My phone has been ringing from dawn to dusk and I have been wearing jeans for 3 days in a row now. The calendar may say it’s February, but it looks like winter just showed up and the migration of seasonal visitors are thawing out here in the Keys. All signs are pointing to us settling into a pattern we were expecting to see months ago.
So, what can be expected if you’re here now and ready to play? Like your arrival, I anticipate a good push of our migrating winter fish, like mackerel and sailfish, along with an increase to the volume of reef fish that invade the shallow, close to shore spots when the water cools as it has this past week or so. You will have your pick oceanside of chasing drag screaming predators or filling the cooler with the best tasting snapper and assorted reef fish our area has to offer.
On the bayside, conditions and fishing should parallel the oceanside with increased activity. Spanish mackerel will be following schools of bait that have been blown south and seeking warmer waters and should provide tons of action. Expect cobia, kingfish and sharks to move in better on the wrecks 10 miles or more offshore and the mangrove snapper bite will be great, as they capitalize on the abundance of bait and the appropriate water temperatures for this time of year.
Conditions for snorkeling and spearfishing have been great. The reef water may have cooled, but it is far from cold!! The gulf stream has been very close to the reef, providing warm (76 degree) crystal clear water when the wind and tide are working together. For January, it has provided some of the best and most consistent winter diving I have ever seen. This time of year we are more prone to weather affecting the clarity of our water, but if the stream stays close to the reef and our fronts remain as docile as they have been, clear water is here to stay. For the spearos, the hogfish are getting thick with the decrease in pressure and there are plenty of grouper to drool over and dream about when grouper season opens on April 1. Big AJ’s are on the wrecks and the cero macks should be everywhere in between providing plenty of targets.
It is all shaping up to be better than what we have seen for many weeks now. Not that it is ever “bad” here, but conditions and trends are coming together to give us a great month to play on the water. So, if you are here now, what are you waiting for? Shouldn’t you be spending your time here on the water chasing your adventure?
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