While not always the best table fare, amberjacks, known to locals as ‘reef donkeys,’ can put up a heck of a fight – and make for a great photo. NICK BORRACCINO/Contributed

Brrrr!!! It’s been pretty chilly for quite a while around here, relatively speaking. Yeah, I know it’s not Michigan, Ohio or Wisconsin cold, but we rarely have temperatures that start with a 6 for more than a few days in a row in the Keys. But fear not – “cold” weather means hot fishing!

Despite water temperatures in the Gulf in the 60s, the action out there is steady. Wrecks 15 miles or as far as you want to go have been holding cobia – some nice ones too. Don’t get impatient out there; they often wait till slack tide to pop up, and when they do, they’re usually enticed by a bucktail jig, chugger, live pinfish or the like. Bring a large landing net to measure close ones, and remember, the size limit is now 36 inches to the fork.

There’s also steady action out there with snappers, runners, jacks, pompano and mackerels.  A small jig tipped with shrimp is tough to beat.

The oceanside has been active too. You can make a nice mixed bag day by trolling and fishing some shallow stuff in Hawk Channel and patch reefs, deeper yellowtail reefs and wrecks. There has been a pretty constant presence of marauding sharks on the deeper reefs and wrecks, so if you find yourself losing fish to sea monsters, move. Don’t just stay there and sacrifice fish. 

The wahoo bite on the troll remains steady in 100 to 300 feet, taken with all sizes, shapes, colors and speeds of lures. Do try some different stuff and figure out what’s tickling their fancy that day. 

As usual, the bite in the reef will depend greatly on the current. When that’s gone, I’m gone. Get hooked up with a local charter (i.e. yours truly) to get out in the meat. 

I often get asked about running a rental boat or private boat, but I hardly ever say yes, and the same will hold true with most other charter captains in the Keys. It’s usually much easier to jump on a charter boat than to try that, and when you consider all the costs involved, it’s probably cheaper.  

Also, remember to turn your phone off, or at least your location services, when you head out on a charter (yes, that’s a thing). If a captain catches you trying to pull a sneaky spot-stealing game, you’ll walk the plank! Just kidding – but, yes, it is extremely taboo to be using maps, GPS apps or other location services on someone else’s boat. The word on the coconut telegraph is that there’s been a bit of that going around. It seems like common sense, but if you don’t know, now you know.

Good luck out there, and be safe, respectful and courteous to your fellow anglers. Catch ’em up!

To book a trip with NorEaster Sportfishing, call Capt. Nick at (508) 769-4189.