August 2016 Fishing Forecast
August here in the Florida Keys is a Waterman’s dream come true and it is also a Foodie’s delight as well. It is very simple, August 6th is the opening of Lobster season and along with a great haul of “Bugs” as us, locals refer to the Florida Spiny Lobster as, the reef will be buzzing with fantastic fishing opportunities. A platter of fresh Lobster tails fresh off the grill, some Panko encrusted Snapper and a pile of whole fried Lionfish will go great with a growler of Ocean Point Red Ale from the Islamorada Beer Company Brewery & Tasting Room and you have a great homegrown, locally sourced meal to share with friends and family. Beat the heat of August with nighttime reef fishing, which will be off the hook for Yellowtail & Mangrove snapper and if you want to work on your tan head offshore for schoolie Dolphin & Blackfin tuna.
Lobster season kicks off this month on the 6th and for the first few weeks, it will be pandemonium all through the island chain. Here are a few things to keep in mind for a safer and easier lobster hunt. Display a dive flag at all times, more on that later. Have myFWC mobile app on your phone, here you’ll find the rules and regulations for all types of fishing and harvest regulations. Remember all lobster must be measured in the water first! You can’t bag them in water then measure on land or boat and sort out the undersized or short Bugs. All those that are hunting Bugs must have a measuring device on their body while hunting. Each licensed hunter must also have a Lobster permit along with a Saltwater license. There are bodies of water where you cannot hunt or harvest Lobster as well as you can’t even have Lobster on your boat! The entire portion of Florida Bay that lays in the Everglades National Park is a Lobster Sanctuary and you a forbidden to hunt or have in your boat any part of a Lobster at all! Know the Harvest limits for Lobster and areas of No Take these are strictly enforced by the FWC, U.S. Coast Guard and local Police here in the Keys.
The Dive Flag is the most important item in this whole Operation Drawn Butter!
1. Dive flags must be flown at all times while anyone is in the water.
2. You must idle only when within 100 yards of a dive flag.
3. While diving-snorkeling from land the dive flag must accompany you on a float.
4. The flag must have a stiffener in it to make it clearly displayed, it cannot hang limp.
5. Stay within 100 feet of your boat while in the water.
6. The dive flag is no silver bullet, it will not stop a boat load of bad drivers from running you over! Stay vigilant.
And pay close attention to approaching boats, you must assume that all boaters have no clue what so ever as to what they are doing!
I can’t stress it enough that this time of year is the most perilous time of the year to be boating the nearshore waters of the Florida Keys and that you as a boat driver or passenger must keep a very close eye on the water for floating heads and the bubbles of SCUBA Divers. You are ultimately responsible for you own safety and the safety of anyone on and in the water that you encounter out there. Every bridge area is a very dangerous place as land based and boat based Lobster hunters will be risking life and limb in the blind pursuit of Bugs, travel these areas at the slowest speed possible to stay safe.
The catching in the backcountry waters of Florida Bay has been really really good. The 800-pound gorilla has been the salinity issues due to the overwhelming lack of freshwater delivered to the bay and the associated Seagrass die off brought on by the lack of freshwater delivery and drought. Yes, there is a very large area destroyed by the die off but Florida Bay is gigantic and has a prolific fish life. The majority of the damage is centered around the Flamingo area and to the East and West of this, you will find healthy Seagrass meadows and very good fishing still. Snook fishing along shorelines and beaches is incredible, this catch and release fishery has been fantastic with large schools of big Snook crashing bait, plugs and flies all over the place. Mixed in with these you will find large Sea trout, I talking’ about fish over 22-inches slapping your presentations silly! Tripletail is an amazing fish. Its hard fighting and great table fare and will eat an assortment of lures, flies and bait as well, they will challenge the best of casters when they are laid up around floating debris and they can be skittish at times but well worth the effort.
Check out the Now or Neverglades movement and sign the Declaration to have your voice heard by politicians, go to the Glades Declaration website.
Capt. Matt Bellinger
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