusty Florida Keys days. It’s great weather for kiteboarding; even better weather for bellying up to the bar at your favorite Keys watering hole; and for us anglers, these cold fronts mean more and more sailfish arriving in our local waters.
While the sailfishing has been excellent throughout the month of November, this front should heat things up even more. This time of year sailfish migrate down the coast in search of water temperatures that meet their liking (similar to our seasonal residents), and each time a front moves in, a new push of fish arrives with it. Then once those fish discover all the bait hanging out on the reef, they generally stick around for a while. So while these cold days aren’t ideal for most vacationers, they shouldn’t deter you from fishing. The cold temps should trigger a red hot sailfish bite over the weeks ahead.
For those of you new to sailfishing, there are basically three ways we target sails here in the Keys. The first, and my preferred method, is sight fishing. Sight fishing involves locating the fish, running to them, and then pitching a live bait to the fish. This type of fishing is extremely exciting, and it’s also very productive.
To locate sails, keep an eye out for bait sprays, free jumpers, frigate birds, and sails tailing in the waves if conditions are right. Have a live ballyhoo ready to pitch, and once you get within casting range try and place that bait in front of the fish where he can see it. A good rule of thumb when sight fishing is to fish areas with lots of ballyhoo. Right now the ballyhoo are on top of the reef in 25 to 80 feet of water, and that’s where you should start.
One more note about site fishing. Site fishing works much better on sunny days with clear skies. Not only does it allow us to see the fish better, but it also allows the fish to see the bait better from bellow. Therefore you’ll generally see more sails on the reef on clear days as opposed to when conditions are overcast.
The second way we target sails is by trolling live or dead baits. One good thing about trolling is that you can cover a lot of water, and fish a variety of depths. Not to mention, you never know what might come up and slam your spread this time of year. Dolphin (mahi mahi), kingfish, wahoo, and more can all be caught this way. Work depths anywhere from 50 to 250 feet, and keep an eye out for color changes and current edges, which will generally be productive areas to troll. Also have a few rods rigged with wire leader in case you begin to get cut off by the toothy critters.
The third way we catch sailfish is by kite fishing. Kite fishing involves using a special fishing kite to get your bait away from the boat and swimming freely on the surface where the fish can see it. This is a great way to multi-task while anchored up or drift fishing for other species as well as sails. Preferred baits are big pilchards, goggle eyes, and threadfin herring.
Your Best Bet for the Weeks Ahead: Go Sailfishing!
Whether heading out on your own or with a professional guide, take advantage of the phenomenal Florida Keys sailfish bite. Stop by the Best Bet boats located on the Sadowski Causeway in Key Colony Beach, and we’ll be glad to set you up with a trip. Best Bet also has gift certificates available if you want to give your friends or loved ones the ultimate holiday gift- a day on the water!
Shelley Payer with a sailfish she caught aboard the Best Bet II with a little assistance from first mate Wayne Burre. Shelley has fished the waters from Bermuda to Central America and she always out fishes Jim.