Key West Fishing Charters and Guide Service

   

   
 
 
 
Key West Fishing Report
by Captain Pepe Gonzalez
 
September


  September is quite possibly one of the slowest tourist months in the Florida Keys, let slow season work to your advantage! Less tourism in town means less fishing pressure out there on the water and that means more fish for you!

September is also one of the favorite months for locals to get out on the water.
Capt. Mike Cyr of Seahawk Charters tells me that September is one of the best months for targeting the legendary “Grand Slam”.
Even though the large schools of migrating tarpon are gone, plenty of juvenile fish remain in small pocket around the mangrove islands in the back country.
This paired with flats teeming with tailing permit and schools of bonefish make the perfect recipe for the slam.
Another important factor is the decrease traffic in the back-country, when the fish are relaxed and less weary it can really increase your chances when site casting.

Captain Mike likes working early in the morning or late in the evening and tries to avoid the mid day heat when the water in the shallows can easily reach well above 90*.

A bit further out along the edge of the reef, the hot snapper spawning bite is coming to an end, but that doesn’t mean you should write it off. You can still get a great yellowtail bite but you may have to work a bit harder, drive a bit further and pull your anchor a few more times. Also working a bit deeper than you usually do, can make a difference.
This time of the year I always try new spots.

 

Best bet Keys

I cannot think of a better way to spend a day than working the wrecks in the Florida Keys.

It’s all about working structure in September. The Florida Keys is home to many wrecks that can be found in the Gulf of Mexico as well as the Atlantic Ocean. Some shallow, some deep but one thing they have in common is that they are teeming with fish.
Dropping live bait is always the ticket. Butterfly jigs and vertical jigs can also get you hooked up. (butterfly jigs and vertical jigs are the same thing – right?)

When working the wrecks I use a technique I call stop and shop, drift the wreck a few time while jigging and dropping live bait to the bottom and if I don’t produce we keep moving until we get on some action.
Some of these wrecks will still have permit on them especially if you are fishing around the Marquesas Key and the Gulf of Mexico.

If you like working a bit deeper, the Florida Keys always has something going on in the blue water. The large school of Mahi that migrate in spring have come and gone but plenty of action remains if you know where to look. Finding floating debris always increases your chances of finding fish or you can work some of the humps.


Humps are underwater mountains located to the East of the Florida Keys archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean.
This rising structures force water to funnel around them and this attracts lots of bait which is a magnet to migrating pelagic predators.

These humps are real fish heavens that have made the Florida Keys famous for its world class fishing.
Watching bait spray is a common sight as the predators like black fin tuna and Mahi bust on them.

September is also a great month for Marlin, so definitely keep your eyes open for billfish in the spread.
Capt. Jamie Connell of Flying fish Charters likes to troll a large Marlin lure behind his Mahi spread, because you never know specially in September.
 From Key Largo heading South the humps are:
- The Key Largo hump.
- The 409 hump which makes reference to its depth.
- The Islamorada hump which is the most famous.
- The Marathon hump, and last but not least,
- The Carlson two humps.
Live bait is always the best method but trolling can have amazing results as well.

 

Lobstering and spearing

It’s been a month since the regular lobster season got started and you can easily tell the numbers of lobsters have decreased in the more common spots. This is when you start looking in areas out of the beaten path.

Most divers will dive the shallow rock piles that can easily be found by GPS or by sight because of their dark color against the sand light color of the sea floor.
These high visible areas get a lot of pressure. I personally like to work the channels and flats where you can find sponge gardens that will hold plenty of lobsters.
These areas usually don’t hold the mother lode. Two’s and three’s at a time will easily get you limited out in no time.

Pay attention to the tides, some of the channels can be dangerous, so diving them at slack tide is a must!

Always keep a spear gun nearby for the hogfish that is attracted by the grunting of the lobsters.

 

  August

 

   

   As the kids start heading back to school and the summer comes to an end, the hustle and bustle of the Florida Keys tourist season tapers off. Once again you can drive to and from Miami in less than three hours and go to your favorite eatery without making a reservation. If you are not into crowds this is the time for you!

August is one of the warmest months of the year, water temperatures can reach 90° in the shallows. With the high temperatures the legendary tarpon schools of Bahia Honda and the Key West Harbor begin to dissipate as they head North for their annual migration. Although the larger schools of rolling tarpon have left, there are still plenty around the Florida Keys.  The juvenile tarpon, in particular, hang around channels like Shark Key Cannel.  These lingering tarpon make a favorite late season sport fish.

