Filling the Fish Boxes with Thanksgiving Treats

Key West had its share of bad weather the past couple of weeks, and on many days captains were forced to cancel or delay trips due to wind, waves, and occasional heavy rains. Although cold fronts are normal for this time of year, they have been more frequent than usual this fall, moving in with strong blows out of the Northeast, rough waters, and falling air and water temperatures. Fortunately, the fishing has been as good as the weather has been bad.

For fishermen on the deep sea boats, the Blackfin Tuna bite was going strong throughout most of the month, and as the Tuna slowed down a little at the end of November, the Sailfish picked up. The northerly flow of cool air brought more and more of them to the outside of the reef, and they have stayed to give many fishermen a chance at catching one. Captains are reporting an excellent early season Sailfish bite over the past couple of weeks, with fish from 25 to 50 pounds being released. Plenty of Bonita and Cero Mackerel have also been around to keep the action steady in between the Sails. There have also been some early Kingfish reported, as well as the occasional Wahoo. The deep sea fishing is expected to remain good as the Jet Stream has shifted a bit north, which will keep the serious cold fronts away from the Keys and let a high pressure zone stabilize off the east coast. Winds and water will calm down, making it easier to get out to sea, and catch the Wahoo bite that should really turn on with the next full moon.

The Backcountry waters have seen some wide temperature swings, with lows in the 60’s and highs in the mid 70’s. This made for some great Flats fishing on the warm water days, with many chances at shallow water Barracudas, Jacks, and Permits. Guides who knew where to look on the days of lighter winds and warmer water were also able to find scattered schools of Bonefish along with holdover Tarpon in good numbers. The cool water offered chances to target the Redfish and Trout that have been very plentiful this fall, and guides were also able to get their anglers mixed bags of Bluefish, Jacks, Pompano, and Snappers. Next up on the Flats will be the migration of Cobia when winter fully arrives and the water temperatures stay down in the high 60’s.

The reef has been busy with bait and game fish, and action should stay as hot as it has been. The Mutton Snappers have been on the reef following the abundant Ballyhoo into the shallows. The Yellowtail Snapper have also been feeding aggressively, and many anglers have been able to fill limits simply by casting plugs, with no live bait needed. The Yellowtail have been running at a nice size, with a lot of fish in 20-inch plus range being put in the coolers. The big blow that came in during Thanksgiving week stirred the waters over the reef with winds up to 30 mph. and really turned on the reef bite for those who were able to handle the rougher water conditions. Between the Yellowtail and the Mutton Snappers, Cero Mackerel, and Groupers, some lucky fisherman went home with the makings of a holiday fish feast.