A Little Bit of Everything
October is a transition month for fishing in the Florida Keys. It’s sandwiched between the peak summertime dolphin (mahi mahi) season, and the prime cold weather sailfish, cobia, and kingfish action. So unfortunately, this probably isn’t the absolute best time of year to target any one specific pelagic species.
On the flipside however, this is one of the only months that you have a shot at catching any, or all of these fish on a single trip! Throw in the excellent snapper and grouper fishing on the reef and wrecks, and it all adds up to October being one of the best and most exciting times to fish in the Florida Keys.
Another great thing about this time of year is that all of these fish can be caught within a few miles from shore. Cobias, sails, kings, black fin tunas, wahoo and more can all be targeted on the edge of the reef, which is just a short boat ride from the dock. This is also the season when schools of dolphin push in close to feed on ballyhoo as they make their return south after spending the latter parts of summer fattening up in the North Atlantic and Coastal Carolina regions. If you’ve never experienced the thrill of watching (and catching) aggressive dolphin as they spray ballyhoo in shallows, I highly recommend heading out and getting in on the action.
This week you should be prepared to target any one of these species on a particular trip. The ballyhoo are extremely thick, so a great way to start your day is to anchor up on a patch reef or rock pile and get a good chum slick going to attract your ballyhoo. Then while you’re waiting on your hoos to show up pitch out a small live pinfish (or fresh cut pinfish) on a jig-head using 14 to 20-pound fluorocarbon leader. The mangrove snapper bite has been excellent from 20 to 30 feet of water, with slobs exceeding five pounds! Once the ballyhoo show up throw the cast net or catch them one by one using a hair hook tipped with shrimp. It will take longer to load the well catching your hoos with hook and line, but if you take proper care and use a de-hooker when taking the bait off the hook it will often stay alive and active longer than those baits caught in the cast net.
After loading up on your ballyhoo you now have a few choices. One, you can continue fishing the patch reefs for mangrove snappers (mangroves love live and fresh cut ballyhoo), with the chance at landing a keeper grouper or mutton as well. Two, you can head out to the edge of the reef and put out a spread in hopes of catching sailfish, dolphin, cobia, tuna, kingfish, or wahoo. Three, you can spend time deep-dropping on the wrecks where the mutton snapper fishing has been off-the-hook the past couple of weeks.
I suggest you try all three!
Looking back at last week the highlights were the mutton snapper fishing and the wahoo fishing. We continued our fantastic run of catching big muttons on the wrecks out to 250 feet of water, and throughout the Keys there were reports of massive wahoos caught in excess of 70 pounds during the full moon! In addition, the mangrove and yellowtail snapper bites were both consistent, and there were several big dolphin caught just beyond the edge.
Offshore, the blackfin tuna bite was inconsistent with some days producing better than others, and the daytime swordfish bite continues to be fantastic. Wait for a forecast of calm weather, and head out for your shot at landing one of these once-in-a-lifetime fish.
Your Best Bet for the Week Ahead: Mix it up!
October is one of my favorite months to fish in the Florida Keys because of the variety of fish you can catch on any given trip. Stop by the Best Bet fleet and find out what’s biting today! We’re located on the Key Colony Beach Causeway MM 54, next to Sparky’s Landing Restaurant (home to the best happy hour in the Florida Keys).Capt. Jason Long
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