As Winter shows up North the Fish show up in the Florida Keys.
Watching the Weather Channel I noticed that the Windy City has already had to shovel snow! Here in Islamorada we’ve still been experiencing Summer like conditions with day time temps in the high 80’s and the fishing has been great!
Florida Bay in the Everglades National Park where we fish. The average depth of the Bay is only 3 1/2 feet. These shallows are fertile and the Snook, Redfish and small Tarpon are here to feed. Sothe best baits have been live shrimp or D.O.A. Shrimp lures. Shrimp catch fish when nothing else works! We always have someone pitching 5 -6 inch soft plastic jerk baits rigged weedless. Color wise you can’t beat white or shad colors. The Redfish are running from 16-24 inches in good numbers. Snook have been about the same size with some 30 inch fish mixed in. Both of our 25 foot Contender Bay boats have a Minn Kota trolling motors. Trolling motors allow us to take these boats up into shallow water and sight fish the backcountry. The shallows is where the bite is these days.
‘Cooler weather to our North has pushed Spanish Mackerel into the waters bordering Western Florida Bay. The past few days we’ve chummed up a consistent bite. Add in some very tasty Mangrove snappers and you have a great meal for the end of the day! We have choices daily between Florida Bay and the Everglades and this improves you day.
The Fall season here in the Florida Keys is offers a good mix of fish species. Leaving from our dock in Islamorada allows us to be in the Florida Bay portion of the Everglades National Park in no time at all. Once in the Everglades we can search for Redfish, Snook and Sea trout. We will find small Tarpon in the 10-30 pound range as well and there are always sharks around. Speaking of sharks, this is when large Blacktip sharks and Spinner sharks come back in town! These two species will put on a show like no other, they scream off drag and jump like Sailfish.
Snook fishing has been a large part of our daily trips to the backcountry and they’ve been cooperative eating live baits of all kinds as well as various artificial baits. We’ve been catching a mix of sizes from 3 lbs to up to 15 lbs. The perfect rod and reel set up we use is 8-12 pound 7 foot spinning rod matched with a Penn 3500 series reel. We use SpiderWire Braid on all of our reels and in this combo we use 10 pound class braid. Besides Snook we will catch Redfish, Sea Trout, Snappers and small Tarpon. Bait choices are easy, live shrimp, Pinfish and cut baits do the job. Buck tail jigs and soft plastic jerk baits, shad tails on jigs let you cover water well with great results.
BambooCharters runs 25 foot Bay boats from Contender Boats powered by a Yamaha 300 hp. This boat has plenty of room for parties of up to 6 people on any trip. We have a cooler on board for the canned water and soft drinks that we supply on every trip. The boat is outfitted with Garmin Marine GPS and fish finder, VHF radio, Stereo and a Minn Kota Trolling motor for working shorelines and island moats.
Late Sunday night and Monday morning Spring showers moved through the Florida Keys. This is no big deal to the fish as we all know because they are already wet! Capt. Bruce Anderson of Captain Easy Charters had a hardy client who did not mind the showers so they head out to the reef for some fishing. After gathering a good mix of live baits Capt. Bruce worked his way to the 150 foot depths and the action started almost immediately. King Mackerel ranging from 15 to 25 pounds started crashing baits at a hectic pace. Add to the catch a nice Black Grouper that nailed a live bait on the long line and all aboard were pleased with the day.
This time of the year the vast majority of the charter business is made up of families down enjoying spring break. The boats leaving the docks look like school buses, loads of smiling kids and parents headed out to play. This is what I call the “short attention span crowd” and I mean it in a kind way. The object of these trips with loads of kids is to hook up fish early and often throughout the whole trip. Nothing fits the bill like a good Sea trout bite or a red-hot Snapper loaded patch reef. The Trout action is hot and heavy right now and these fish are big eaters! Both live and artificial baits will bring on whopper strikes and fish! The Trout today averaged 18 inches in length and just over 2 lbs. Kids of all ages love keeping the fishing pole bent over and these fish are glad to help. Along the way all of the guides are reporting that with the Trout there is an abundance of Jacks and Ladyfish mixed in the keep the action hot. Most charters during this time of the year are half day , four hour trips then its back to the dock so the family can continue with their spring vacation here in the Florida Keys.
BEGINNER’S LUCK AND A GREAT CAPTAIN MAKES THE DIFFERENCE
Earlier this week I had the pleasure of meeting Shirley and Chuck from Ishpeming Michigan, a town so small on the U.P. that no one knows the places’ correct spelling! This couple loves fishing, freshwater, saltwater, even frozen water, it just doesn’t matter. We had a blast catching Spanish Mackerel and Baracuda on Mon and on Weds they went offshore fishing with Capt. Brian Cone of Contagious Charters. This is where the great captain part kicks in, by 9:15 AM they had already had the trip of a lifetime! People will fish for their whole lives and never match the morning that this fun couple was treated to by Capt. Brian Cone. By 9:15 AM they had caught several big King Macks, several nice Mahi-Mahi and a White Marlin! All on kite flown baits and all on the reef! After releasing the Marlin they settled down to a great catch of hard fighting Yellowtail Snappers and a few hard-charging Bonito before calling it a day! Here are two shots from the two trips they fished while here in the Florida Keys.
