It’s hasn’t been a typical winter here in the Florida Keys. I think we can blame it on global warming or the fact the Pluto is not as large as it used to be. Or whatever theory the scientist will come up next. Anyhow, the warmer temperatures haven’t slowed the fishing down one bit. In fact, it makes it easier to catch live bait on a regular basis. And if you have fished with me, you know how important good live bait is for a great day of fishing most of the time.
There remains a large amount of ballyhoo on the reef line. This can make for exciting fishing when the sailfish, tuna and dolphin are showering them. We’ve found that most of the sailfish have become really educated. Now it takes a lot of good technique to trick them into biting. A little bit of luck helps too. We managed to catch between 5 and 7 sails last week on light spinning rods 4 days in a row. All the sails ate live ballyhoo and were released to be caught another day.
There have also been a few nice blackfin tuna as well as good size dolphin under frigate birds. The strong east winds have been the best days to catch them. They have been feeding on flying fish in the 100 to 300 ft range. Ballyhoo or pilchards have been the best bait to get a bite.
The best bet in February is cobia. This month is without a doubt the best month to catch a big cobia in our waters. We typically will find cobia this time of year following large mud rays in hawk’s channel. Some schools have been upwards of 40 fish in a school. Sometimes you’ll have over 20 keepers to choose from. We’ve been lucky enough to catch some real trophy cobia for around here. In a one week period, we landed three cobia over 60 lbs with the largest tipping the scales at 70 lbs. Cobia are usually quite aggressive when found in large schools, due to the competition factor. So, a variety of baits work well. I prefer a live pinfish or grunt on a 3 to 5 oz leaded knocker rig. A 60lb leader and a sharp 7/0 hook are also important to have if you want a good chance of landing a big boy. These big fish will put up a great fight.
If you want to try your luck at reef fishing, it’s been surprisingly good. I typically never reef fish this month due to the cold water temperatures that shut the bite down. However, the water temps have been in the mid 70’s this month. This makes the yellowtail snapper and kingfish bite much better than normal for this time of year. We’ve been able to catch plenty of yellowtail and kingfish on nearly every trip we’ve tried. Some nice cero mackerel and grouper have also been an added bonus.
I also need to congratulate our lady anglers on winning the Islamorada Lady’s Sailfish Tournament this past weekend, and also getting second in the Poor Girls Sailfish Tournament the week before. It was a great finish to our sailfish tournament season.
Come on down for a fun day on the water. I look forward to a good spring time condition with a good dolphin, wahoo and sailfish bite.
Capt Brian Cone