Fishing Florida Keys Jan 2015

Thu Feb 05, 2015 9:41 am

Fishing Florida Keys Jan 2015

Arrived early at 3am in the Keys after the long 3 hour drive down from Miami, very tired and planning what we need to do 1st day.
Early start to Florida Sport Fishing Shop, boy I could spend some money there :)
Tried real hard to spend only on what we needed initially, bang goes $350.
If your ever this way you must feed the Tarpon on the docks beside bar, huge beasties possibly up to 200lb snatching prawns off the service in such a frenzy they were making me jump.
Then we headed off to pick up our fishing licences to ensure we were legal. Then headed back to our bay 1.5 hours away to plan fishing locations and methods.
We were told that a bay very close to us, less than 10 minutes to get to, held good fish and probably sharks due to deep water.
Armed with my 2 1/4lb pike rod with a small Shimano bait runner reel loaded with 30lb braid we walked over and rigged up with 2/0 hooks on 20lb leader and whole shrimps. On looking in the water I was stunned to see so many fish beside the boat moored there :)
Dropped the prawn down 3ft to watch a onslaught of snappers go insane to get to prawn 1st, the lined tightened and I was in (took about 20seconds to hook 1st fish) mangrove Snapper of about 6 inches. These fish are quite strong considering their size.
Boy this 1 hour session was going to be good. 
We hooked a fish a drop initially then suddenly my rod bent right over and something obviously bigger snapped me off, but this was not a Shark as bigger was not big like shark.

Suddenly my mate Russ screamed out that a Jack had tried to eat his snapper has he reeled 1 in near the suface, I had not seen this, but it got me excited all the same.
Bang I struck in to something bigger than these Mangrove Snappers 1st drop after tying another hook on. 
This time I played it carefully and was rewarded with a small Grouper of around 3lb.
Then it was back to a Snapper a drop although we could see other fish around that I did not know what species they were, but 1 did look like a Triple Tails.
Then suddenly while bringing my Snapper in along came that unmistakable Shark shape to collect his evening snack (my snapper) this Shark looked like a Black Tip Reef Shark of about 30lb+
Then almost every Snapper we caught was threatened by what seemed like a pack of these sharks (I could see at least 4 at any one time) and had no idea how many we're not on the surface. Some looked quite a bit bigger than 30lb too, but not getting 1 out of water I was probably wrong on my guess anyway and they were heavier. (well I am a fisherman)

It was getting dark now and the Mosquitos were feasting on us, time to finish as I had been snapped by 2 sharks and was fishing way to light to catch these, we surrender and headed back to plan catching these bad boys in grey suits the next morning with better more suitable tackle, I made up 4 x 130lb wire shark rigs with 10/0 Owner Circle hooks in the evening.

Tues - Day 3
Snappers galore initially, several species too, 1st live bait out was taken instantly by a Shark.
Screaming run ripping line from the Shamano Saragosa SW 10K paired with my Temple Reef Stealth 74.
Rod & reel performed great, sadly as this Shark hit the bait we realised there were several Black Tips and in the chaos I got cut off.
Oh well, on with another Snapper, again almost instant again and a repeat of the 1st resulted in a lost shark.
Again baited up, and almost instantly I was in again, this resulted in a small Black tip of around 20lb.
My friend Russ was up next on my gear, 2nd shark caught right away of around 35lb. Lost another couple too.
Fishing then just died, no snappers, no sharks just boredom for 3 hours.
Around 5pm it switched on again and all hell broke loose with shark after shark taking baits.
Another 2 caught for me around the 30lb mark and another for Russ with several more failing to hook up.
More snappers than you can shake a rod at.
Frozen Shrimp were the baits, we used a few live too.
Gulp Shrimp did get bites, but no fish caught on them.

1 live bait was taken by a Tarpon for Russ, but in its leap it threw the hook, this fish was a good size, maybe 40lb+
We also got visited by a very large Cuda, but only had a dead bait on, and he would not take this.
Huge fish though and definitely around 40lb+ having caught many Cudas, I can say my weight guess is close.
Lots of big fish splashing in the bay, maybe a Popper to try tomorrow or a SACL Mikros.
Back to our accommodation very tired, very happy and a little sunburnt :(
Seen my 1st Bonnethead tonight near our houseboat, high on my bucket list as sharks go (well full grown Hammerheads are at least)

Wed Day 4
Day in Key West with just 1.5 hours fishing off our usual dock
Snappers were still insane, just 1 shark caught.

