Key West Fishing: Hotter than the 4th of July

Key West fishing in July opened up with a couple of windy days that settled into the steady, light southeast winds that make for perfect Key West offshore fishing conditions. The months of May and June had already set the bar high for fantastic offshore fishing, particularly for big Mahi-Mahi and Sailfish, with a few Marlin thrown in to keep things really exciting. The first weeks of July saw the Dolphin fishing tailing off, with dead times between successive waves of migrating fish. Many more small fish have also been present, which sometimes resulted in having to sort through a lot of hookups to get a few keeper Dolphin for the table. But one of the great things about Key West fishing in July is the multitude of species and fishing opportunities that are available, and where the Mahi-Mahi fishing has slowed down, the deep sea boats have been getting into plenty of Amberjack, Yellowtail, and Red Snapper out on the wrecks.

The July 12th full moon was a super moon, meaning that the moon was at perigee, its closest pass to the earth, at the same time that the full moon occurred. This made for some spectacular moon rises over the water because the super moon appears about 14% larger and 30% brighter than a typical full moon. The moon turned the Mangrove Snapper spawn on high out on the reef, and many Key West fishing charter captains were reporting solid limits every day of the week leading up to the full moon. Live Pinfish have been the key to hooking the bigger Snappers, with the added bonus of drawing hits from Barred Jacks and Grouper to keep the action hot and heavy. Snapper weighing in at 5-7 pounds and light tackle have been the right combination for a lot of angling fun.

July has also been good so far for hold-over Tarpon. Crowds are down and fish of 100 pounds or more are still to be found in the sailboat harbor and in various channels and holes around the Flats. Fishermen in the know are hitting the empty Tarpon grounds for the early morning fishing then hunting the Flats for Permit and Bonefish to try for a Big 3 score. When water temperatures are right, a few Bonefish have been making their appearance on the Flats, but most reports have them still on the small side and pretty well scattered, making a good Key West fishing guide essential if you hope to hook one of these Grey Ghosts.

On the other hand, Permit fishing has been hot on the Flats, with fish being caught every day and multiple hook-ups fairly common. A high pressure system early in the month brought clear, sunny skies and light winds to the Keys. With these perfect conditions aligned with the new moon phase, the Permit really turned on. This good water and visibility made wading for tailing fish very productive and a lot of fun for some lucky Flats fishermen.

The weather also looks good going into next week, which should bode well for competitors in the three-day Key West Del Brown Invitational Permit Tournament. The tournament kick-off party was held yesterday, with the first day of fishing going off today. It was one of the best days of tournament Permit fishing seen in years as 7 of the 15 participating boats caught and released a total of 10 fish. The biggest Permit boated on day 1 ran 29 ¼ inches, making a great start to a tournament dedicated to the memory of a legendary Permit devotee. Del Brown made fishing Permit on fly gear into a recognized sport, and his crab-imitating Merkin fly was a fish-catching machine that doubtlessly contributed many fish to Brown’s lifetime fly rod Permit score of 513.