Fishing in the lower Keys and Key West area has been quite outstanding over the last several weeks, provided one has stocked the right bait and is pursuing the right quarry on the right day. We can expect this trend to continue in the month of January provided that temperatures remain near historical averages for this time of year.

King Mackerel are now abundant along various areas of the reef edge. These fish are fine light tackle fighters and are easily attracted to a chum slick particularly if the slick is sweetened with handfuls of live pilchards which have been more abundant this winter than in recent years. Blackfin Tuna are also holding on some of the wrecks and 20 to 30 fathom structure. As with the Kings, the Tuna will respond to live pilchards as well as “chunk” chum. Grouper season on the Atlantic side is now closed through the end of April. The only Grouper fishery remaining open is for Red’s and Black’s in Federal waters of the Gulf, which entails a long run out NW channel. Tight to the reef edge Yellowtail Snapper are biting well when there is decent current and slightly off color water. Cero mackerel are also prowling this area, try free lining a large live shrimp on #3 wire to entice a bite. As I have mentioned in this column previously, Cero are exceptionally good table fare, either skin side down under the broiler or skin off, chopped in a ceviche or Sushi.

Offshore the fishing has been inconsistent as is typical this time of year, you may ride offshore and find a weed line or debris holding Dolphin and Wahoo or you may draw a blank. One interesting note is the number of Blue Marlin which have been reported hooked or caught in the last month- many more than I can remember from past years at this time. On Calm days, daylight Swordfishing has produced fish, including one in Key West last week which weighed 365 lbs. Tight lines and good luck.

Capt. Brad Simonds