It’s that time of the year when you really have to roll with the punches, as the weather patterns change, so does the fishing. Cold fronts will steadily begin to funnel down the eastern seaboard and some of these fronts will make it all the way down to the Florida Keys. These cooler brisk winds can wreak havoc on your fishing and boating plans for the weekend, but they can also trigger certain species into biting. If you know what to fish for and how to to do it, you can have a successful weekend.
As the front first pushes through, you can expect the offshore fishing to pick up. Winds will most likely be from the northeast at about twenty to twenty-five knots. This will make for some sporty conditions out there, but big seas are what Sailfish prefer. Most of the action will be outside of the edge of the reef, but keep an eye out for Sailfish busting on bait around the reef. Capt. Jamie Connell likes to chase after them by using a kite, this allows him to put out a couple of extra lines on the opposite side of the boat, increasing the odds for more hookups. His preferred bait is a Google Eye but live Threadfins and small Blue Runners will work as well. He usually fishes anywhere from American Shoal light to the west end of the bar. He looks for color changes, debris and frigate birds in order to start his drift.
Black fins tunas also get frisky with the cold fronts, the bait of choice for them is live pilchards. These fast moving predators will hang around all winter. You can also target them by trolling skirted ballyhoos and cedar plugs. I recommend running them a little further back than you usually would troll your baits and increase your speed by a knot or two.
In the basins and channels surrounding the flats and mangroves islands expect a great bite of Spotted Sea Trout. They give you a good option when conditions turn a bit sporty and you need to produce a bite. They are a trip saver for light tackle and flats guides that need to get out there on challenging conditions and get their clients hooked up. When the fronts push through, the water visibility can become terrible, but for Sea Trout, this can actually be a good thing. You can spot them in the basins as they work the bottom, we call this mudding, due to the murky water they churn up. You can target them in many ways, live shrimp on a jig works very well but my favorite way is using Gulp Baits. They are easy to use, require no refrigeration, and you can always have a few packs on the boat for those windy days. When you get in this basins, look for them mudding or any kind of disturbance on the water. After you cast your jigs, allow them to sink to the bottom and gently work them back to the boat. When you get a strike, make sure you don’t set the hook to hard, you can easily pull the hook right out their mouths. Spotted Sea Trout are known for weak jaws. Do not be surprised to find some Snook or Redfish in this area as well, especially if you are seeing pilchards. Some of the most common areas for finding Trout are Jewfish Basin, Waltz Key Basin, Spanish Banks, Pontoon Bank, and the south side of Nine Mile Bank, to name a few.
Allow a day or so for the conditions to be safe after the front pushes through and make sure you do not get caught in the initial line of storms that will push through before the front. Some of the roughest weather I have experienced have been during the pre-front storms and I make it a point to try and avoid them.
BEST BET KEYS!
It’s all about keeping your options open in November!
You can have summer like conditions that will make for good fishing on the reef or you can have strong gusty winds that will keep you fishing on the leeward side of the islands or in protected basins and channels. Having live shrimp or pilchards will allow you to have the best chance at hooking up as the weather changes. A lot more pilchards will be moving in this month and having them is a commodity. Throwing a cast net is pretty much the only way to get them. They work great in all environments in the Florida Keys.
LOBSTERING AND SPEARFISHING
Usually, the leeward side of the island chain will have the best diving conditions. If we have a mild November you; will have a lot more opportunities to get in the water, but if it’s a windy one; your time may be better spent doing something else. If you do find some good visibility while Lobstering, keep an eye out for grouper, as the season closes at the end of next month.