Well for starters, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! It’s hard to believe that another fishing season is coming to a close. And what a year it has been! The start of 2018 was a bit rocky, courtesy of Hurricane Irma but things turned around quite rapidly here in the Florida Keys and life is thankfully back to normal. With only one or two exceptions, all of the Upper Keys hotels in Islamorada and Key Largo are open and many completely remodeled with new landscaping. And speaking of landscaping, looking at the local vegetation one would never guess that a Cat 4 hurricane went through the area. Everything is as green and lush as can be on land and the water is as blue as ever. And speaking of water, let’s get onto the fishing.
Anyone that has ever fished with me knows I love our Everglades backcountry, so most days I’ve been fishing the many islands and flats that make up Everglades National Park. The fishing the past month in the park has been nothing short of stellar. Big schools of finger mullet have been moving through and with them predators, including a personal favorite, the snook. Last week I had hands down, the best snook fly fishing I ever had in the fifteen years I’ve been guiding. We had one unbelievable day of sight casting to big snook in clear water. Normally fishing in clear water and bright blue skies is a tough proposition for any species, but the snook had the feedbag on that day and frankly I lost count of how many fish we had eat the fly. They were all solid fish but we got one snook that tipped the scales at close to thirteen pounds. Nothing quite like putting my whole fist in that bucket mouth to retrieve a fly! Two days later conditions were overcast and windy and found us working the mangroves. Mullet were coming through with the tide and the snook were destroying them! Everywhere you looked, snook were blasting bait! We sat on one spot for two hours, never moving, and probably hooked close to 50 snook! It was unbelievable! At one point we were hooking fish every cast. It was downright ridiculous. That day the sizes ran the gamut, from 12 inchers to fish in the 7 to 8 pound range. It was truly epic.
Mixed in with the snook have been a number of decent sized redfish as well, but the most encouraging thing to see has been the number of juvenile redfish in Florida Bay. We caught one baby redfish on a fly that probably measured 10 inches. The thing was adorable. But there also have been some very large redfish prowling about as well. We had shots at some fish that had to be pushing the 40 inch mark, but they had zero interest in eating a fly that day. Seeing big breeders is always a good sign, but seeing juveniles in the bay is very encouraging and hopefully our redfishery returns to the fantastic fishery it had been just a few years ago.
With our water temperatures cooling with our winter weather, the Spanish mackerel bite is really starting to fire up. Fishing for “macks” is nothing but pure fun. Hang a chum bag, put on some wire leader and a fly you don’t care about being destroyed and listen to your drag scream! Watch those knuckles! If you have never fished for these speedsters you need to!
Well that’s all I got! Happy Holidays everybody and tightlines!