We’ve had plenty of wind but only a modest amount of cool weather to begin the winter season. Out along the reef edge in the lower Keys, water quality has been an issue. Veterans of the fishing scene point to an ongoing lack of strong east current and clean blue water. Historically this has been a common condition but recently, a rare event. East current with clean blue water on the reef is conducive for the pelagic species such as Sailfish and Tuna. Notwithstanding the water quality, Both Sailfish and Tuna have increased in numbers but have often followed a pattern of one day on, one day off. We’ve had several good days on Sailfish with 6-8 bites but then had trouble finding a fish on a subsequent day. The Tuna have been scattered, often biting on the troll for an hour or so first thing in the morning or holding on various wrecks where heavy live bait chumming can stimulate a bite.

Wahoo which are most often associated with the afore mentioned east current have been scarce, although we may see action during the full moon later in the month. With lots of west current and off color water Yellowtail snapper fishing has been about the most consistent fishing activity. Large schools of Ballyhoo can be found around the patch reefs and high rocks along the reef edge and although it hasn’t happened much yet, should lead to better fishing as virtually every predator from Cero to Mutton to Dolphin and Sailfish will find these food sources and feed aggressively. Be on the lookout for these “bait showers” and be ready to match the hatch by casting a live Ballyhoo into these feeding frenzies. Hawks channel patch reefs start to get productive this time of year; expect all three common Grouper species, Red Black and Gag, many just short of legal size, and a few you can’t stop. Slow trolling the patch reefs is another way to score with Grouper before the season closes Jan 1stHappy holidays to our entire readership. Tight lines and good luck.

Capt. Brad Simonds