Winter Fishing in Key West
Winter Time Backcountry Fishing
Key West fishing winter time weather can be a lot more mild than the rest of the state. The cold fronts still pass through, the water still gets cold, and the wind definitely still blows. So what’s different then? What separates the Keys from elsewhere in Florida is the variety of action packed species that take over the backcountry and surrounding shallow reef environments. As more cold fronts approach and gusty conditions occur, things change out on the water. Bait gets pummeled into areas they definitely don’t appreciate being in, followed by your seasonal predators.
A fish that we see here year round, but are more active this time of year is the mangrove snapper. These guys can be found in almost any type of backcountry setting. They like to hang out in channels just off the edges of flats where baitfish flows right into their homes. They like to hover down on the bottom, sometimes in between the sea grass or near some sponges. Drifting back live baits or pieces of cut bait into their target area seems to be the trick. Mangrove snappers are very picky sometimes because of the clear water. They will act like they are about to eat your bait and then turn away at the last second. When they do eat, they like to take your bait away from the area they picked it up. This is so they can get it away from their buddies while they try and swallow it. It is important to be patient when fishing for mangrove snappers because it takes them a few seconds to actually find the hook. By the way, these fish make for a great meal when you get back to the dock.
Next on the list is the seasonal Key West fishing list is the sea trout. These spotted trout are found in the grass beds of the
backcountry exclusively this time of year. They seem to make their appearance sometime in late September, depending on the weather, and hang out until early April. Trout are in the mix of other fish that are in these areas, but definitely the gem species. Fishing these areas you will catch a big variety of species mixed in with the trout. Jacks, ladyfish, snapper, pompano, mackerel, and sharks like to take advantage at the amounts of bait that are pushed into the area. Catching trout can sometimes be tricky if all these other species are present, because they will be more aggressive towards your bait or lure than a trout will be. But that’s not a bad thing. The action is incredible and you will be having a blast no matter what. Sometimes you will find a nice little zone where it’s primarily trout, and once you get out of that it’s game on for everything else. Trout are very beautiful in color and give some hard head shakes when they realize they are hooked.
At the top of the food chain in these areas, the black tip shark makes his appearance just about every day. These aggressive things rip through schools of bait on the surface, as well as fish chasing the bait. You’ll be fishing and enjoying your day, and all of a sudden you’ll see a huge splash way off in the distance. Nine out of ten times it’s a black tip shark. With such a large and hungry fish in the area, my anglers love to have their shot at catching one of these mean looking predators. On most days,we will stock up on bait that I find in the area to feed to the sharks. Blue runners and lady fish work well for this event. We use fish that don’t have a bag or size limit, that also happen to be stinky or bloody. With a good amount of wire leader on, the shark can’t bite through our line. It is awesome watching as your buddies try and get this shark in as soon as they can, not realizing that black tips give one of the best fights for any shark in the area. They make very long, hard runs. Once they see the boat, they seem to go at it again, making it seem like you just reeled all that line in for nothing.
For the backcountry this time of year, the species are so unpredictable, which make it a fun day on the water. Come spend one of your mornings out on the water this time of year to experience Key West fishing in cooler weather paired with a great variety of fish to pull on.
- Winter time species in the backcountry can include: jack crevalle, blue runners, yellow jacks, mangrove/gray snapper, lane snapper, groupers, many kinds of sharks, barracuda, and sometimes cobia. On some of the warmer days you may see some bonefish, tarpon, permit, and other species that you’d typically find with the warmth.