We are in full swing with the winter weather here in the Keys. We’ve had several nice cold fronts the past few weeks making it quite cold and windy. The cold weather has only helped kick start the normal bait migration we are used to seeing during the winter. It wasn’t until early February that we actually saw a decent number of ballyhoo in our waters. Usually, the cold weather makes it difficult to have a good day fishing. But the key is to know how to take advantage of the colder weather and target the fish that tend to show up in our waters with the drop in water temperatures. This means not to target fish that you would typically catch in the summer months (like dolphin.)
February is usually one of the coldest months in the Keys. So, in February, I like to target certain fish depending on the weather. On the calmer days I tend to target deep water snapper, grouper and jacks on the wrecks in the morning and cobia in the afternoon when the sun is high. We find the cobia following rays in Hawks Channel outside of the bridges. They are usually in large schools and willing to take a variety of baits. Live grunts and pinfish seem to work best. Most of the deep water snappers are willing to take a variety of cut baits like squids, bonita, and ballyhoo chunks. On the Conetagious, we like to use a simple three hook chicken rig on a small 30 lb braided conventional outfit. The weight size often depends on the depth and how strong the current is, but 16 oz is usually the best. When you find a school of snapper, it doesn’t take long to have a fish box full of good eating snapper this time of year.
The wreck fishing in February can also produce some great catches, such as monster African pompano and mutton snapper. The trick to landing these trophies is having good live bait and knowing which wrecks are holding the most fish. The best wrecks for producing African pompano are the Bib, Dwaine,
Barbara Anne, Eagle, the shrimp boat off Duck Key, and the Thunderbolt. All of these wrecks hold a good number of African pompano this time of year. They will take a variety of live bait, including large live shrimp on jigs. Mutton snapper will also take the same live bait, as well as dead baits like squid, deboned ballyhoo, and speedo chunks.
On the rougher days, when the wind is out of the east southeast, I like to target sailfish and hit the patches up for dinner. The rougher days allow you to target sailfish using kites. Quite often we get a variety of other fish to bite our kite baits as well. Kingfish and tuna are the most common bycatch. Don’t be surprised if a wahoo takes a shot at your bait if the water is nice and blue. With the onshore winds, the water usually gets cloudy on the patches. This makes the yellowtail and other snappers very aggressive and it doesn’t take long to have a mess of great eating fish for dinner. If you don’t mind fishing this colder time of year, there is a lot to catch. However, give me the warm weather. I’m ready to catch some dolphin.
Summer 2015 will be the second year of Clearwater Adventures Summer Camps. I am proud and excited to take these camps to the next level in 2016. The Clearwater Adventure Summer Camps are designed to introduce and educate young men about the magic of fishing and takes place here in Islamorada. Last year, this was a huge success on every level. The activities were well planned and executed to give each camper maximum experience. The staff is exceptional, with great skill levels and great leadership.
The camp accommodations are a canal side home located on the same canal where I live. The food includes several seafood dishes provided by the campers. The activities include: Two (2) days of offshore fishing aboard the “Contagious” with myself and Dan; one (1) day of backcountry fishing with Captain Jeremy Chavez for tarpon, snook, and other species; a shark fishing excursion with Captain TJ Zinkand; snorkeling adventure with Samantha Zeher, along with kayak fishing the Mangrove Islands of Florida Bay. In addition to these on the water activities, the camps will provide instructions on how to throw castnets, tackle rigging live bait, artificial bait and lures, plus general fishing techniques utilized in the
Florida Keys. What a great educational experience for each camper!
The majority of the campers from last year have signed up to come back for the summer of 2016. We have added 3 weeks so that we can take new campers.
Boys: Ages 12-18
Airport Pick-up and return is included
These camps are a very special opportunity for the young fisherman. For more details, call or email for a complete brochure or visit the camp website.
Captain Brian Cone
David Todd (830) 562-3354 (512) 217 -1587
Brian Cone (305)