Thurs Day 5
Cold weather front affected fishing, scary night aboard houseboat being buffeted by strong winds and waves, expected to wake up in Cuba!!!!
(was crapping myself if I'm honest) barely slept.
Lots of Snappers and sharks did not turn up. Caught a fish that looked like a legless lizard o.O

Fri Day 6
Explored a few other fishing options and just did a couple of hours off our usual dock.
Sharks were in numbers, but seemed uninterested in baits mostly. Caught 1 and lost 2.
1 was leaping 2ft from the water 4 times when hooked , very exciting fishing even if they were small in the 30/40lb mark.

Sat Day 7
Change of fishing location to the bridge between Sugaloaf & Cudjoe Keys.
Fishing with Pinfish was tried on the heavier rod, this is supposed to sort the bigger fish out, but I got nothing using them.
Fortunately we had got live shrimp too, using 2/0 hooks and smaller, we got bite after bite catching a myriad of beautiful coloured fish on bits of fresh shrimp.
Parrot fish, Angelfish, Surgeon fish, Yellowtail snappers, assorted other snapper species and lots of fish I could not name.
The Canadian guy fishing next to me hooked up 2 Tarpon of around 45lb+ both of which he lost trying to lift them to bridge top. These were caught on whole shrimp and a small 1/4 oz jig head.
We did hook & lose several large fish ourselves, but these were likely large snappers of around 4 or 5lb. Whole shrimp is great if you can get past the smaller fish, but they only cost $3.50 - $4.00 per dozen. Frozen are cheaper but come off the hook much easier :(
Boy do these fish pull hard o.O
Overall, bridges fish better than our dock, but our dock has sharks :)

Sun Day 8
Few hours on bridge again,
Same species as day before but a few new ones too.
Blue runners, and Golden Tilefish
Mangrove snappers were driving me mad, loads around the 8 inch mark, couldn't get passed them to get other fish most of the time.
Canadian guys came back with a drop net today, hooked 2 Tarpon and got 1 in for photos, smaller fish today of around 20lb+ but still nice.

Mon Day 9
Charter cancelled until Wed due to weather
Fished for sharks for 2 hours. Silly shark grabbed my shrimp bait on Pike rod that was emotional o.O small spinner shark (I think) about 25lb very acrobatic leaping from water.
Fished bridge for 6 hours, same abundance and variety of fish including some new ones. Snapped by a 40lb + Tarpon and lost another, but caught a few Jack Cravelle today also.

Tues Day 10
Bridge fishing for a Tarpon re-match.
Hooked 1 and failed to set hook fully. Some big Tarpon turned up and could be seen clearly, way to big for my set up.
Canadian guys had 3 Jacks today among species. They got a fish bitten off by a big shark, they rigged up for shark and got broke off within minutes of hitting 1
Russ got a Hog fish and a old guy other side of me was legering whole shrimp, something huge picked his bait up and headed away from him at speed until his 40lb line snapped. Probably the Tarpon I saw as these were 5ft long at least and it was around the same time.
Exciting stuff mind.

Wed Day 11
Charter out of Key West
Scott on Too Leathal.
Light tackle fishing only and a small fast boat.
1st stop, cast netting for live pilchards.
Then offshore to a submarine wreck.
Boy oh boy, 1st drop free lined Pilchard got hit hard by the shoals of black fin tuna hitting the surface all around the boat.
1st fish was around 35lb+
Then every drop we got hit, but many cut us off too as there was Kingfish heavily present.
I was using my Temple Reef Stealth 74 rod and it was perfect for these hard hitting, hard fighting tuna.
Russ also brought a Kingfish in.
I was getting frustrated with 6 cut off in 6 casts and wanted to Jig.
Got my Temple Reef Mythos Plus rigged up with a heavy weight and live Pilchard and dropped it down 200ft+
Skipper was amused at such a flimsy thin rod and commented he'd like to see me catch anything on it.
Instantly taken by a probable Amberjack as the skipper says lots present on this spot.
3 winds of my JM Reel PE3 loaded with 50lb Diawa Boat Braid and I was nearly yanked overboard. Oh F*ck
Rod bent right over and the skipper said "you've got bottom" like hell I have, something huge just hit me.
Let the battle begin.........
I could feel this huge shark shaking his angry head and it dawned on my I was on a nylon leader o.O
I grunted and worked my rod and @ss off and was winning the battle (in pain I might add)
I was gaining line steadily with each dip of the rod and pull back up, but this was not going to be my day :(
After around 15 minutes of back breaking pumping this Shark snapped the nylon leader.
The skipper was shocked at the fight this little thin Mythos Plus had just won with such a big adversary.
Down went a whole Bonito with wire leader next, bump bump bend snap, short and sweet, the nylon leader had gone again.
I think the skipper wanted my rod to break as he felt intimidated by its power :)
Oh well.
Moved to another spot for Yellow Tail Snappers for tea :)
Hit after hit and fish after fish landed in the 3lb to 5lb range, nice fighting fish on light gear again, and my Stealth did it beautifully paired with my Shimano Saragosa 10K (this did feel a little big & heavy for Yellow Tail Snappers though and a smaller reel maybe more comfortable)