This past week was a wild one! Winter conditions still persist with windy and cold mornings and warm windy afternoons. The wind has been the one consistent thing we have had around here. Yet the wind has been all over the compass, changing directions all through the day and wreaking havoc with the backcountry tides! The upside of the week is that snook season has opened at last and stays open until May 1. The opening of snook season is always a welcome event. We get to catch these fish all year long, but to keep the population of this game fish healthy the harvest of snook is only 5 months each year. Snook are a warm water species and will take both natural and artificial baits. The past few years area guides have been talking about the large numbers of small 18 to 26 inch snook that can be found all around the Flamingo area. This is great news and just indicates that we have a very healthy snook population here in the Keys. The snook is a beautiful fish that is a challenge on light tackle that we use here in the backcountry and they put up great jumps and blazing runs once hooked. The super thing about snook is that they can be found from the bridges on out to the Gulf and up into the heart of the Everglades. Find a guide and give these fighters a try. March is the season of spring break and with this comes time for family fishing here in the Keys. Kids of all ages along with their parents will be looking for things to do here in paradise. If getting off of the beaten track appeals to you take a good look at going fishing with an area guide. There is so much more to a fishing trip than just fishing. You will see Eco – tours offered and they are fun, short trips around the nearshore waters of the Keys. A fishing trip into the backcountry is the original Eco – tour, we see so much wildlife as we travel through the Everglades National Park. Your guide very knowledgeable in the where, what and whys of all of the wildlife that can be found there. This is prime time for dolphin watching and birding and the guides of Islamorada are a great source of information sitting right there in his boat. Bring a camera and a sense of adventure and you will be blown away at the sights and sounds of the backcountry. We have a listing of some fine guides in the back of this issue of “The Weekly Fisherman” give one a call.
Capt.Brian Cone runs his charter business out of Robbie’s Marina here in Islamorada. His boat is called the Contagious and Capt. Brian knows how to run things right. This morning at 9:15 AM he calls me to tell me that the anglers that we were sharing had just finished landing a 50 pound White Marlin as well as a full limit of nice King Mackerel and a hand full of Mahi-Mahi! All these wonderfull game fish were caught under a kite set up and on the edge of the reef. This was a hard act to follow but Capt. Brian ended the charter with a big catch of flag Yellowtail Snapper, flag means a fish over 5 pounds, BIG SNAPPER! You can find Capt. Brian Cone at http://www.Islamoradafishing.com he is the man! March and April is family time in the Florida Keys. Spring break means family fun fishing. This means find fish fast and keep the kids hooked up. Sea Trout are a great fish to target on these trips, they are aggressive eaters and will take a wide range of both natural and artificial baits. Perfect for the new angler or those who want to catch large numbers of fish. The morning bite was wide open on the falling tide in the backcountry and we cashed in on good sized fish.
Capt.Brian Cone runs his charter business out of Robbie’s Marina here in Islamorada. His boat is called the Contagious and Capt. Brian knows how to run thngs right. This morning at 9:15 AM he calls me to tell me that the anglers that we were sharing had just finished landing a 50 pound White Marlin as well as a full limit of nice King Mackerel and a hand full of Mahi-Mahi! All these wonderfull game fish were caught under a kite set up and on the edge of the reef. This was a hard act to follow but Capt. Brian ended the charter with a big catch of flag Yellowtail Snapper, flag means a fish over 5 pounds, BIG SNAPPER! You can find Capt. Brian Cone at http://www.Islamoradafishing.com he is the man! March and April is family time in the Florida Keys. Spring break means family fun fishing. This means find fish fast and keep the kids hooked up. Sea Trout are a great fish to target on these trips, they are aggressive eaters and wll take a wide range of both natural and artifical baits. Perfect for the new angler or those who want to catch large numbers of fish. The morning bite was wide open on the falling tide in the backcountry and we cashed in on good sized fish.
Today was a day of change. The morning started out blowing cold out of the North at about 20 mph, as the day wore on the winds dropped out to the low teens. By 2:30 PM the seas were just about flat calm. The offshore boys had a hard time finding Ballyhoo, the preferred bait here in the Keys, once they had bait the Kingfish bite took off in 150 to 200 ft of water. The crew of the charter boat “Reef Runner”, with Capt. Paul Johnson at the helm, found these speedy fish in the 15 to 25 lb range. The crew of the “Gold Reserve” limited out as well and put together a great bite of hard fighting Bonito throughout the day. I found a huge school of Jack Crevalle on the shallow shoals of Alligator Reef and my anglers were able to land several of these brutes using topwater lures and 10 lb spin gear. Jacks are underrated as a game fish due to the fact that they will eat anything you throw them, yet they are one of the toughest fish that you will ever fight! These fish averaged 25 lbs and took nearly 20 minutes each to land. The Everglades waters warmed a bit this afternoon and Redfish, Blackdrum and Trout showed up for guides working with live shrimp and jigs. The cold water won’t affect the Reds and Drum that much but Snook and Tarpon have been hard to find as of late. If this warm weather that the weather boys are talking about comes soon this fish will show up hungry.
This morning was another record setter! The temperature was 47f at 6:45 am, when do we start selling snowmobile tours? That aside, the shallow patch reef in as shallow as 10 ft of water on out to 25 ft held good numbers of fish. Baracuda will bask in the sun just under the surface of the water soaking up the warmth of the sun and looking for slow moving baits. We used Hank Brown Hook Up Lures tube lures to catch ‘Cudas up to 15 lbs. Live shrimp on 1/4 oz jigs worked slowly across the bottom produced good numbers of Snapper and Sheepshead. As the day warmed up Cero Mackerel came into the slick and livened things up. Capt. Jack Carlson did very well on reef fish as well as several nice Cobia as an added bonus.