The fish in the Florida Keys may be chilly, but they still have to eat!
Florida Keys Weekly Fishing Update – Captain Chris Johnson, SeaSquared Charters – December 15, 2010
Our fish friends hunker down when the temperature drops just as we humans do. They slow down all activity, including eating, in reaction to falling water temperatures. Increasing temperatures, however, elicit a strong bite.
The good news is we’re due for lighter, southerly winds and warmer air temperatures starting tomorrow. While you may have had to take the week off from fishing, you’ll be able to get back at it this weekend.
Big push of ballyhoo bait to the reef
When the temperatures in the bay dip to the upper 50’s, as they have the last couple of days, the cool, murky blue-green water tends to flow from the bay to the reef. This pushes massive schools of ballyhoo out off the deep edge of the reef, which triggers an excellent sailfish bite. Kingfish, cero mackerel, dolphin, wahoo and even blackfin tuna are also energized by the presence of the ballyhoo.
Therefore, the venue with the most favorable conditions this weekend will be along the reef edge in the warmer mid-70-degree blue water. Clearly, your best baits will be live ballyhoo.
Grouper and snapper will be aggressive
As conditions improve to more normal temperature ranges, the grouper and snapper will begin biting again. They will be very hungry, as they probably have not eaten for a few days due to their lowered metabolisms.
You can expect all the grouper species to bite aggressively. The mangrove and lane snapper will lead the way as these varieties are more tolerant of cooler waters. The mutton and yellowtail snapper will follow suit by the time the weekend rolls around and the environment on the reef and patch reef stabilizes.
Good activity on the bayside of the islands
On the bayside of the islands, the best fishing will be in the Key West area where the water temperatures are still in the mid-60’s. Mangrove snapper and gag grouper can stomach this situation and will feed normally.
In the bay waters of the Middle Keys, Spanish mackerel will be tops until the water temperatures return to that mid-60 comfort zone.
The week’s best catches
Return customers Marion Aiello and Neil Chambliss, of Okeechobee FL, spent a day fishing the reef and patch reefs with me and came back to the dock with yellowtail and mangrove snapper. They released a ton of undersize lane and mutton snapper plus red, black and gag grouper.
Marion and Neil also caught this odd hybrid snapper that appears to be a cross between a yellowtail and a mangrove.