Florida Keys June 2019

Tue Jul 09, 2019 3:14 pm

Hi all

Didn't have long there, just a few days, exceptionally hot, 35 C in the afternoon, little or no wind, very light tides.

3 day licence from Florida Wildlife Commission costs USD 19.22 including taxes. Pick salt or fresh water, or pay double (poor way to treat tourists but there you go).

Fifteen species caught over two rods over the two sessions - the dominant species being Yellowtail Snapper (8) of which NONE were legal sized. Incredibly we didn't land a single legal Mangrove Snapper either, which is not to say they were not there - there were tons of them, but not a single one within the slot size.

Off the shore, we fished the cut at Curry Hammock State Park on Little Crawl Key. USD 8 to bring a car into the park, every facility you would need. Stunning place. We decided to lure fish and used a selection of locally approved options - a tubular yellow lure, ripped in over the top of the water for barracudas, (two, very small but with ferocious teeth), a MirroLure red nosed 20 gram sinking white lure which did nothing, and finally some Rattling Slashers, more typically used for Largemouth Bass but we decided to give them a throw. These produced a couple of Atlantic Spadefish, nothing spectacular by way of size, but excellent sport. Big disc shaped muscular fish. Not expected to be there. They did come from an especially deep spot, which is in the cut around 100 metres out from the beach. You can wade a very long way here... but you do have to be careful. The currents are deceptive and a lot of people who wade fish here, do it off a kayak for safety. Kayak rental is very cheap, so a good option.

No Snook. Caught a procession of small illegal snapper that all went back, all mangroves, although I think one was a schoolteacher. These all came from the inshore area.
Aggressive little buggers, happily tackling anything that looked like a shrimp. DOA firetail pattern did the trick. Tried out some DOA minnow soft plastics (silver glitter presumably to mimic glass minnows) but these didn't do well. The shrimp patterns even worked way out on the flats... you basically cast it out and twitch it back. They get battered, mostly by small fish, but I watched a stunning tropical fish attack one persistently if I moved it across their territory, exactly like a brooding Wrasse would - pretty certain it was a French Angelfish. Eoin then landed its near relative, a stunning smaller fish called a Blue Tang, on a small shrimp bait on a knocker rig on a 1/0 Gamakatsu Octopus hook. 15 gram drilled bullet on the main line, swivel, fluorocarbon down to the hook, simple and very effective. Fluorocarbon is absolutely essential.

In fact he comfortably outfished me both for species and in terms of numbers using small prawn baits on the knocker rig.

Some of the lesser known species are just beautiful. Even the grunts are quite stunning. One of my best catches, running to about a kilo, was a Porkfish. Brilliant bright yellow and black bars, intermixed with silver. Some nasty spines on pretty much all the fish here. And massive Nurse Sharks wandering around in the channel...

No Tarpon. To be honest the only hope was that they might have slid up the creek but if you want to have a cut at them, they are tons under the bridge at Vaca Cut. They only feed on one side of the tide, and you have to cast ahead of the bridge shadow and let the current drift your offering back. It's not easy to get down to and not very nice there and it has to be at night. That means you have to take on the noseeums, and trust me, you don't want to do that. Every bite I took went infected (and my wife is a nurse and brought half a pharmacy with us!). Visit Bud 'n' Marys or Robbies Marinas to hand feed the 100 lb + tarpon. Stunning creatures. More on this later.

Did I mention how hot it was? OM*G. SPF50 is no use here. Bring UV resistant clothes. A tie on broad rimmed hat, with neck guard. Bring a neckerchief and wear it like they do here, right up over your nose, like an old fashioned highwayman. Got badly burnt (wind and sun) under my eyes and nose is still scabbed over. Very sore. They local wear long trousers when flats fishing. Now I know why. SPF50 got washed off, backs of my calves got burnt THROUGH THE WATER. Bring lots of water to drink.

Eoin hooked a ladyfish, again on bait, thing bounces around like a miniature Tarpon, great fun but they have a soft mouth and it flipped off before he had it to hand. You do need to be careful and do the stingray shuffle when wading - I spooked a small flounder and saw several fading trails of sand that indicated other flatfish... my last fish was a lucky escape. It was a squirrel fish, a big eyed deep water species that clearly had run up the cut and took shelter in the same deep hole as the spadefish. Lucky on account of them having venom in their spines, venom which can produce an anaphylactic shock response in some people. Fish guide did not list that... not impressed.

It got so hot I had to leave... and found Eoin back at the cut, releasing yet another undersized snapper. Photos are blurred, dont know why, but I will try to clean them up a bit and see if I can post them here...

will report on the boat trip and tigertail beach on the gulf coast seperately.