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Winter-time fishing in the Lower Keys and Key West means dealing with cold fronts. These cold fronts cool the water down and encourage the migration of baitfish. Once the baitfish get established, it doesn’t take long before migratory fish find them and start to feed.

Captain Mark Schmidt fishing Key West and the Lower Keys on Sundancer

A cold front cooling the water actually helps the Florida reef and offshore fishing in general, 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 winds start shifting from the prevailing southeast to the southwest, into the northwest and the 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 get back to normal.

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 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 still had great action with gag grouper, Spanish mackerel, bluefish and lane snapper.

Capt. Mark Schmidt

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