All’s quiet on the Keys front. If you listen closely, you may even hear the faint sound of a tailing bonefish splashing around on a flat, or the crunching of crustaceans by a hungry parrotfish out on the reef.
Look around and you’ll notice the channels are no longer congested with anchored center consoles. The No Wake Zones devoid of jet skis zooming around at full throttle. And the turtle grass is safe from scars—if only for a short time.
It must be the offseason. Time for us locals in the hospitality industry to do our best to stay busy, while at the same time taking a few moments to sit back, relax, get out on the water, and enjoy all the reasons we choose to live here.
What’s great about this time of year is the lack of fishing pressure and boat traffic the Keys’ waters receive. From inshore all the way out to the reef, the fish become far less line shy and far more aggressive.
Inshore, around the channels, on the flats, and in the small lagoons and basins, resident tarpon have been stacked up throughout the islands providing an excellent light tackle challenge for those looking to pursue them.
If the wind starts to blow, or you just want to stay close to home, stalking these resident 40 to 50-pound fish can be an absolute blast. Live baits such as pilchards or small pinfish often work best, while live shrimp, crabs, artificial lures, and flies will also catch your share of fish.
When you’ve had your fun catching and releasing hard-fighting poons, it’s time to head out to the reef where the lack of boats on the water also positively impacts the yellowtail snapper fishing.
The water has been crystal clear of late, but you can still catch the large flag yellowtails as the fish should less finicky about eating your bait (they don’t have 20 boats a day trying to catch them). Just remember to chum out a thick slick and use the lightest fluorocarbon leader that you can get away with while still being able to get the fish to the boat before the sharks get them.
While you’re out there, don’t be afraid to troll live baits (such as ballyhoo) on the surface and in the mid-water column depths. Nice smoker kings in the 25 to 30-pound class have started showing up and will add some excitement to your trip after you’ve loaded up the coolers with tasty yellowtail fillets.
Further out, the deep wrecks continue to produce quality catches of mutton snapper and large rod-bending amberjacks, and the dolphin fishing remains quite solid just offshore.
For those of you still trying to get out and catch a few late summertime dorados, search for large grass patches scattered between 200 and 300 feet of water and you should have a good chance of landing your share of gaffer-sized fish, with plenty of schoolies mixed in.
On the humps, the tuna fishing remains red hot and definitively worth the boat ride out. Trolling seems to be the most productive method for catching the smaller blackfins, and while live baiting may be the best technique to entice the larger fish, the silky sharks have arrived and can make it difficult to get them to the boat. Regardless, the smaller fish are still fun to catch on light tackle and taste just as good, if not better, when sliced up and eaten raw back at the dock.
Your Best Bet for the Week Ahead: Happy Birthday Jen
I’d like to wish the lovely Jennifer Dinan, aka the extremely hard-working Marketing Manager at Hawks Cay Resort, a happy 30th birthday! Have a drink on me – and two on Matt and Carolyn!
BET—- Guys from the Hartley Company enjoyed a nice day of dolphin and snapper fishing in the Middle Keys.
Tarpon—- September is a great time of year to target resident tarpon in the 40 to 50-pound class.