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Post Info TOPIC: Cold weather still prevails but fish are still biting


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Cold weather still prevails but fish are still biting

Cool water on the flats has continued to keep the bite most steady in and around the reef.  I’ve been looking for clear water with a depths of around 20 feet where I drop my chum bag over, and start to look for the ballyhoo to show up behind the transom. I like to catch a few live ones to use as cut bait, free lined with a small jig or just a split shot to fish beyond my view.  It doesn’t take long before the yellowtail snappers start biting and grouper and mutton snapper join in soon after. The cero mackerel won’t miss out on the action either.  In fact, if you start to catch the macks on conventional tackle and see a few more following the hooked fish, it’s a great time to pull out the fly rod.  Try a weighted fly like a clouser minnow or a streamer imitation on a intermediate sink-tip line.  Cast out as far as you can and let the line sink for about ten seconds and retrieve the fly erratically. If you get clipped off, try a small trace of wire and let the fly rod action begin.

The backcountry has remained steady when using live bait or artificial bait exploring the deeper pockets near Flamingo.  Live shrimp and a quarter-ounce jig twitched on the bottom brings the best bite. This past week, the last part of the falling tide into the beginning of the rise brought the most action . A few snook have been caught this way but far more bites are coming from trout, redfish and black drum to name a few.

The flats around Islamorada have been enjoying good flow thanks to strong tides and warmer oceanside waters. Sharks, sting rays and box fish are exploring the shallows once again. This is good news when you’re looking for the grey ghost of the flats, more commonly known as the bonefish.  As the wind switches around from the north and the water temperature drops, you’ll find tightly packed schools of these elusive gamefish cruising the deep edges of the flats.  You’re going to need good visibility to see these fish.  Look for muds created by bonefish feeding on the bottom, and cast well in front of the lead fish.  Use a live shrimp with very little, if any, weight and let the fish come to the bait and pick it up.  Once you feel the line start to pull away, just wind the line and let the fish hook itself when it tries to get away. I like to use natural looking flies like crab or shrimp imitations with tan or brown coloration.  Similar to the strategy with bait, cast the fly in front of the lead fish but a little closer – the fly won’t make as big of a splash on impact with the water. Short strips with the fly should work until you see the fish following the fly. Then set with the fly line, not the rod.

In the week ahead, the redfish should continue to feed and move up on the flats in schools, much like what the bonefish are doing right now.  Hopefully, the snook fishing will continue to beef up with some warmer water and better tides. Tarpon and permit won’t be far behind.

Capt. Steve Friedman Light tackle journeys in the Florida Keys
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