The weather pattern this time of year in the Florida Keys runs like clockwork. Stretches of delightful days filled with mild temperatures, calm winds and abundant sunshine are interrupted by cold fronts that occur on fairly regular intervals.
Cold fronts have an impact on the fishing, in both a negative and positive manner.
A severe front that delivers a 20-degree drop in temperature will shut the snapper and grouper fishing down but inspire the pelagics to feed more aggressively. Once the front passes and conditions stabilize, the reef fishing picks right back up. A weaker or stalled front has less of an effect on fish behavior.
One consistency is phenomenal pre-frontal fishing. Fish seem to be the best predictors of a change in the weather. During the days leading up to a cold front, they feed as if the world is about to end.
I talked to several charter Captains who fished prior to the Thanksgiving blow. They all reported a good all-around bite, ranging from excellent yellowtail action, good mangrove fishing on the patch reefs, productive dropping for amberjack and muttons on the wrecks as well as catches of sailfish and king mackerel.
When the cold front pushed through and the wind swung around 180 degrees, so did the fishing. The sailfish and king mackerel bite continued, but the snapper action fell off sharply for a couple of days. There were still fish caught, but the bite was not nearly as aggressive as prior to the change in weather.
The resounding cry of “WA-HOOOO!” can be heard throughout the Keys.
Charter captains from Marathon to Key West report a red-hot wahoo bite. I was told of one in the 50-pound range and another that tipped the scale at 60-plus pounds off Key West. A 40-pounder was caught off Marathon by an angler using a snapper rod with 15lb test and a live pilchard.
Tonight’s full moon along with what is predicted to be a major cold front coming mid-week will combine to ignite the wahoo bite on troll, especially toward the end of the week. The big kings should be on the reef following the blow, and the sails will be lurking.
The combination of the full moon and cool, windy weather should provide optimum conditions for the Islamorada Sailfish Tournament this weekend, which kicks off the 46th annual Gold Cup Series.