August is also known for its red hot Bonefish bite.  Capt. Jamie Connell of Flying Fish Charters works the outside edge of the Content Keys on a falling tide for large bonefish.  He specializes in sight casting the bonefish on fly.

The large schools of Permit that were gathered on the wrecks and reefs are also on the move, back into the shallows, they can still be found on the wrecks but with less frequency.

Offshore the schools of migratory fish have packed on some size and weight.  While fishing it is always a good idea to search for debris and weed lines floating on the surface. Fish like Mahi Mahi are attracted to the floating fragments because of the small bait fish that gather beneath.

When heading offshore this time of the year, it’s also not a bad idea to have some chicken rigs for deep dropping in four hundred to six hundred feet of water.  You might be pleasantly surprised by what you drag up from way down deep: Large Tile fish, Snowy Grouper along with Rose fish are some of the usual suspects.

If you are looking for reef fish I suggest you work the outside edge of the reef, from fifty to one hundred fifteen feet of water.  At those depths you will find some late spawning Mutton Snapper as well as Grey Snappers.  The bite is usually better in the late afternoon.

At this time of the year I like to get an extra early start, that way I can have an early finish. I try to avoid the midday heat. Being poorly prepared for the August heat in the Florida Keys can lead to a miserable day on the water, not to mention a miserable next few days. Make sure you stay covered up with proper clothing and plenty of sunscreen.

August is all about being in the water, an ideal day for me consists of working the blue water and or doing some reef and wreck fishing early on.  I like to follow that up by doing some spearfishing around midday in order to cool off.

Hogfish, mistakenly called Hog Snapper, are a favorite target for the spear fisherman in the Florida Keys. Known for its white flaky meat, Hogfish are rated number one in table fare. Most Hogfish are harvested by way of spear fishing but can also be targeted by using live shrimp on a light jig.
Contrary to popular belief, Hogfish is not a snapper but a Wrasse native to the western Atlantic Ocean. They can easily be found in the local shallow reefs as well as in the surrounding channels.
The regulations are 12’’ to the fork of the tail and five per person. Please keep a close eye in the regulations since they are talking about change coming down the pipeline.

Lobster is on everyone’s mind as season opens up the first week of August.  Make sure to bring a net, tickle stick, and measuring device with you.   Don’t forget to check every ledge and rock where the mother lode may be hiding.  But keep in mind the coral reef is where the Lobster live.  Be sure to use care when free diving or scuba diving to avoid grabbing, kicking, and breaking off the reef.  

In the upper keys the fishing is always a bit different because of their proximity to the everglades.
Capt. George Clark of Rodeo Charters works the mouth of the creeks for Snook, Red fish, Jack and juvenile Tarpon with an occasional large sea trout working the area. He also tells me you can expect a late run of bigger tarpon moving thru the Everglades on the banks west of the park on the edge of the Gulf. His bait of choice this time of year is finger mullet and large schools of Redfish can be found with them around Flamingo area.

 

BEST BET KEYS

 

With the lobster season opening up in the first week of August you have to take the plunge and chase some tails.

You do not have to be a scuba diver to take part, Lobsters can be found in many shallow reefs and ledges in just a few feet of water.

Summertime in the Florida Keys is notorious for flat calm conditions that make for incredible visibility.

Along with lobster, you can easily find Hogfish, Snapper and Grouper.
You cannot go wrong spending a day in the water harvesting Lobsters and Hogfish.

Be aware when diving to not damage the coral reef while chasing down dinner.

Please take time to read the rules and regulations and make sure your diver down flag is well exposed!

 

 

 

 

July

   The dog days of summer have arrived and with it, some great fishing in the Florida Keys. Whether you are a novice angler or a serious tournament fisherman, there is something for everyone this time of the year. From Grey Snapper fishing on the reef to the Bacardi Oakhart Marlin Tournament, there are tasty fish to target and some serious fishing to be done.  No matter what you are fishing for, make sure you stay hydrated and protect yourself from the sun because it will wear you down.   

            Usually Mahi Mahi or Dolphin are on the menu when you head offshore.  Anywhere past the reef line can be a great place to find them, but you have to know what you’re looking for. Typically, you can start trolling in a few hundred feet of water and continue your way south toward deeper water until you find an area to work over. Everyone knows looking for floating debris and weed lines can lead to some great Dolphin fishing, but also look for Frigate birds and rips in the current offshore.  It’s not just about Mahi either; make sure you are ready for that Billfish or Wahoo bite, they will be out deep this time of year. Big Wahoo and Blue Marlin love to eat chicken Dolphin. If your trolling, it’s usually a good idea to have a big lure ready in case you get a billfish in the spread.

