Key West Fishing Report: September in Key West is another one of those transition months out on the water. There are a lot of different things going on in the backcountry, as we will start to see things slowly change. The fall fishing season is right around the corner and we are starting to see a few early faces of fish that we welcome that time of year.
This time of year, we see a lot of different things happening throughout the backcountry and shallow reefs. There are still a few tarpon still lingering around the channels running through the backcountry. This isn’t the most popular time of year to fish for tarpon because most of these fish have moved on with their migration. We are still finding small pods of these fish early in the morning in undisturbed estuaries. They are very tricky and very spooky to get to eat which is why the early morning time is better to target tarpon this time of year. The tarpon we are finding seem to like live crabs or small pinfish to eat. Since the water is so clear, I am using very light leader so our chance of hooking up is greater. These late summer fish are very weary of fishing line and our presence.
Next, one of the most popular fish that I am going after right now is mangrove snapper. Just coming out of their spawn, there are plenty of these tasty creatures in the backcountry and shallow patch reefs. Mangrove snappers, otherwise known as gray snappers, can be found in just about any type of structure throughout the Florida Keys. As their name states, they do love to be in the mangroves. They also like small wrecks, reefs, and other structures. Many anglers like that they can get a pretty good fight out of a mangrove snapper and then eat them later on for dinner. They are a very tasty fish that can be cooked a number of different ways. Mainly when we are fishing for these snapper, we use chunks of dead bait, as well as small live baits. Mangrove snappers usually school up in big schools and respond to chum really well. Light leaders and small hooks work best in these scenarios. We typically fill the box with dinner while being able to have a blast pulling on fish for a couple hours.
Among the snappers and tarpon, we are seeing a good amount of barracudas in the shallows as well as the reef. Barracudas are the rulers of the shallows and reef structure next to sharks. Barracudas will eat almost anything that moves, and will not think twice about eating another fish that you are reeling in. There are many different ways to catch barracudas. The most popular way to catch barracudas is to use a tube lure. A tube lure is a long piece of surgical tubing with a couple treble hooks coming out of it. Using a shiny lure as well works well too, as long as you are using a wire leader. Whichever style an angler decides to use to fish for barracuda, you have to move the lure in a very fast motion so the barracuda engages in the battle. If you move a lure too slow, the barracuda almost seems to get bored with the lure and won’t chase after it. Barracudas are one of the most underestimated game fish in the Keys because most people are trying to stay away from them due to their predator nature, and eating people’s food fish. Try throwing a plug for them on light tackle and you will be pleasantly surprised at their fight.
The weather this time is beautiful. It is usually pretty calm with light winds. There can be a few weather patterns that you have to be very aware of this time of year, though. With the tropical weather patterns revolving around the Keys daily, you have to be very careful about the what’s going on when going out on the water. Tropical storm systems can pop up in an instant even when there is no prediction of rain or storms for that day. Winds can pick up to 20-30 miles an hour for a short period of time during these storms while lightning is not far behind. Just be careful when out on the water because Mother Nature is very unpredictable in the late summer.
With the fall right around the corner, we are very excited to roll right into the change of seasons with beautiful weather and a nice variety of fish species. The fall brings not only some different fish to our waters, but some fun events going on in Key West that make your time off the water even more enjoyable.
Capt. Kyle Kelso
Hurricane Hole Marina
Key West, FL