January 2016 Fishing Forecast
Winter is here in the Florida Keys, well in a way its Winter, we may not see sharp drops in temperatures but we will see a good push of fish headed South for the season. Both sides of the Island chain will be jumping with some awesome fishing. The colder weather to our North sends a steady stream of baitfish towards the Keys and along with the bait comes Sailfish most notably on the oceanside. The Gulf waters will see Cobia, Pompano, Spanish and King Mackerel to name a few of the species that Winter here. The catching is good around here and the fish aren’t a long haul off either side of the Rock.
The Winter fishery around here can be a fast and furious thing, on the reef the fact that you can still find Mahi, Tuna, Mackerels and Sailfish is simply amazing! Yes ma’am you don’t need to run past the horizon to find great action, the volume of bait that pushes along the reef tract keeps the action close to home. The nearshore patch reefs are one of my favorite places to fish in the Winter and there are multiple reasons, the shallow patches within 2 miles of the Keys are home to all the snappers, porgies, Hogfish, groupers and Cero-Spanish Mackerel you can want. The reef area is generally a small, compact area surrounded by a grass prairie and the reef structure acts like a fish magnet, get up wind and or current of the structure and anchor up, then break out the chum. In no time you will have bait at your stern and a pile of fish behind them, gather up the ballyhoo, pinfish, pilchards that you chummed up and use them along with live shrimp and you should have hours of catching ahead of you. A live ballyhoo on the bottom will be like a cupcake for a hungry grouper or Mutton snapper, just remember that we can play with grouper right now but they are strictly catch and release only until May 1. Chunks of ballyhoo will get gobbled up by Mangroves and Yellowtails and big Porgies, live shrimp are great too and the Hogfish action can be very good in these areas too. If you are a fan of smoked fish dip break out a bit of light wire and a jig head and tie this to a spinning outfit, work the shrimp tipped jig back to the boat close to the surface through the chum and if there are any Cero or Spanish Macks in the area you will know it soon. Grill these smaller cousins of the Wahoo up and you have a feast, you can fry them like snapper too, smoked these fish are excellent as well.
Sailfish are the rock stars of the Winter fishery here in the Florida Keys and we should be seeing plenty of action on the reef this month. The charter fleet will be moving up and down the reef line working from the shallow sand areas out to 200 feet of water looking for showering bait schools and other signs of feeding fish. The kicker is that you need to be ready to tussle with Blackfin tuna, King mackerel and Mahi that can be pushing bait around along the reef. The is no telling what you can run into along the way so gear up for anything. Anchoring up on the outside reef will net the same results as the patches but with the added bonus of being ambushed by the Pelagic species too.
The Everglades National Park and the waters of the Gulf on its Western border are an exceptional place to fish anytime of the year, the Winter season offers good Redfish and Snook action on the flats and in the deeper channels that feed and drain the flats, the island moats will be good too. The Gulf waters that border the Western Park waters can be just as productive as the patch reefs of the Atlantic. There are wrecks, rock piles and grass prairies in 8 - 12 feet of water that will attract an abundance of fish. Throw in the Cobia, Pompano and several species of sharks are found here along with the usual cast of characters and its red hot out in the Gulf. The Mangrove snapper that gather in the shallows of the Gulf this time of the year are big, simply, they are hogs and they are hungry. Pinfish whole or as steaks will get you on the bite as will pilchards and ballyhoo chunks, live shrimp will work but the smaller snapper will get these before the big ones do. Find some dirty water in the Gulf in about 10 feet of water or so over grassy bottom and chum the water, in 30 minutes or less you should be covered up with Spanish Mackerel. Keep the rigging simple, long shank jigs tipped with shrimp or tipped Pompano jigs will be all you need. If cut offs are a problem and they will be, add some light wire to your 30 lb mono leader and the problem is solved.
There is a lot of action to be had out on the water so get booked with the crew at Bsmboo Charters and let the fun begin.
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