             Right now big Grey Snappers are heading out to the reef to spawn. You can get them any time during the summers, but around the full moons you will get the best bite.  Look in 80-100 feet of water, when you start marking a school anchor up current from them and throw a block of chum out.  Dropping live pinfish to the bottom is the most affective, but if you don’t have live bait, the Snappers will eat dead bait, like squid or ballyhoo as well.  Don’t forget about the Yellowtail Snapper, make sure you have a jig drifting back with some bait on it. This is a great thing to do if you are looking for some tasty fish or if you have young anglers looking for some action.  Consider going extra early or a bit later on in the day to avoid the intense afternoon heat.  Often this time of year, the wind can lay down and when your anchored on the reef mid-day, that heat can be stifling.

            In the backcountry, more Bonefish and Permit show up on the flats as the tarpon start to head out of town. Late summer and fall is a great time to target Bonefish on the flats, they love that shallow warm water.  These guys love to eat some shrimp on buck tail jigs. Don’t be afraid to jump out of the skiff and wade after them if it gets too skinny. After spending most of the spring and early summer spawning offshore, the Permit also start to make their way back on the flats.  They too like to eat shrimp on buck tail jigs, but tossing a little crab at them is the most effective way to target Permit.  The Tarpon, however, start to move on as you see less fish this time of year.  Even though the main migration is over for the tarpon, those that stick around are usually cooperative when it comes to eating. The light winds and variety of species make this a great time of the year to cast flies in the shallows.

             If you are in Key West and looking for a unique adventure with off the charts action, head even further west to camp out at the Dry Tortugas.  With the winds settling down, the 140 mile run round trip is well worth it.  On your way out on the Gulf side, keep a look out for Shrimp boats to fish behind.  There you can find a variety of fish, including Blackfin Tuna.  North of the Dry Tortugas you can fish all kinds of wrecks and coral heads, and when running south you can fish the reef or head offshore. With the weather window open, now is the time to check out the pristine waters in this remote setting around the Dry Tortugas National Park.

            Diving in the Keys right now is very popular as well, due to the aforementioned warm waters and light winds. You can have great visibility on the reef and wrecks, which can lead to some close encounters with sea life. Above all, this month everyone has lobster on the mind. People from all over Florida come down for the Mini Lobster season, which always falls on the last Wednesday and Thursday of July.  Diving for the lobsters in the Keys is great fun and can lead to a wonderful dinner.  However, with the popularity of mini lobster season comes a lot of safety risks. There will be a lot of people on the water, many of whom do not have a lot of boating experience or familiarity with the waters in the Keys.   Be sure to use extreme caution when participating and use care when diving to not destroy the reef by breaking and kicking coral in the mitts of a lobster snag.

 

 

Grey Snappers, or more comonly known as Mangrove Snappers, are plentiful on the reef this time of year. The big fish leave the backcountry channels and mangrove estuaries and head out to deeper water to spawn.  Live Pinfish are definitely the bait of choice; you can free line the pinfish on a small jig or drop them to the bottom on a Carolina Rig. Forty pound Vanish fluorocarbon will do the trick, but make sure you check the leader after every bite. Grey Snappers are notorious for fraying leaders and that could cost you the big one if you’re not paying attention. I also recommend a light drag for the Grey Snappers in order not to pull the hook on them, but keep in mind, the larger the Pinfish, the bigger the Snapper. recommend a light drag in order to not pull the hook o


Key West Fishing Report
by Captain Pepe Gonzalez

5/11/2016

Well, it happened again!

I hate to sound like a broken record, but last weeks old front brought a hot tarpon bite to a stand still with its lower temperatures.
We easily lost 5 degrees in water temperature.
The offshore bite also weaned off, the north wind pushed off the weed lines way to he south making it very difficult to find mahi.
I did make it off in the Gulf the same day as the front came through with lots of success!!
Plenty of black fin tunas off the back of the shrimp boats and on the way back we stopped at a wreck where we hooked up some permit and kept two large cobias as well.

