Happy New Year to all my fishing friends. Right now fishing around the areas of the Upper Keys is as good as I can remember it ever being since I came down here in 1990.
Times have most definitely changed quite a bit, but our resource is strong, I say “Keys strong!”
Christmas week was surprisingly busy around here, both offshore and in the backcountry. Temperatures have been up-and-down and recently been way down, especially in the evenings. Although there are closures on snook, hoggies and the majority of our groupers, the king mackerel limit increased from two- to three-per-angler, per-day. I don’t know about you, but smoked fish dip is a winter time staple food at my house.
Good numbers of king macks were reported up-and-down the reef’s edge pretty much from Key Largo to Marathon. The first thing I learned how to do when I got down here after throwing a cast net was the old “two up, two down,” slow trolling along the edge of the reef with the live bait. Lots of kings being caught right now.
Wahoo was on the menu though for Captain Lee Holt and his guests aboard the SeaCow. It was almost a year ago to the day that he reported a double header of wahoo. Well, almost exactly a year later, they’ve showed up in almost the same exact place. He caught a 50-plus-pounder on a recent trip in 140 feet of dirty green water, and a 25-pounder in the same general area. Way to go Capt Lee and friends.
Also on the offshore side of our island chain, an increasing supply of sailfish are showing up and coming through our area anywhere from the top of the reef ( 50 feet of water ) out to 180 feet, depending on where the current makes an edge.
The Catch 22 charter boat with Capt Scott Stanczyk at the helm released 14 sailfish during a recent day trip over the Christmas holiday. They were all caught by sight fishing — basically meaning they cast live bait to sails that were spotted from the tower.
A few cobia were caught in the same manner by a few different boats in the offshore fleet. Traveling with stingrays, there were several cobia caught between 40 and 60 pounds in around 30 feet of water over the sandy bottom during the Christmas break and New Year week.
On the backcountry side, some chilly conditions and stiff breezes made the ride back to Cape Sable area a challenge to say the least. Capt. Skip Nielsen among other backcountry guides found steady and consistent action with the Spanish mackerel, mangrove snapper and a few large tarpon on the edges of Everglades National Park.
Around deeper parts of Florida Bay and areas east, guides found snook, redfish and black drum in the cold, but calmer water. A handful of sawfish were also caught on New Years, a great way to kick things off while your waiting for a tarpon bite.
An interesting story came in from the party boat Miss Islamorada recently. While catching yellowtail and a variety of snapper at a shallow reef area, anglers aboard hooked and landed six bonefish which is something I’ve never heard of before on a party boat, until now. You just never know what you’re going to experience I guess.
Big largemouth bass were biting again for Capt Vinny, my neighbor. Forty- to 50-degree air temperatures couldn’t stop this annual tradition. Take a kid on Christmas Day Bass trip to the lively ponds located deep in the Everglades. They also catch juvenile tarpon in some of the same spots, from a canoe!
Get on down to the docks when you can, stay bundled up when you’re in the wind, and Happy New Year!
Capt. Donald Deputy covers the sport of fishing in and around the areas of the Upper Keys. Reach him direct at firstname.lastname@example.org with your personal fish tales and photos.