November is a highly anticipated month here in the Florida Keys because it marks change. The breaks in the heat are becoming more frequent, the water is cooling off and we are seeing the beginning of the migration of our winter species. The true challenge is describing day to day what the weather is going to be like or what species we will be targeting. There are so many moving parts that I am likely going to put my foot in my mouth by predicting how any charter may play out. The main characters like snapper and jacks are here and plentiful. The strategy this month is to position myself in front of what is happening and react to the opportunities that are presented. Often my plan for a trip goes a different direction because unexpected species steal the show. Mackerel, grouper, porgies, hogfish, sailfish, cobia…who knows, may be a guest for our trip. The key is to be open minded, be prepared for anything and roll with what is working. Everything is on the move as we roll through November and my goal is to put us right in the way of what is coming.
Fishing on the reef has been steadily improving as the water temperatures continue to drop. Currently we are at 80 degrees and going forward we should finish November in the mid 70’s. Who knows anymore because there is no such thing as normal weather. What has been normal is the yellowtail snapper bite has been great when the wind and the current are lined up nicely. Quantity and quality have been consistent, which has filled the cooler on most of my trips.
On the shallow patches we have seen good catches of mangrove snapper, mutton snapper, yellow jacks, mackerel, hogfish and even a cobia. This fishery is so much fun and is also a great option for when the wind makes being further out uncomfortable to fish. Typically we catch a dozen different species on the shallow patch reefs. It can be scaled nicely for kids, yet be challenging for seasoned anglers.
Fishing on the shallow bayside has been excellent for mangrove snapper. This is an easy fishery and is often the best option on the windy days. This a great fishery for kids or groups that are prone to motion sickness.
Blue water fishing has been good, but there have been a few challenges. This time of year most of the dolphin are gone, but there are plenty of blackfin tuna. The difficulty is getting them to the boat before the predators eat them. Last recent trip to the tuna grounds we did well, but lost 50% of our catch to sharks and porpoise.
Lobstering for all practical purposes is done
Snorkeling is certainly on the table if you are properly prepared and understand the elements involved. As our waters cool, wetsuits become a vital addition to your trip. They can be rented at Captain Hooks Marina for a minimal cost. These keep you warm and comfortable and protect you from jellyfish encounters. Also, 50% of the time the conditions may be compromised. We are entering windy season, so we play the wind and look for the visibility where we can find it. Prolonged stretches of wind can sometimes blow out the visibility for a week or more. For this reason, please understand that snorkeling is a highly conditional trip. I need the best conditions to have a good snorkeling trip. If you book a snorkeling trip and the weather/conditions are not appropriate for success, the trip will become a shortened fishing trip or trip of your choice within the options the weather allows us to do for the day of your trip. This way you still get to go out on the boat for an adventure and I still can make some income.
Spearfishing falls under the same circumstances. I can tell you that my last handful of spearfishing trips have been difficult for my customers. I provide you with the best information to help you succeed and have a fun trip. If you are not good at snorkeling, have no breath hold, do not know how to operate a speargun, have no idea of what you can shoot and choose to be completely unprepared…you are my worst nightmare. I keep getting this scenario on board and please understand this. I do NOT want to do these trips. Do not book it. It just is not worth it to me in any way. I’m ready to stop offering spearing trips completely. Spearfishing has become much more difficult the past few years. Educate yourself, adapt and overcome. I’m the last guy that I know locally offering spearfishing trips. It is a giant pain in the ass and unprepared customers invalidate all the work that goes into setting up a spear trip. Do not book a spear trip because it sounds cool. Do not buy this as a gift for somebody else.
Busy season is quickly approaching and my December bookings are ramping up. I have a system for success that I have developed from years of fine tuning the variables that work for me to be able to offer high quality trips in volume. I will be on the water every day dawn to dusk and I do not have time to play phone tag or detective. I have answers to 99% of any question you may have on my website. My website is my secretary and my menu of activities. It does contain all of the information you need to make the best decision for your group. Please fill out the “Notes” section with helpful information like how many people, what we are doing and info on any special issues your group may have. That’s all I ask.
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