Capt. Pepe
(305) 304-0983
captpepegonzalez@gmail.com
www.pepescharters.com

 
catch blackfin tuna behind the shrimp boats
  This past week the tarpon bite has picked up , but is still not as good as it should be.
The late season cold fronts are to blame.
Tarpon really dislike a cooler air blowing from the north.
Since they have an air bladder the come up constantly and gulp air.
This allows them to be in touch with the climate conditions.
And once again we are in the process of receiving another front as I write this.
So we can expect the bite to get a bit tougher before it gets better.
Offshore the mahi bite is off the chain!
I believe the best bite in the whole entire year will happen during the next 2  weeks.
Today we made a run out to the shrimp boats with lots of success!!
Big black fin tunas. Cobias and Permit.
It was a 45 mile run but well worth it.
The reef bite has been great as well, the snappers are beginning to gather for their annual spawn.
In the skinny water the tarpon have been hard to find but large schools of bonefish are making up for them.


Capt. Pepe


4/7/2016
  Another stellar week in the lower Florida keys with so many different trophy species around at this time of year.
It's all about making the right decision sometimes, know what the tides and the lunar cycles can make all the difference.
This past week it's been all about the permit for my clients and I.
We been finding them everywhere,  offshore wrecks, reefs in the harbor.
The tough part is finding the crabs, small blue crabs that permit love.
This time of year they are a very sought after bait, and if you really want them get them the night before or you may not get them at all.
We also been sailfishing offshore with some success, this last few days the wind has been non existent and that can sometimes make the sails not very active.
The tarpon are all over the harbor in large schools as well, I been hooking a few but the bite is not on fire, you have to work hard to get them to snap.
Let's go get em!!

Capt. Pepe
(305) 304-0983
captpepegonzalez@gmail.com
The tarpon have arrived in the key west harbor.
Nice permit caught near the flats

3/31/2016


  Spring is here and with it the best fishing of the year!!

I been offshore this past week live baiting for sails with lots of success.
My bait  of choice has been live ballyhoos, I like their ability to be slow trolled without dying, that allows me to stay I the color change or be able to move.
Tunas wahoos and mahi are there as well.
Inshore, the permit are getting thicker and thicker on the reefs and wrecks along with some cobias.
The tarpon are all over the area as well the outgoing tide has been my favorite tide for them.
The reef has a lot of action as well with large flag yellowtails with a few muttons in the chum slick.
Spring is here, let's go fishing!!

3/17/2016

  After the big wind last week, the wind has dropped to near zero and with it the temperatures are up in the high 80's which of course means that spring is here or at least for this week.

I been spending time on the rock piles targeting large permit with live blue crabs.
There I'm also able to catch live Ballyhoos by throwing a cast net. after the permit we head out offshore where the sailfish run is in full swing.
The tarpon bite is also off to a good start with large schools in the harbor and northwest channel. I live bait them and chum them as well.
I'm also getting reports of large mahi that are beginning to show up.
The next few months will be some of the best fishing all year. Weather you like it shallow and calm or deep blue come on down and get hooked up!!


Capt. Pepe
(305) 304-0983
captpepegonzalez@gmail.com
www.pepescharters.com
 
Permit caught around Key West on a crab 
Conch 27 charter boat   3/10/2016

This past week started off with with signs of spring, hooked some tarpon in the channels surrounding the harbor and I also seen some schools of permit moving thru. Unfortunately we had some really strong south easterly winds the last 4 days that have kept me securely tied to the dock.

Reports from my fishing buddies are not good!!
The water resembles the Louisiana bayou in color with a large ground swell coming in from the south.
Today I will attempt to do out there and make something happen.
Hoping to spot a few tarpon in the channels.


Capt. Pepe
(305) 304-0983
captpepegonzalez@gmail.com
www.pepescharters.com

  3/3/2016

  The first signs of spring are here!!

Temperatures are coming up and the winds are coming down, my favorite time of year is here.
Large numbers of tarpon have moved in to the Key West harbor and surrounding channels, I also spotted some permit on some wrecks and reefs, Offshore boats are hooking multiple sails every day.
Inshore this past week we limited out on snappers in less than an hour and a half.
I also been finding cobias pretty much everywhere in the gulf and the Atlantic.
And with flat calm conditions it has been a great week.
I'm on my way to go fishing as we speak.
Let's go get em!!
Cobia caught in the harbor


Nice sailfish caught while deep sea fishing off the flroida keys.
 
2/26/2016

  It's that time of year when you got to roll with what ever the the weather throws at you.
I been doing a bit of everything this past week, the sailfishing is hot if the weather allows you to get there. I been using live ballyhoos while drifting outside the reef in about 130 ft. Of water with lots of success.
I also picked up some Mahi as well.
Inshore the action in the rock piles is solid. With plenty of snappers and porgies for the dinner table.
In the harbor the tarpon are here but I haven't given them a shot yet since the water is still quite cool.
The basins have slot of action as well with lots of trout and jack crevalles busting on large schools of Ballyhoos, just look for the birds.
 2/18/2016

   We started this past week with a strong front that kept us securely tied to the dock, but the weather has greatly improved this past few days and with it the fishing is red hot!!

