Well, the month of November is here along with the cold fronts right on schedule. With at least two good cold fronts and several more coming soon, it has pushed lots of bait down the coast into the warm waters of the Florida Keys. There have been big schools of nearly every bait fish you could imagine. From Mullet, pilchards, cigar minnows, pinfish, and ballyhoo you can take your pick of what kind of bait you want to fish with.
The ballyhoo have been schooling in big numbers along the outer reef especially due to the chilly north winds. So you know what that means, sailfish and nice dolphin showering these baits up and down the reef line. The frigate birds and albatross will help tip off the feeding fish. A run and gun technique is usually the best method. We like to fish just one or two rods while we wait for the next shower to happen. The faster you get to the shower, the better chance you have of baiting a sailfish or dolphin before he or she has had their fill of ballyhoo.
If the conditions aren't promising for the sailfish or dolphin, we've been anchoring down along the deep reef or on some wrecks targeting nice bottom fish. The bait of choice has been a live ballyhoo or pilchard for the mutton snappers. There has also been a nice bite of grouper. The key to successful grouper fishing is winning the battle in the first 3 seconds. We've had several days in the last few weeks where we have gotten our limit of nice grouper. Most of the fish have come on a variety of live baits, with a good amount coming on large bait plugs. We have also been catching a nice amount of yellowtail snapper while waiting for the bottom fish to bite.
The pilchards have still been fairly easy to get in large numbers during the calm days, making the trips to the humps productive for chumming up the nice blackfin tuna. Just two days ago we went to the marathon hump with three live baitwells full of pilchards. In less than an hour, we had our fish box full to the top with nice twenty pound tuna. To make the day even better, on the way back in we came across a nice current edge with scattered sargasum weed. I knew it would only be a matter of time before we trolled up some dolphin. In less than five minutes we had a double header on with another 50 plus dolphin ready to play at the transom of the Contagious. I don't think I can remember such a great bite of dolphin in November.
Hurry up and get out and try your luck fishing this month. It's one of the best months in the Islamorada area for catching a variety of fish.