Make the Great Escape with a Deep Sea Fishing Key West Vacation

Do forecasts of another winter of hard-freezing polar vortexes already have you dreaming about a Key West fishing vacation in the endless summer of the southernmost isles? Well, although the calm winds and steady mid-70’s temperatures of the past week make it seem otherwise, the fall to winter transition is actually in full effect here in Key West. The winter weather cycle has started up, with cold front systems pushing through from the north at regular intervals.

However, unlike in the upper 47 states, where the same pattern dropping off the plains of Canada threatens one cold blast after another along with the miseries of heavy snow and dangerous ice, the main sign of the season down here is the red-hot fishing action. The sudden November 1st cold snap, combined with very abundant bait and slightly cooler than usual air temperatures that have prevailed in the Keys, seems to have sent Key West sport fish of nearly every species into feeding frenzies.

Down on charter boat row, captains have been reporting good luck offshore on Sailfish, Blackfin Tuna, Mahi-Mahi, and a few Wahoo. With water temperatures staying in the 70s, and a strong Gulf Stream current pulling in close to the reef and sweeping the ballyhoo in along with it, the open water gamefish are schooling and feeding very actively along the outer reef edge. The Mahi-Mahi seem to be hanging around in greater numbers than usual this year, and some bigger fish up to 20 lbs. have been brought in along with batches of smaller schoolie fish. The November full moon usually brings on a strong Wahoo bite, but so far only a scattering of these open ocean predators has shown up. They should arrive in numbers by the next full moon, following the schools of small Bonito, or Little Tunny. However, the Sailfish are definitely here, and boats have been coming in reporting multiple releases on big Sails.

Over the reef, and on the wrecks and patch reefs, the inshore trips have been steadily producing Black and Gag Grouper, huge numbers of Mutton and Yellowtail Snapper, and some Cero Mackerel. With the cooling trend, these table fish are becoming more active and moving to shallower water in pursuit of mahua, mullet, pilchards, and other baitfish. Now that the Yellowtail are in feeding mode and up shallow in 20-40 feet of water, they can often be caught on plugs or jigs, with no chum needed. The Snappers are easy and fun to catch, and many satisfied fisherman have been walking off the docks with bags full of nice fillets.

The Backcountry is another inshore zone that has been really good the past couple of weeks as the baitfish seek warmer water and shelter from the stronger winds and currents of the fall. Sea Trout are one of the winter specialty species found over the Backcountry grass beds from about October on. Trout running up to 25 inches are getting more plentiful everyday, and they are biting well on live or soft artificial baits.

Sea Trout are good for easy family fishing because simply drifting a bait back under a bobber will often be all it takes to get a hook up. And, when going for Sea Trout, it is common to run into a wide variety of other fun species as well. Ladyfish, Jacks, Mackerel, Pompano, and even Sharks are likely to grab your bait before a Trout can get to it.

Mangrove Snapper are another fast-action family fun fish on the Backcountry menu right now. Although Mangroves are always around, with the big schools of bait now being swept on the tide through the channels off the edges of the Flats, these good-eating Snappers are schooled up and lurking around structure on the sides and bottoms of the channels, ready to hit any bait that drifts past.

Fisherman looking for more fight in the Backcountry should try a shot at the gangs of big Jacks that are hunting the bait schools across the shallows. Jacks can be sight-fished with live bait or top-water plugs, and their explosive hits and hard fights are good for some real excitement on light tackle. Sharks are another Backcountry challenge, and Blacktip, Bonnethead, Lemon, and Spinner sharks are all working the Backcountry in plentiful numbers right now.

The Backcountry staple Barracuda took a few days to get used to the cooler water, but they can now be spotted in groups in the shallows around the mangrove islands absorbing the warmth of the sun. Barracuda are a lot of fun to catch on a simple tube lure, a top-water plug, or even on a fly with a fast retrieve. They can be sight-fished, or an angler can just cast around structure that is likely to hold this ambush feeder. Speed and flash are all the ingredients needed to draw a Barracuda strike. They are aggressive predators, will often attack a hooked fish, and can put up an impressive fight on light tackle.

The late fall transition to winter really offers what some fisherman consider to be the best deep sea fishing Key West action. No matter what the weather and wind are doing, or whatever particular objectives an angler might have, there is so much good fishing happening that success is as guaranteed as it gets in fishing. Add in the benefit of escaping what is looking to be a cold, hard winter up north, and you just cannot beat a Key West fishing vacation for all around enjoyment and value for the money.