Bottom Fishing in the Florida Keys

Bottom fishing, bottom fishing, bottom fishing!  Every species that you tend to think about on the bottom is biting quite well right now.  Porgies, groupers, lane snappers, vermillion snappers, mangrove snappers, etc.  The only common bottom target that we shoot for that I haven’t seen too many of is the mutton snappers.  They should be starting to bite a little better now that the water is up 10 degrees from a month ago, but I just haven’t seen them yet. The Islamorada Lady II caught a few nice ones last week, but three fish doesn’t mean the bite is on.  Usually the party boat is a great barometer of the bottom bite because that’s what we do all day long every day, and we aren’t bringing any “mutts” back right now.

Live shrimp have been the hottest bait out there for just about every reef fish you can try to catch.  I have talked to charter captains who say if it weren’t for having shrimp in the livewell they would have come in with nothing.  The sailfish and kingfish bite is so poor that when it’s too rough for the big sportfish boats to get offshore for tunas and amberjacks they are anchoring up on the reef and targeting porgies and snappers with live shrimp.  That really isn’t the typical way of fishing for most Keys charter boats, but with the otherwise poor fishing conditions we are caught in right now they are doing whatever it takes to put a catch together.

I’d like to add a testimony to how strange things are on the reef right now.  There are a lot of fish that you catch on the bay side as well as on the ocean, but then there are others that NEVER stray from one side to the other.  One that we are commonly catching on the ocean side right now which belongs on the bayside is the spanish mackerel.  We catch thousands of cero macks, but rarely ever any spanish out where we fish.  The example that blows my mind, however is the gaff-top sail catfish.  This fish ONLY lives on the bay side in the middle and upper Keys.  I talked with another charter captain out of Robbie’s who swears he caught two of them the other day on the reef while yellowtail fishing.  Basically what this means is that the water temperatures are so messed up and the conditions so unordinary that the whole ecosystem has been thrown for a loop.  It doesn’t mean its the end of the world, it’s just a testimony to what a strange winter this has been.

This next week I would look for the snapper bite to pick up a bit, the kingfish bite to stay basically absent and the groupers to bite well (not that you can keep them for another month and a half).

I look forward to seeing you all down at the marina,

Capt. Brian

Winter Fishing in Islamorada

The last report I had given was unfortunately pretty grim.  One thing I believe in strongly is being honest in my fishing reports.  When its good, I let you know how good it is, and when its crummy, although it isn’t as much fun for you to read I tell you the truth.

Fortunately this week I get to give you a better synopsis!  The Islamorada Lady II out of Robbie’s came in a few days ago with smoker (large) kingfish, yellowtails, amberjacks up to 30 pounds and it was all topped off with three mutton snappers up to 18 pounds!!!  Capt. Jeff said they caught the nice muttons on live ballyhoo fished on or near the bottom while slow trolling.

The Capt. Michael got back into the swing of things after a brief mechanical grounding by catching porgies, kings, lots of vermilion snappers, a few muttons and large numbers of groupers.  As stated a hundred times this winter… all of the groupers and “vermies” had to go back due to new state laws.  We will be able to keep both species again starting May 1st.  There has been a lot of controversy over this new rule change, as with any closure to a fishery, but lets all just hope it makes the grouper fishing of the future much better.  Whether you like or dislike the rule you can’t do anything other than hope that it makes our future fishery stronger.

The words “deep drop” mean different things to different people.  For some fishermen deep dropping is 200 feet of water and for others its 900 feet, but whatever you want to call it the Contagious with Capt. Shannon Attales at the helm did great in 300 feet of water on yellow-eye snappers, red snappers, mutton snappers and tunas.  Capt. Brian Cone, the boat’s owner and normal captain was out of town so his mate, Capt. Shannon went out there and showed everyone that Brian isn’t the only great fisherman on the boat.  They limited out on snappers and threw a few tunas on top of them just for good measure.

I would love to give you a night fishing report, but we just haven’t been getting any boats out there after dark lately.  I think that’s mainly due to the cold weather.  I know 55 degrees doesn’t seem like cold, but when you get out there in the middle of the ocean and its blowing 15 knots 55 gets pretty darn chilly.  Fortunately, the weather is getting warmer and warmer every day and the forecast is for this trend to continue.  Historically speaking, the nights should start getting pretty nice starting this time of year lasting all the way through the fall.  The yellowtails should be biting well on the wrecks this time of year… don’t be afraid to call Nancy or Steve at our ticket booth and make a reservation at 305-664-8070.

Hope to see you soon,

Capt. Brian