Fishing the keys

The Lower Keys

Brooke Van Pelt tackles a Cero. Captain Schmidt (not the young one) is one of the incredible anglers that come along with our new Keys Editor Captain Greg Poland. The quality of this fishery -- and the men that will be feeding us regular articles, reports, and education from the Sport Fishing Capital of the World - knocks us out every time we see or read it. You can check out the Captain's site (and some pictures that will knock you out) at Sun Dancer Charters.

Winter time fishing in the Lower Keys and Key West means dealing with cold fronts. These fronts cool the water down and encourage the migration of baitfish. Once the baitfish gets established, it doesn’t take long before the migratory species find them and start to feed. A cold front cooling the water, helps the reef and offshore fishing but hinders the flats fishing for shallow water species such as tarpon, permit and bonefish. Typically, as a cold front pushes in from the North West, the wind starts shifting from the prevailing southeast, to southwest, into the northwest and north ,as the cold front moves through. Depending on the strength of the front, it can take a few hours to a few days for the wind to clock back around and fishing to get back to normal.

Lane Snapper

We were between fronts and it was a calm beautiful day as I left Murray Marine on Stock Island, with Alex Van Pelt and his lovely wife Brooke. Alex is a former pro quarterback for the NFL Buffalo Bills and should be a familiar name around Tampa, as he is now the QB coach for the Tampa Bay Bucs. We started our fishing day on the rock piles, in Hawks Channel but ended up on the shoals just NW of Sand Key. We caught red grouper, snapper and Cero mackerel.

A few days later, the wind had picked up out of the southeast and I headed out with a group from Birmingham, England. John and Tracy Ridley were visiting with their friends Andy Hopkins and Paula Demaine. They had heard about the great fishing in Key West and were ready to experience it for themselves.

Once again, we started out in Hawks Channel working rock piles to catch grouper, snapper and mackerel but the seas had kicked up and we decided to head over to the Gulf of Mexico side of Key West, where we had great action with gag grouper, Spanish mackerel, bluefish and lane snapper.

We are very lucky in Key West that we have so many fishing options on both the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic sides of the islands.

Why not come on down and see what winter fishing in the Lower Keys and Key West is all about!