April Fools with the Key West Fishing Weather

The early part of April seemed to be payback time for all the good weather we enjoyed over the winter here in Key West, and things have just started to get back on track for good April Key West fishing in the last week or so. Take a look at the charts for March and April, and you will see a very regular swing from a few days in the lower 80’s to a few down in the mid to upper 70’s and then back. These mild cold fronts have rolled through about once every 6-8 days since Mid-March, and the fishing seems to back off for a couple of days after each one. Finally, with the forecast showing that we are into a 2-week plus stretch of 80-degree weather, it looks like the cold fronts may be finished for the season.

Luckily, in the warming spells between fronts, the Tarpon, Permit, and even a few Bonefish have been coming back onto the Flats ready to eat if presented with the right opportunity. The Tarpon are around in ever-growing numbers, and when the air and water temperatures, atmospheric pressure, and all the other stars align, they have been more than willing to hit an accurately placed fly or drifted artificial bait. Although Permit are said to hang out on the wrecks to spawn in April, as noted in our last report, some captains have been able to put their clients on the fish when everything goes well. And those willing to go after Permit by drifting a live crab over the wrecks and patch reefs west of the island have often been rewarded with some big fish.

The March winds seemed to have arrived late this year, stretching into the first couple weeks of April, but when the winds have slacked off, offshore waters have started producing Sailfish. Indeed, the last 10 days or so have found Sailfish showing up in good numbers. It looks like the setup is coming on for some solid bluewater fishing into May, with the wind and current bringing the color change on the edge of the Gulfstream in next to the reef and a lot of bait drawing in everything from Mahi Mahi to Wahoo, and Blue and White Marlin as well as the Sails. There also big schools of Blackfin, Bonito, and Skipjack, along with Cobia and Sharks to keep the action fast whether fishing live bait or trolling. With the winds out of the east pushing up swell as they blow against the east-bound current, the big fish move on the surface, cruising down the faces of the waves with the tops of their tails showing out of the water. This makes it easy to spot fish and cast to them, and the action can be hot and heavy for those willing to brave a bit of a sporty ride.

Out on the reef, cut baits fished on the bottom are bringing the Yellowtail Snapper on board, and the Mutton Snapper have been active as well; with the winds and current, the reef gets stirred up and the fish look to feed, which has made for some good dinner table fishing. When conditions were not ideal offshore, it has been possible to hit the patch reefs and rock piles closer in to get Mangrove Snapper, Muttons, and Grouper, with these still going back in the water since Grouper in the Atlantic does not open until May 1st. The Backcountry has also been a good place to hideout from the wind and pick up a few Sea Trout or tangle with some big Jacks to keep the rods bent. And of course the Sharks and Barracuda are always around and on the lookout for an easy meal.

In competition news, the kickoff weekend for the annual Key West Fishing Tournament took place between April 4-6, and a great time was had by all fisher-people on hand. This is one of the best tournaments around because entry is free to compete for trophies and prizes, and the contest is open to all ages. The rules are simple: during the 8-month tournament window, just weigh or release any of the 37 qualifying species from Blue Marlin, to Tarpon, to Bonefish and most of the other popular Keys game fish. There are line weight classes and age categories to fit most everyone, and plenty of prizes for the biggest fish of each type, the most released, and so forth. It is all just a lot of good fun sponsored by Key West’s own Dream Catcher charters. There were many nice catches recorded during the kickoff weekend. Most notable, and indicative of the good spring season fishing, were 11 Tarpon releases by father and son team David (4 fish) and Logan (age 13, 7 fish) Stern of Ft. Lauderdale, fishing with Capt. Bruce Cronin aboard the ‘New Horizons’, and 11 Sailfish releases by father and son Craig (1 fish) and Chandler (age 14, 10 fish) Peden of Ft. Myers fishing aboard the ‘Miss Ivory’ with Capt. Jason Johnson.