Bottom Fishing in the Florida Keys

Bottom fishing, bottom fishing, bottom fishing!  Every species that you tend to think about on the bottom is biting quite well right now.  Porgies, groupers, lane snappers, vermillion snappers, mangrove snappers, etc.  The only common bottom target that we shoot for that I haven’t seen too many of is the mutton snappers.  They should be starting to bite a little better now that the water is up 10 degrees from a month ago, but I just haven’t seen them yet. The Islamorada Lady II caught a few nice ones last week, but three fish doesn’t mean the bite is on.  Usually the party boat is a great barometer of the bottom bite because that’s what we do all day long every day, and we aren’t bringing any “mutts” back right now.

Live shrimp have been the hottest bait out there for just about every reef fish you can try to catch.  I have talked to charter captains who say if it weren’t for having shrimp in the livewell they would have come in with nothing.  The sailfish and kingfish bite is so poor that when it’s too rough for the big sportfish boats to get offshore for tunas and amberjacks they are anchoring up on the reef and targeting porgies and snappers with live shrimp.  That really isn’t the typical way of fishing for most Keys charter boats, but with the otherwise poor fishing conditions we are caught in right now they are doing whatever it takes to put a catch together.

I’d like to add a testimony to how strange things are on the reef right now.  There are a lot of fish that you catch on the bay side as well as on the ocean, but then there are others that NEVER stray from one side to the other.  One that we are commonly catching on the ocean side right now which belongs on the bayside is the spanish mackerel.  We catch thousands of cero macks, but rarely ever any spanish out where we fish.  The example that blows my mind, however is the gaff-top sail catfish.  This fish ONLY lives on the bay side in the middle and upper Keys.  I talked with another charter captain out of Robbie’s who swears he caught two of them the other day on the reef while yellowtail fishing.  Basically what this means is that the water temperatures are so messed up and the conditions so unordinary that the whole ecosystem has been thrown for a loop.  It doesn’t mean its the end of the world, it’s just a testimony to what a strange winter this has been.

This next week I would look for the snapper bite to pick up a bit, the kingfish bite to stay basically absent and the groupers to bite well (not that you can keep them for another month and a half).

I look forward to seeing you all down at the marina,

Capt. Brian