Cooling Temps Activate the Key West Backcountry Fishing

The last couple weeks of September brought the transition to fall down to Key West with strong winds, multiple days of rain, and high temperatures consistently staying below the 90s. The cooling waters have turned the Flats fishing on and it has been an excellent month for Bonefish and Permit. Fishermen who got out early and worked the channels had an excellent chance to hook up with a resident Tarpon then follow through with a Bone and a Permit for the Keys Grand Slam. Two lucky anglers did just that in the 2015 Redbone Celebrity S.L.A.M. tournament held September 11-13 out of Key West’s Stock Island Marina. Local anglers Cal Collier Jr. fishing with Captain Justin Rea, and Nathaniel Linville fishing with Captain Aaron Snell caught and released the big three to take Grand Champion and Runner-Up in the tournament. If you have ever wanted to go for a Grand Slam, this was the year to do it.

Fishermen serious about fall Tarpon will want to check Backcountry fishing to the west and east of Key West. With the rains bringing water temps down into the 80s, reports of nice juvenile fish are coming in from up and down the Keys. Conditions are still good for fly fishing, and throwing artificial baits with spinning gear will also work. The more it cools down, the farther into the day the bite will hold up, and fishing the incoming tides that flush cool water into the Backcountry will also up your odds.Key West Backcountry Fishing

Cooling water means the Key West Backcountry fishing is heating up for multispecies action fishing. The Mangrove Snappers are back in the shallow channels and around the islands. Blue Runners, Jack Crevalle, and Yellow Jacks are moving in schools and ready to hit anything. Shark fishing has been almost too good as these predators will home in on any struggling and bloody fish, leaving you with nothing on the hook by the time you reel it in.

Around the reefs, light rain, plenty of sunny weather, and warm temperatures also seemed to turn fishing on for large Snapper and Grouper. The calm winds and water made it easy to get out on the reef fishing, and various Snapper species along with Grouper have been consistent go-to fish for the past month. The Snappers have been running big, with Flag Yellowtails of 3-5 lbs. being fairly common, and Mangrove Snappers up to 20 lbs. reported. This is huge for this species. Many nice Grouper have also come to the docks. When you put 15 pounds of Snapper and 30 pounds of Grouper into the fish box, you are set for some great fall dinners. Both of these species are at the top of the list for meat fish, and they are delicious almost any way you want to cook them.

Offshore, the Mahi-Mahi fishing held up well all month long, with many more large fish coming in than usual for this time of year. Even though we had a bit longer stretch of rainy weather than normal in mid-month, the days in between storms brought good conditions and the Dolphin bite stayed on. The Mahi-Mahi fishing charters  has been excellent since August, and it may stay that way as we get into October. The Blackfin Tuna schools are also appearing on the Atlantic side, both over the wrecks and in the open water. Locate a school and chum them in, and soon your arms will be tired and the fish boxes full of meat.

Even though summer is over, you can expect the fishing to stay strong deep into winter as the water stays warm and our seasonal fish hang around for several more months. When the cool fronts do come in, the fishing will get hot as the baitfish crowd into the warmer inshore waters. Fall is a great time to fish Key West, so reserve your spot now.