Fall into Some Great Key West September Fishing

Fall is coming on here in Key West. The weather is cooling and the town is staying quiet for now. The major visitor-draw events do not really get going until the end of October, when the Fantasy Fest packs the island with costumed party people. By the time the World Championship Powerboat Races happen in early November, we will be getting into the winter tourist season and local fishermen will be looking back on the calm days of Key West September fishing with nostalgia for the season when they could fish all day and not see another boat around their favorite spots.

The weather has been transitioning into typical fall patterns the past couple of weeks, and it has been the norm to see some shower or thunderstorm action on most days. The winds also kick up this time of year, and the last week has seen a few days where it has been a little tough to run very far offshore in search of Mahi-Mahi and other open-water pelagics. However, the offshore Mahi-Mahi fishing has been reported as being very good for the past week on the calmer days, or for those hardy deep-sea anglers who fish on undeterred by a bit of sporty water. Plenty of smaller schoolie Dolphinfish have been coming into the docks, with a few big slammer Bulls mixed in. There have also been some good catches of Bonito brought in. As water and air temperatures drop, and cold fronts start to push down from the mainland, Kingfish and Tuna will replace Mahi-Mahi as offshore action staples. And where there are schools of Tuna, there are also Sharks, often big ones including monster Hammerheads and even the occasional Tiger Shark.

Another recent change is a stronger eastbound Gulfstream current pushing a color change in closer to the reef and bringing offshore angling rewards as migratory gamefish like Blackfin Tuna, Kingfish, Sailfish, and Wahoo return to the near shore waters of the lower Keys. With the strengthening current pulling large schools of Ballyhoo out over the reef and into the deeper water beyond, the action will heat up as the big predators move into the waters off the reef to hunt. If you are looking for a trophy, fall is the time to go for it, with the billfishing only getting better as the numbers of Sailfish and Blue Marlin increase over the next couple of months. For Marlin, planning your trip for the days around a fall full moon will increase your chances. Fall is also a good time to go for Swordfish, either by deep-dropping during the daytime or night fishing closer to the surface.

Reef fishing has been good overall, and it will be picking up even more with Grouper, Jacks, Mackerel, and Snapper getting in on the fall Ballyhoo food fest. The Yellowtail Snapper have been biting since the first of the month, with limits being pretty easy to come by. Sharks have been another source of hot inshore action. Big Lemon and Bull sharks in the 200-300 pound range have been hunting the flats and devouring nearly any chunk bait thrown at them. There are even some good-sized Tarpon still around for those who get to the right spot early enough in the day when air and water temps are down. Time, temperature, and tide are keys to success with the Silverkings, along with local knowledge of the early morning shrimp hatches that can provide great shots at jumping a big Tarpon on a fly rod or light tackle artificial rig.

Many locals are claiming that the spring and summer just past have brought some of the best Key West fishing seen in years. The Tarpon came around early, and the Mahi-Mahi fishing has certainly been outstanding, also getting good early and staying good. Kingfish numbers were noted to be very solid out in the Gulf during their migration. Large numbers of Sharks have been around as well, particularly the big, aggressive Bull Sharks, which actually proved to be a nuisance around Key West harbor in the early Tarpon season. The Del Brown Invitational Permit Tournament turned in a banner event such as had not been seen in the last several years. The Mangrove Snapper spawn lasted an unusually long time, and both wrecks and reefs produced limits all summer. All in all, the signs bode very well for some awesome fall fishing, and the combination of lower temperatures, cooling showers, amazing cloudscape views, and great deals on food and lodging make a Key West September fishing trip an ideal way to realize your sportfishing dreams.