Back Country Shark Bites

The Tarpon fishing was slacking off this week as mid-August approached and more and more Silver Kings left the Keys on their annual migration offshore. A few resident fish remain hanging in the basins and channels, but they are getting hard to find. On the other hand, the Backcountry Shark bite was turning on, and all that was needed was a little bloody chum to get the Lemon Sharks and other species circling the boats and eating nearly anything thrown at them. A lot of happy anglers were going home from Fish Key West Specialty Charters with tired arms after battling big Sharks on light gear. It is not unusual to see Sharks pushing 600 lbs. in Key West waters, and there is quantity as well as quality. The waters are literally Shark-infested, and anglers on a Key West Shark Fishing Charter may tangle with Black Tip Reef Sharks, Bull Sharks, Lemon Sharks, the awesome Hammerhead, and even the occasional Tiger Shark.

Shark Fishing is great fun and makes for some wonderful photo ops, but it is important to note that Fish Key West Charter Captains are not the “Shark Hunters” of the bad old days or the recent television series of that name. Most serious Key West Game Fishermen now realize the importance of the Shark as a keystone ocean predator. Sharks have been around for nearly as long as there have been oceans, and they are a biological link that ties into the survival of nearly every other species in the sea. Like lions on the African savannah, Sharks cull the sick and weak members of various prey species, keeping fish stocks healthy and balanced. On Fish Key West Charters, Sharks are fought sportingly on light tackle, then released unharmed and healthy. This not only ensures the continuing availability of good Shark fishing, but also helps keep the marine ecosystem as a whole in good condition.

Along with a few thunderstorms that passed over Key West this week, a storm of controversy is brewing around the August 20th meeting of a Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary working group at the Key West Doubletree Inn. The Ecosystem Protection Working Group is a somewhat shadowy four-person commission that is attempting to table a provision that would close to all sport fishing, including spear fishing and lobstering, nearly one hundred square miles of the water around Key West out to depths of 265 feet. While such a proposal seems outrageous on its face, it is certainly not impossible, as was shown with the creation of the original Marine Sanctuary, which most Key West Fishermen hold to be of dubious conservation value. Obviously, such a move would be extremely damaging to both the Key West economy and to the traditional sea-faring culture of the Keys. A strong showing of public opposition to the move via attendance at the meeting is highly recommended.

On a more positive note, the hot and stormy weather has been good for the fishing this week. Heavy rain showers and winds mix up the thermal layers in the water on the Flats and activate the fish. Both Tarpon and Bonefish often respond to these conditions by feeding actively. Out in the Gulf Stream, extra debris is pushed around, attracting numerous species including Mahi-Mahi, Marlin, Tuna, and Wahoo. On the reefs and wrecks, the storms can make the water murky, forcing the fish to bite more indiscriminately and making it easier to catch a delicious dinner. In fact, Captain Chris Garcia on Coolwater II has reported some of the best fishing ever in Key West this August. Big Mangrove Snappers have been biting hard on live bait, and a 9-pound Mangrove was taken on one of the Coolcast reef fishing trips. On top of that, Grouper season is in full swing, and a wide variety were being pulled aboard this week, along with some Mutton and Yellowtail Snappers to keep a good mix in the fish boxes.

The summer fishing has been holding up great as we head toward the last couple weeks of August. To add to the action, the regular Florida Spiny Lobster season opened August 6th and divers who know where to look have been reporting plenty of bugs available. If you have never tried lobstering, now would be a great time to take advantage of the Key West Low Season Hotel Discounts and grab the opportunity to book a lobster trip with Captain Erik Morales on Island Runner.