One subject that I haven’t talked much about much in the fishing reports is Florida Keys shark fishing. We often get so set on targeting the so-called “trophy” species, notably bonefish, permit, and tarpon inshore, and sailfish, wahoo, dolphin, and tuna offshore, that we forget how exciting it is to do battle with the greatest saltwater predator of all—the shark! As scary as it may sound to some of you, we’re truly blessed to have dozens of shark species that call the Florida Keys home. Tigers, hammerheads, makos, bulls, blacktips, lemons…you name it, and you’ll find it swimming around somewhere in our local waters.
For us anglers, shark fishing can be both exciting and challenging. On the flats, shark fishing is loads of fun on light tackle and fly gear, especially during the winter months when the big three flats species may not be as readily available. While from the bridges all the way out to the continental shelf, wresting with any number of shark species is sure offer the experience of a lifetime.
One of my favorite areas to target big sharks this time of year is on the reef between 60 and 80 feet of water. Because it’s the busy season, and a lot of boats are out chumming the waters and offering up free meals, the shark populations are quite thick right now on the reef. Last week we caught an estimated 250 to 300-pound bull shark while fishing for yellowtail snapper. It was an epic battle, and took over an hour and 40 minutes to land.
For targeting sharks on the reef have your heavy gear rigged up and be ready to sacrifice a live keeper yellowtail instead of tossing it in the cooler. The big bull we hooked was caught on a 3-pound tail. Also be ready to switch gears if the sharks move into your spot and make it impossible to get your yellowtails to the boat. Before picking up the anchor and moving to a new spot why not try and hook up with one of the sharks? The fight will be unforgettable, and you’ll have some great photos and video to share with your friends.
For more information on shark fishing or to book a shark trip, stop by the Best Bet boats located on the Sadowski Causeway in Key Colony Beach.
While the sharks have been thick on the reef, they really haven’t presented much of a problem while targeting big yellowtails. The yellowtail bite has been as good as I’ve seen it in some time, with quality sized fish averaging from two to four pounds. For targeting yellowtails this week, fish between 50 and 80 feet of water and don’t forget to chum heavily. You should be able to hook into some nice cero mackerel in these depths as well.
Also on the reef, as well as in Hawk Channel, the kingfish bite has heated up. It seems the last cold front really turned these fish on out in the Atlantic, and the fishing should only get better as we experience another slight dip in the weather this weekend. For targeting smaller kingfish in the five to 15 pound range, live pilchards and ballyhoo are your best bet. For going after the big smokers get out your large live baits such as a blue runners or goggle eyes.
On the other side of the islands, the Fishing in Florida Bay and the backcountry continues to be excellent. We’re still seeing good catches of cobia, kingfish, Spanish mackerel, mangrove snapper, sea trout, permit, redfish, and more. Florida Bay also offers some of the best shark fishing in the Florida Keys, which is a great way to mix up your trip after loading up on tasty cobia or snapper for dinner.
Your Best Bet for the Week Ahead: Go Shark Fishing!
Test your strength and battle the greatest predators in the sea. Florida Keys shark fishing is fun for anglers of all skill levels, and provides great stories to share with your friends back home.