Winter fishing is in full affect around Key West. For the last month we have been doing a lot of live bait fishing offshore and around the reef. Pilchards and ballyhoo have been the bait of choice for the most part and they have been pretty easy to come by so far this year. The tuna bite on the offshore wrecks has been excellent the past couple weeks now. We have been able to catch them anytime during the day, but the bite around the evening has been the best. Mixed in with the tunas have been bonitas, rainbow runners, kingfish and amberjacks. Also, when we had nice, clean blue water, the dolphin and wahoo were around. The mutton snappers have been on the bottom around the wrecks too. The sailfishing has not been great, there have been a few fish around, but we haven’t seen any large numbers of fish yet this season. The conditions are right for the sailfish to show up though.
Kingfish and cero mackerels are thick around on the reef. We have been catching a lot of them as were yellowtailing, especially when the ballyhoo show up in the chum slick. The yellowtail snapper bite has been consistent and the fish have been nice size. Chunks of bonita and live pilchards have been working best bait for them. There have also been some big mutton snappers on the shallow patch reefs. This is the time of year to catch big muttons in shallow, as they move into the cooler water in the winter. Pilchards and bonita strips will work on the muttons, but live ballyhoo are the preferred bait.
For the most part, Barracudas are the main fish we target in the backcountry in the winter. They prefer the cooler temperatures and they actually get more aggressive when it gets colder. They are an awesome fish to target on light tackle or with a fly rod. They will attack the lure or fly violently and they fight incredibly well. It is no easy task catching a barracuda in shallow water. Days when its super windy and hard to get out on the flats, we drift the basins for trout, snapper, ladyfish and jacks. We have also been fishing the backcountry channels with live pilchards and you catch a variety of fish on live bait, from snappers and jacks to barracudas and mackerel. Shark fishing in the backcountry is another fun activity when the wind is blowing.