What Blizzard? Nothing but Blue Skies and Good Fishing Charters in Key West

With a powerful nor’easter looming over our neighbors up in New York and Massachusetts, it’s only natural that the Keys should cool off a bit, maybe in sympathy for those who will soon be shoveling snow in biting winds instead of throwing bait to biting fish. The temperatures dropped today from the unseasonably warm 80 degree range down to a high that is supposed to stay in the upper 60s and not get too much above that in the coming week. Far from being the threat that it is up north, this type of sudden temperature drop makes for good fishing charters in Key West. Despite the mild cold front, Key West remains protected by high pressure that stretches all the way from Mexico up to the Great Lakes. This means the winds will stay down until midweek at least, when they are predicted to freshen up a bit and clock around to the north-northeast. There may be some light chop out there, but you can expect the great offshore fishing charters that we have been seeing all month to continue.

The unusually consistent action that captains have been getting on gaffer-size Mahi-Mahi will probably drop off some until the wind gets back around to the east-southeast. Like clockwork, as soon as the warm winds come back, the hot off-season Dolphin fishing turns back on and fish up to 30 pounds have been pretty common. Sailfishing has been fair, with fish numbers down but sizes up as this time of year seems to bring out the big lone wolf fish. The days around the full moon on the 20th brought on some good Blackfin Tuna fishing charters. Throwing live bait to the Blackfin schools has been an everyday source of action for boats that run out past the main reef to the bar, a submerged reef where the depth rises from about 110 to around 45 feet. This structure holds a lot of fish, and fast trolling or live bait fishing have both been working well on the Blackfin out there. The full moon also brought on the Wahoo bite that we expect this time of year. Wahoo tend to be a random sort of catch on most charters, but they are always welcome because these high-speed sea missiles put up a fun fight and are a tasty addition to the daily bag. Known as Ono, or “good to eat” in Hawaiian, Wahoo are some of the best-eating pelagic fish out there whether you do them as sashimi, seared, tempura, or broiled.

The Kingfish are biting hard right now, and they should be around in good numbers through February. Show up anywhere along the deep edge of the reef in depths from 25 down to about 135 feet and you can be into lots of big Kingfish and Cero Mackerel chasing the schools of ballyhoo and blue runners up onto the reef. Expect to see showering baitfish and circling birds where the action is, then just toss a plug or bait into the middle of it. The hookups will come fast and steady as long as you stay on the bait schools. A good sized Kingfish has the strength and speed to put up a heck of a fight. While most of the Kings caught out of Key West tend to run in the 30 to 50 pound range, they can get a lot bigger as one angler found out this week when he hooked into a 100-pounder and managed to fight it to the boat.

The mixed species bite in the Backcountry is still going strong. Cobia, Jacks, Lady Fish, Mackerel, Pompano, Sea Trout, Snapper, and Sharks are all plentiful. Trolling deep-running lures or casting plugs on light gear are both productive once the right water is found. Then, once you get a couple of Ladyfish or a Jack, it is a simple matter to cut up some big chunks and switch to the heavy gear to fight some Sharks. The Flats have been producing a lot of nice Permit, and schools of big Jack Crevalle are out there working the ballyhoo so aggressively that almost any shiny lure tossed to them will get slammed. With cool nighttime temperatures, the sun brings the Jacks to the surface where they will blast a lure or bait and really bring the fight on. One or two of these fish will have most anglers nursing sore arm muscles and ready for happy hour.

The Barracuda fishing charters on the Flats has been outstanding this year, and some real monsters are out there as shown by a 60-inch fish that was caught and released just a couple weeks ago. This bodes well for the upcoming Key West Cuda Bowl Tournament January 29-31. Anglers will set out in Flats skiffs for two 8-hour days of fishing to see who can rack up the most inches of Barracuda with their 3 largest fish caught and released each day. Flies and artificial lures on spin gear are allowed, and to keep things Flats-specific, the fish must be on a Flat or the edge of a Flat in water 8 feet deep or less. More than 30 boats and 60 anglers are expected to be out there tangling with the toothy beasts and hoping to top the 271 inches of fish reeled in last year by visiting New Hampshire angler Paul Schultz.

The weather and the fishing charters in Key West will be great right through February. The alternation between hot and cool daytime temps along with the changing winter to spring weather patterns in general mean that we will continue to see a wide variety of species coming into the docks at Charter Boat Row. And don’t forget that the Silver Kings will soon be returning to the Key West Backcountry. Some fishing pro guides are already coaxing Tarpon out of the channels on the warmer days. Now is the time to escape the winter blasts and live your sport fishing charter dreams, so quit wishing and book a trip to come Key West fishing today.