Bugging Out in Key West

Key West waters were under the influence of a Caribbean high-pressure system this week, making for some unsettled weather that featured a combination of high winds and overcast skies that made sight-fishing on the Flats very challenging. Then, as the week ended, captains had to be on the lookout for more exciting weather, as a potential tropical cyclone began forming near Vera Cruz, Mexico, with the possibility of tracking northeast toward the Keys in the coming week.

Cloudy skies, wind, and showers of rain are a bit unusual for August in the Keys, as this month is generally expected to be very hot, with humid air hanging over slick calm sea conditions. This year, August seemed to produce many days with cloud cover and winds of 15 knots or more. The Bonefish, Permit, and Tarpon were on the Key West Flats, but it was very difficult to see fish in the shaded waters, then hold boat position and get in a good cast in the wind and chop. Fortunately, there are plenty of Lemon Sharks patrolling the Flats this time of year, and they are constantly hunting nearly anything they can get their teeth on. Since the Lemons are usually found in similar Flats conditions as Permit, they provide a good opportunity for a fight when it becomes too difficult to target the more skittish game fish. These are 4-6 foot Sharks and they put up a really good fight that can turn a hard Key West Flats Fishing day into a success.

Sunlight is not required to fish deeper water, and Key West Harbor was producing some good action during the cloudy weather. All that was needed were sharp eyes to spot Tarpon rolling and a good captain to position the boat in front of them and get a chum slick out. This was one way to generate some good light tackle action with Mangrove Snapper and Sharks, and a few lucky anglers were able to tie into a Tarpon or two by using this technique. The offshore fishing was also good this week, with boats getting into large schools of Mahi-Mahi out on the weed lines along the Gulf Stream. Many boats were limiting out with a mix 4-6 pound “schoolies” and a few of the nice 7-10 pound “gaffers”. When the boat hits a school of 50-100 fish, the action gets fast and furious, and anglers can quickly reach their 10-fish limits. The Blackfin Tuna bite has been going strong, and the Tuna are drawing numerous Silky and Dusky Sharks. The Sharks can become a problem when they grab a lot of hooked fish, but they can also be a lot of fun for anglers who want to really bend a rod and get into a hard fight.

For those who would like get away from the wind by looking for some fishing action below the surface, Florida Keys Lobster season is well underway. This year, the waters around Key West have been producing a generous share of “bugs” as the Florida Spiny Lobsters are called locally. Besides the delicious dinners they provide, Lobsters give the intrepid fisherman the chance to get up close and personal with the catch and go “hand-to-hand so to speak. The two most common ways to bag a Lobster are simply grabbing it by hand (while wearing a pair of tough gloves) or catching it with a net. Either way involves diving down and searching for Lobsters along underwater ledges or under coral heads in shallow water. Depending on the location of the Lobster, and the skill of the diver, it may be possible to grab the creature’s antennae or the back of its carapace and pick it up. More often, the Lobster will spot the fisherman and back into its den. In this case, a short “tickle stick” is used to push in behind the Lobster and startle it with pressure on its tail. When the bug emerges, a net is placed behind and over it. When a free hand is reached toward the Lobster, it will jet up and backwards with a flick of its tail, hopefully ending up in the net.

With skill and luck, a diver will be able to regularly land the daily bag limit of 6 lobsters, particularly in the early season when they can be found under nearly every rock and ledge. Only a few Key West Charter Captains specialize in taking Lobster divers out. Fortunately, Fish Key West Charters’ own Captain Erik Morales and the beautiful catamaran Island Runner can take you on an expedition to snare this undersea delicacy. Check out the Island Runner on our website and book your trip now.