Mid summer in Key West can be a challenging time of year. Offshore the Dolphin fishing is less consistent than in previous months. Dolphin remain but they tend to be on average smaller fish, located further offshore. A minimum of a 3/4 day is required to have a fair chance for success. Fortunately there are other options for shorter trips or for those seeking fish other than Dolphin. The reef action for Snapper has been consistent and at times excellent for Grey Snapper, Yellowtail Snapper and Mutton Snapper. Dropping live baits on deep water wrecks is producing decent Amberjack action. Inshore trolling is producing action from Little Tunny, Cero and a few Wahoo.
Author Archives: CaptainBrad
A year ago we were experiencing one of the worst Dolphin fishing seasons in anyone’s memory. This year the Dolphin fishing is much improved with steady action over the last three weeks or more. We have not seen many of the classic east west weedlines which were a feature of Dolphin fishing in the past but there have been plenty of areas of scattered weed holding fish and plenty of birds to show us the way. The most important birds indicating the presence of Dolphin include Frigate birds, Noddy’s and Bridled Terns. The shearwaters which are also common typically indicate Skipjack Tuna. To maximize my clients chances for success, I spend all day in the Tuna Tower which gives me a superior observation post. Plenty of lithium batteries to power the stabilizing feature in my binnoculars allows me to find birds far on the horizon which would be invisible to the naked eye.
The last month has featured very steady and on some days excellent Dolphin fishing. While the Dolphin run was late to get started, it remains to be seen how long it will last. So far so good.Â Finding birds, weed and debris have been the key to a successful day. In addition to Dolphin we have been catching Skipjack Tuna, Blackfin Tuna and a few Sailfish.
Dolphin season is in full swing with most of the action relatively inshore in water depths of 300 feet to 500 feet. A period of strong and sustained east winds beginning around the 15th seemed to turn the fish on. In addition to Dolphin, we are catchingÂ good sized Blackfin Tuna and the occasional Sailfish. Reef action for Snapper and Grouper has been good when we have had green water on the reef.
Sail fishing has improved dramatically over the course of the last several weeks. A spring migration of Sailfish is typical in April so we are happy to see them here. Most of our Sails are being caught on live bait fished from kites. We are also catching Kingfish, Little Tunny and a few Blackfin Tuna off the kite. Amberjacks have moved in on the wrecks along with a few Cobia. On the reef, Yellowtail Snapper and Mutton Snapper are biting pretty well although Sharks have been a problem on a lot of spots. We are seeing a lot of tailing Hammerhead Sharks as is also typical this time of year.
We have been working hard over the last several weeks to produce decent catches for our clients. As is always the case with fishing, some days are better than others. Staying flexable and being willing to employ lots of different tactics, all in the same day has been the key to success. I have often counted more than 20 different rods and reels that need to be put away at the end of the day because we’ve been trolling, kite fishing, and bottom fishing all on the same trip. Here are a few photos of quality fish from the last several weeks.
Fishing in the Key West area has been improving over the last several weeks. The primary change has been the arrival of greater numbers of King Mackerel. These are crowd pleasing fish for their savage strikes, and hard fighting qualities on the light tackle gear we employ to catch them. Being a schooling fish,Â where there is one there are more, and flurries of multiple hook ups is common. In addition to Kings, Blackfin Tuna have been a reliable target particularly early and late in the day. Anchored down on reefs and wrecks we are producing good numbers of Yellowtail Snapper along with Mutton Snapper. Grouper are also biting well, particularly Red Grouper although with the season closed until May 1st these fish must be released
Fishing over the course of the last month has been decidedly uneven. On successful days when “the plan” came together we’ve produced both Blue water fish such as Sailfish and Tuna as well as reef fish such as Snapper and Grouper all in the same day. Live baiting, deadbaiting, kite fishing, as well as anchoring and chumming have all been a part of our tactics. Other days have been tough- live bait not cooperating, dirty weedy lifeless water, or too much or too little current in the wrong direction. Perhaps the most significant oddity in the fishing this winter has been the scarcity of King Mackerel which we rely on for dependableÂ rod bending action this time of year. Without the Kings, its been a steady diet of Cero, Little Tunny, and Yellowtail with a few Sailfish and Tuna mixed in.
Unseasonably warm weather prodominated during the month of December. As a result much of the fishing action that we anticipate for the early winter season has been slow to develop. King Mackerel for example have remained scarce. We have been catching a modest number of Sailfish and Tuna. We had an excellent though short lived blitz of Wahoo’s as well. The reef edge is producing Mutton Snapper and Yellowtail along with Cero. Shark fishing for those who want to pull on something big has been outstanding. Inshore on the patch reefs there is plenty of action from Grouper and Muttons.
After an extended yard trip the SOUTHPAW went back in the water on Nov 3rd. The boat has been completely repainted and looks great. Average daily temperatures have dropped much faster this fall than last year. The result is a return to the type of fishing we expect this time of year. Huge schools of Ballyhoo up and down the reef edge are attracting plenty of attention from Sailfish, Cero, Mutton Snapper, Blackfin Tuna, Bonita and Yellowjacks. On most days recently we have been able to load our live wells with Ballyhoo in short order. From there it’s only a matter of putting a lively baitÂ in front of a hungry fish to get a bite.