The wrecks offshore are on fire with lots of large groupers,muttons and African pompanos.
The groupers are catch and release only this time of year.
In the blue water the sails and tunas are keeping the fleet busy with multiple strikes along with some wahoos as well.
Live bait is always the way to go but the trolling boats have been doing very well.
Inshore the reef patches continue to produce a plethora of snappers, porgies, and jacks along with some cobias.
The back country is also alive with lots of speckled trout and jacks!!
There's action in every scenario you find yourself in.
Come on down to the Fl. Keys and find the right one for you.

    calm water snapper and grouper charters

Patch reef fishing   2/10/2016

   A series of cold fronts this past week are keeping the water temperature very low and with it the bite has become a bit tougher inside the reef.

Earlier today I went fishing towards the south west of KeyWest in about 35 ft of water, and we did get into a bite of snappers but it took a bit longer than expected to happen.
Due to the windy cold fronts the water is also very dirty, which makes it tougher for the fish to find the baits but with a bit of chum, patience and live bait you can be successful.
The best bite has been offshore in the later afternoon, the black fin tunas are feeding aggressively!!
The best bite comes by way of love pilchards but trolling artificial small squids you can raise them as well.
Sailfish are also up for grabs as well!!
Capt. Pepe

       
   

 

2/4/2016

  The water conditions around Key West have greatly improved along with the fishing. I been working the reef and wrecks in the Gulf on Mexico with lots of success!!
My clients got to take home their limit of Marquesas lanes along with some nice cobias.
We also landed some large muttons and yellow tails.
The bait of choice were pilchards and pinfish, make sure you got plenty cause you will go through them.
Out in the blue water the sport fishing boats have also been keeping busy with mahi, tubas, and sails.
In the shallows the spotted sea trout along with lady fish are keeping the antlers busy
I did spot a large school of tarpon this week in the channels surrounding the harbor.
Tarpon time is al most here!!
Key West reef Fishing Charters
Deep sea fsihing charters south of the Florida Keys. 1/27/2016

  Conditions  inshore in the lower Florida keys this past week continue to be challenging at best.

The water temperatures along with the dirty conditions is making for a tough bite.
Along with the difficult conditions, large schools of blue fish are here. Decent for action and catch and release but definitely not table fare. Offshore the Gulf Stream is right outside the reef at about 2kts. That combined with a strong south east wind, makes for sloppy conditions.
If you can handle it that's your best bet.
Capt. Brice Bar of the double down has been working the color change out there hooking multiple sails and tunas.
1/7/2016

  The cobia migration is happening now!!

Every wreck or reefs the Gulf of Mexico is holding them. You have to be patient they don't always come right up so don't make the mistake to move too soon.
Live pinfish or pilchard on a jig have been the bait of choice.
I also been spending some time in the Atlantic wrecks , the tunas are definitely there but a strong east bound time is making things very difficult specially if you are trying to put some bait in the bottom.
The inshore fishing is also quite hot, lots of large porgies along with many different snappers are up for grabs!!
Live shrimp or pilchards are the bait if choice for that.
Key West Fishing Report Cobia
   

 If you look around, you will notice my rates are a little less than some of the other light tackle boats in Key West.  One of the reasons is the majority of my business is repeat customers and referrals. So, I am not in any booking booth or concierge service in any of the hotels.  These "free" services actually take a 20% to 30% commission to book the trip for you.  Most of these bookies do not even know what's really going on the water.  The rest of my charters come from this website. Call me to set up a trip.  I will make sure you get a good trip!

    If I am booked and can not fit you in on my boat, I will find a boat  for you.  I know all of the top guides here in Key West and I only book charters with guides and captains that I know personally. The guides I use catch fish and are the best at what they do.  I want to make sure you have a great span> fishing trip in Key West and I want you to come back and fish with me again.
   
Key West charter fishing offers great catches every season, from inshore on the flats and back country to offshore on the reefs, wrecks and blue water.  Call me or send an email for more information on the different styles of fishingspan> in Key West and prices of the variety of fishing charters available in KeKey West Florida.
  

Captain Pepe Gonzalez
305-304-0983
Email Captain Pepe

 

 

 

 

 

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