Thurs Day 12
Dock & bridge day.
Dock 1st 3 hours, Sharks seriously aggravated Russ with loss after loss on his Bass Rod and small Penn Battle 2 reel I think. Again we were very restricted playing fish with lots of buoys in the water close to us.
Then while bringing in a small Snapper, the resident BIG Cuda decided he wanted it. Oh boy that was another emotional moment on my Pike rod, nylon leader meant this fight would be short.
It was :(
Excitement over and a move to bridge.
Tarpon on straight away, I now know where they lie now, and can see them laying in weight, assorted sizes with some huge ones there.
Lost it my after a few minutes and no more live shrimp :(
Lots of fish again, then a moment of excitement as a large Bull shark of around 5ft+ swam under my part of bridge, damn no baits handy, and off he want with swagger o.O
Apparently the Canadian guys had a small Bull shark 40/45lb and a Nurse shark 100lb approx from the bridge early that morning
I caught a nice Jack though shortly after and lost another tarpon as the hook failed to set.
Oh well, great day all the same :)

Fri Day 13
Quiet day bridge fishing.
Found out that the tarpon lie in 2 bridge sections and some nice fish from around 25lb to well over 50lb just laying there.
Any bait goes near them, they scatter, just occasionally you hook 1 and they go ballistic leaping from water and throw hooks.
Hard to hold them between 2 bridges and all the posts and this results in losses most of the time :(
Snappers were in form today though with some nice larger fish showing.
Lots of species generally, but quieter than usual, possibly due to the strong winds and cooler temperature.

That's our fishing finished :(

Whole shrimp on a jig head produces better fish but you get through them because of small fish nibbling away at them.
Legered whole shrimp in to the bay if current is that way also produces some serious rod bending bites, and some bigger fish, usually large snappers, bit we also witnessed guys lose monster fish (possible Tarpon or Sharks) on whole large shrimps.
Loads of large Parrot fish under bridges, but hard to catch, I think long shanked small hooks with a tiny bit of shrimp is your best bet.
Squid stays on the hook much better and produces lots of quality bites, but the catch rate is lower than shrimp. Lots of Surgeon fish caught on squid, some slightly larger than your hand, so nice fish and excellent fighting fish.
I was using 2/0 hook sizes, but my mate Russ used 6/0 mostly and he caught a bigger variety of fish as those small mouthed beaky buggers could get caught easier, but overall his fish sizes were smaller but more fish in general.
Wear a left handed glove for holding fish for un-hooking, everything spikes you (even the live shrimp)
Make sure you have a set of long nose pliers and forceps, fangs, teeth and beaks will hurt if you get bitten, even the tiny fish bites hurt.

Re: Fishing Florida Keys Jan 2015

Thu Feb 05, 2015 8:36 pm

Excellent first post, welcome to SAI.

Re: Fishing Florida Keys Jan 2015

Thu Feb 05, 2015 9:25 pm

That sounds like my type of holiday :D
Well done to both off u ,would love to see some pics
Oh ye and welcome to sai :wink:

Re: Fishing Florida Keys Jan 2015

Thu Feb 05, 2015 10:07 pm

A lot of great fishing 8) great holiday
A lot of snap-offs by the sound of it too unfortunately..?! :?
Yeah, pics of all those different species would be great
Thanks for sharing. Welcome aboard..

Re: Fishing Florida Keys Jan 2015

Fri Feb 06, 2015 10:14 am

photos! where's the photos!?!

legless lizard was a lizard fish, so you were very close.

