The best time of year to get the most out of your Key West fishing outing is right now. The fall becomes many angler’s favorite time of year due to the amount of variety of species you can get into throughout the day. With cooler weather, cooler water, and active fish, you too will get to experience why people love this time of year. It’s nice to be out on the water in Key West when the weather is a tad bit cooler. We still have some days in the fall that feel like summer time, but most of the days are a little more comfortable for the most. We occasionally see some tropical weather movements, including storms and high winds at times, but this can be really beneficial to what’s going on in our fishery. With different weather patterns coming and going, we see different fish in new places. It’s like Mother Nature’s way of changing things up for us.
The warmer days that feel like summer is the days that I like to go after the illusive bonefish. Bonefish are a flats species that are caught by sight casting a few select items in their close vicinity. I like to have my anglers toss a buck tail jig tipped with shrimp near these spooky flats fish. The jig can easily be picked up off the grass and repositioned quickly. The tip of shrimp on the hook ads a little bonus scent for the fish to lock in on. Another very effective method is to use a live shrimp. It can be put on a small hook and thrown very close to the bonefish without spooking them as easily, since the shrimp is very light. A very small weight can be added to the leader if your target is a little further than your light shrimp will allow you to cast, or if it’s a little gusty. A lot of anglers like to go after bonefish on the flats using a fly rod. A shrimp or small crab pattern can be used for fly fishing for bonefish.
A species that is in just about every type of water throughout Key West this time of year is the barracuda. These mean looking predatory species lurk in the mangroves, on top of shallow flats, ship wrecks, and reef structures. Barracudas like to target just about anything that is smaller than they are, including other barracudas. There are many different ways to catch a barracuda. The most popular type of enticement to use would have to be the good old tube lure. A tube lure is a piece of colorful surgical tubing with a piece of heavy wire inside of it, with a hook at the end. These lures are popular to use up on the flats and shallows. They seem to imitate a ballyhoo, needlefish, or hound fish. I think barracuda attack these lures just because it is a long, skinny, twirling object moving extremely fast away from them. Another favorite type of lure to use to catch barracuda is a hard artificial plug. I like to use ones that have some shine in them to call some more attention. A lipped plug in a little deeper water or around structure is useful, just to get the depth. You can also use a lure on the flats as well, as long as it doesn’t get stuck in the bottom. With any sort of lure or plug that you are throwing at barracuda, a fast retrieve is the best way to get a bite. If you stop the lure the barracuda will no longer be interested. Another helpful tip is to not set the hook too hard, or your lure can come flying back at your face if it comes unbuttoned from the fish’s lips!
Lastly, the fish that reminds me of the fall and winter time in Key West is the spotted sea trout. This species only comes around here in the cooler months of the year. We find them in shallow sea grass basins where tide flow moves in lots of little baits for them to feed on. The cooler days seem to be the most productive for catching trout. They are pretty aggressive fish, and will often times follow lures all the way back to the boat. Scented soft baits seem to be the ticket when using artificial lures, while drifting a live shrimp is the live bait king. The way we fish for trout is by covering a lot of ground in the areas they inhabit. Blind casting in the area will sometimes also lead you to other fish like jacks, ladyfish, and pompano. The cooler the water temperatures get, the better this type of fishing seems to be.