By mid to late April the main body of the Atlantic sailfish stock is somewhere off the Lower Keys, and likely around Key West. April is historically the best month to fish sailfish in Key West.
April and May are outstanding months to target trophy seatrout—fish from 8 to 12 pounds in the East Region. It’s the time of year when we see a lot of extreme low tides around the new and full moons and those low tides really concentrate the fish on the flats making them easier to find and catch.
The Panhandle cobia run typically starts the third week of March and runs through April, although the first cobia of the year was caught on St. Patrick’s Day this year. We do have some resident fish that are around all summer, and in fact last summer there were quite a few resident fish taken.
The slot-sized redfish are going to be on the flats holding around the mullet pods this time of the year. That’s going to be an early morning fishery and the fish typically won’t be tailing when they’re around the mullet schools. They’re actually looking for the shrimp, crabs and small forage fish that the mullet spook up as they feed.
Hunting for my region is broken up into two zones: Zone B which runs south of State Road 50, north of State Road 60 and west of Rte. 441. Zone C encompasses all the rest of the area in the Northwest Region. Just to give you an idea how that works, Archery season opens September 14th in Zone C, but October 19th in Zone B, so you want to know the areas you’re hunting and the seasons and rules for all those areas.
September and October are the months when we find the larger redfish schooling along the deeper edges of the flats in 4 to 5 feet of water. These fish are schooling up in preparation for the fall spawn, so it’s a time when you’ll typically find the largest concentrations of these big fish in the 15 to 40 pound class.
Just about anywhere in my region you can catch fish out of the surf, particularly in September when the fall mullet run is taking place. The mullet schools which have spent the spring and summer months in the marshes of Northern Florida, Georgia and South Carolina push out to the beach and migrate south along the shoreline. When you have that volume of baitfish in one area, the gamefish are going to be in the same spot.
There are three critical factors when chasing bonefish in the Florida Keys during the month of September: Tide, water level and wind. All three will determine where the fish are holding and if they’re moving onto the flats or off of them.
September is a time of the year when we start to see some really high tides around the new and full moons, so there can be a lot of extra water on the flats. It’s also a time of the year when we get some strong winds, so it can be difficult to figure out of the fishing is going to be best on the Ocean side or bay side of the Keys.
Wahoo are one of my favorite fish to catch in blue water. They’re fast, they’re mean, they get pretty darn big and they’re really good to eat, so there’s not a lot not to like about wahoo.
July and August are two of the best months to target wahoo in the East Region because the bonito, one of their favorite foods, are schooled up in big numbers. There’s also a lot of juvenile blackfin tuna in the area. As we move into September and October, the fall mullet run takes place, so there are large mullet added to the mix.
From Government Cut south and also off Miami Beach, there’s some good coral reef diving, and then to the north along the beaches there are some good ledges and natural rocks. The best reefs to dive on are the patch reefs, in 20 to 25 feet of water anywhere from Key Biscayne south. There’s a lot of good natural reef in deeper water, but you need to have tanks or be very good at holding your breath for long periods of time.