Super post - wonder if the wifey would stretch to a week on the Keys for my 50th? Lol...

Re: Fishing Florida Keys Jan 2015

Fri Feb 06, 2015 10:18 pm

Putting photos up tomorrow.
Lizard fish was a very strange and very accurate.
the fishing was insane, a bite the instant your hook hit the water every drop all day long.

bit like my 1st fishing trip to Galway 15 years ago.
hope to seafish there a little more this year too.
with my mate Noel Griffith :)

May 2015 I fish Barren Islands Madagascar with 5 South African guys. ... ing-safari
this will mainly be jigging but I should be able to cast a few lures too.
if the trip is good I will be booking this boat myself 2016
Myself and 5 others as yet not confirmed. But hopefully Noel will be 1.

Re: Fishing Florida Keys Jan 2015

Sat Feb 07, 2015 11:29 am

Re: Fishing Florida Keys Jan 2015

Sat Feb 07, 2015 11:30 am

Florida Keys Photos ... 6141648708

Re: Fishing Florida Keys Jan 2015

Sat Feb 07, 2015 2:48 pm

Some really cool looking fish fair play lads 8)

Re: Fishing Florida Keys Jan 2015

Sat Feb 07, 2015 3:21 pm

We lost so many large fish in difficult places :(
But i will be using the right tackle on the right fish in the open ocean in Madagacar in May, and WILL catch big fish including big sharks, GT's, Groupers and Dogtooth Tuna to name but a few.

Spent a small fortune over past 2 years buying all the right tackle with 2 set ups for each method Popping & Jigging medium and heavy set ups.
I look forward to sharing that report.
over the next 3 years i hope to do
Southern Oman, PNG, Panama, Ascension Island, Socotra Island and Guinea Bissau. as well as a couple undecided yet.
2 or 3 trips a year, but likely to be 2 as i have to work my butt off now and this requires serious saving up.

And i need to fish with Noel in Galway.
Oh Boy

Re: Fishing Florida Keys Jan 2015

Sat Feb 07, 2015 4:29 pm

Clearly, this is the result of either a) Winning big on the Lotto or b) just divorced.

Costa Rica not on that list? Be a shame not to pop over while you're in Panama. Almost rude not to, even....

Re: Fishing Florida Keys Jan 2015

Sat Feb 07, 2015 4:56 pm

Costa Rica or Nicaragua
Hard to decide o.O

The result of working long days, 7 days a week sometimes 3 weeks straight.
I'm a grafter.
Kids all grown up and just me and the Mrs now.
Its like winning the lottery :)

Re: Fishing Florida Keys Jan 2015

Sat Feb 07, 2015 5:21 pm

I look forward to reading them, best of luck :wink:

Re: Fishing Florida Keys Jan 2015

Mon Feb 09, 2015 11:28 pm

Great fishing and lovely pics. Have fished in Florida for a few years. There are huge sharks there. Best bait for tarpon is crab.

There are many reasons for such excellent fishing in the Keys. Trawlers are not allowed operate there as angling is worth so much money to the economy.
Certain species cannot be taken home during fixed times of the season. I presume that this is for breeding purposes. We caught a large black grouper (28lb) which unfortunately died. The skipper wanted to put it back in case the fisheries officers checked us when we arrived in port. There was no arguing with him as he would lose his licence!!!

Commercial fishermen use rod and line and can make a good living...need I say more!

We could have the best fishing in Europe if we had similar regulations .

Re: - Costa Rica recommendation

Tue Feb 10, 2015 12:24 pm

Fish the Pacific coast in Coast Rica - get onto the beaches before dawn and chuck out a big fish head on a big hook on a big rig into the little channel that runs alongside every beach. It's a weird gulley they have there - I think we were in Guanacaste (the rum did things to my memory). Massive rays and sharks skim along this channel looking to hoover up anything in the hour before dawn. Use a BIG reel!

u lucky bugger! Green with envy....

Re: Fishing Florida Keys Jan 2015

Tue Feb 10, 2015 12:55 pm

Great report and pics, so envious, but really warms up these cold Feb. days, well done.

Re: Fishing Florida Keys Jan 2015

Tue Feb 10, 2015 9:55 pm

It was a lovely relaxing trip.

Will decide on where I'm booking next in June.
Obviously dependant on how much money I've saved by then.
We live in a world where travel is easy.