July Fishing Hotter than a Firecracker

Despite a slow start during the first week of the month due to the presence of a tropical depression that brought widespread unsettled weather and rain to the Gulf region, July fishing was generally good around Key West. While the 4th of July weekend presented fishermen with scattered showers and stormy, windy weather, conditions turned nice later in the month with low winds, relatively mild temperatures, and very clear water.

The July Mangrove Snapper spawn produced some exceptionally good fishing around Key West this year. Fish in the 4-6 pound range were common on the shallow near-shore patch reefs. Many boats were limiting on large fish every trip out, using both live Pinfish on the bottom and cut bait at times when the fish would come up and feed near the surface. The Mangrove Snapper trips often produced Yellowtail Snapper, Black Grouper, and Horse Eye Jacks as well. Fishing the near-shore coral patches with plugs was also an effective way to boat Grouper and Snapper. Fishermen had a lot of light tackle fun and put some great-tasting fish on the table.

Flats and Backcountry fishing were solid in July, particularly in the last couple weeks of the month. Light winds and low precipitation made for good conditions inshore, while the full supermoon brought big tides that refreshed the water on the Flats and really activated the game fish during the last week of the month. Permit were common on both the Flats and the shallow water Wrecks, and plentiful Bonefish were being found moving on and off the Flats with the tides. Bonefish numbers and sizes seemed to be coming back up after showing some weakness the past couple of years. The Key West Charter boats were consistently busy, and many fishermen were able to accomplish the Key West Grand Slam of boating a Tarpon, a Permit, and a Bonefish in a single outing. Barracuda and Shark fishing were also good on the Flats during the cloudy days when lower light conditions made the fish less spooky and more willing to hit hard.

Although the main migration had passed, there were still some Tarpon lingering in the channels, harbors, and on the grass flats in 3-4 feet of water. They were hitting well right after the rains and winds passed, and in the period after the full moon at the end of the month. Early morning trips were producing fish on artificial lures like Hogy soft baits and MirroLure plugs. There were many fish holding around the Marquesas Islands, and fishermen who made the run out in the early mornings were often rewarded. Night fishing around the bridges about 2 hours after sunset on a strong outgoing tide was another way to scare up a few fish.

Offshore, as the currents slowed down with the arrival of the summer dog days, fishing slowed down a bit as well. The Deep Sea Charters were hunting Mahi-Mahi with some success, with the same areas producing the occasional White or Blue Marlin, Skipjack, or Wahoo. The offshore wrecks were good mid-month for big Amberjack on live Blue Runners. Deep bottom fishing near the Dry Tortugas and Key West offshore ledges was productive for Mutton Snapper, as well as for some more unusual catches including Blueline Tilefish, Yellowedge Grouper, and Yelloweye Snapper. Sharks were too plentiful at times, stealing bait and eating hooked fish.

The big offshore news of the month was the annual Drambuie Key West Marlin Tournament held out of Key West on the 17th – 20th. The tournament corresponds with Hemingway Days, and Key West usually sees large crowds of both fishermen and tourists. The last couple of years were a bit slow due to poor economic conditions, but both visitor and tournament entry numbers showed some improvement this year. However, the fishing started off slow for the 31-boat tournament fleet, with only one Marlin caught and released on each of the first two days of competition. However, one of those proved to be the winning fish, as Mark Truett, a first-time saltwater fisherman from Duncan, Oklahoma released a 500 lb. Blue Marlin while fishing with Captain Jason Jonas on the High Stakes on the first day of the contest. A 17.9 lb. Mahi-Mahi caught later the same day added enough points to eventually capture the $25,000 first prize for High Stakes. Second place was garnered by Perry Brown of Jacksonville, Florida, with a Blue Marlin caught and released on Friday. Perry was fishing on High Class Hooker with Captain Gene Chrzanowski out of Key West’s A & B Marina. Key West local Troy Martin released a nice Blue Marlin on Saturday to take third on the Mr. Z, also out of A & B, with Captain Curly McGinn at the helm. The A & B Marlin boats put in a good showing this July, with Captain Curly and mate Steve Liberatore bringing 3 Blue Marlin alongside within a six day-window, including the Drambuie third-place fish.

As always, the waters around Key West were crowded with boaters and hectic during the Wednesday-Thursday 48-hour Lobster Mini-Season held this year on July 24th and 25th. Good weather and improving economic conditions brought a high turnout of divers to take advantage of the calm, clear water conditions along the Keys, and Lobsters were reported as being plentiful. The good Lobster mini-season and the hot fishing after the full supermoon on the 22nd rounded out a nice month on the water here in Key West. Don’t miss out on your own piece of the action! Contact Fish Key West soon and catch a Key West Charter Fishing Trip before summer slips away.