There’s a lot to be said about coming to the Keys to get out of the cold weather up north and your expectations of catching your target species. It’s still winter here no matter the latitude. So with that said let’s give a run down of what might be available for flats and deep sea fishing this January in Key West.
One of the most fun gamefish on the flats. Don’t knock it until you try it. Barracuda push up onto the flats to warm up in the shallows and they put on quite a show trying to catch up to a tube lure. Tube lures come in various colors like yellow, pink and chartreuse. Have a little bit of a weight inside the tube lure so you can really launch it. The pre-made ones come with wire leader. Fire it off past the cuda and reel slower until he sees it and then reel as fast as you can. My wife and I run a barracuda tournament called the Cuda Bowl that is annually the Friday and Saturday prior to Super Bowl Sunday.
Jacks are very aggressive fish and fun for just about anyone to catch on spin or fly. They will often follow a large shark or ray trying to scavenge anything they stir up or leave behind. Inshore the Jacks travel the flats and can get upwards of 20- pounds. Fish for them from a wreck and you might be done for the day after fighting one of these big boys.
Ever since the MadFin Shark Series came out shark fishing is all the rage in Key West. There’s no doubt it’s a lot of fun to bring in these big sharks and sight fish to them in shallow water. We have bull sharks, hammerhead sharks, lemon sharks and blacktip sharks to top the charts. A shark will eat a buck tail jig, a live bait, or a dead bait. It depends on the situation and how hungry he is. Bottom line, sharks are a lot of funs so don’t pass up a chance to fish for them with spin or fly tackle.
Yes, there are permit here in the winter months. In fact, some of the best permit fishing I’ve seen in recent years has been in late January and the latter part of February. There are some big ones around and they are willing to eat in the right situation. Fly anglers become obsessed with permit fishing and to get on them you need to be here late Feb and March or mid-June through the fall months.
The offshore bite consists of so much it’s hard to pinpoint a few fish we target. Now that it’s after January 1st, grouper season is closed until May 1st. This has been a much needed regulation and has given the grouper population a tremendous boost it needed.
One of my favorites to fish for and to eat. With anything offshore the live bait makes the situation a whole lot better. If you can get a well full of pilchards and start throwing them over a deep structure you can sometimes make the water boil with excitement. Bonito and blackfin tuna are generally mixed together and in a lot of cases there are sharks near by waiting to take their half of your tuna.
Personal favorite as well and excellent eating. I’ve only caught a few personally but I have to say it holds up to it’s legacy of being one of the fastest fish in the ocean.
This pelagic fish spends a lot of time moving around the same waters as blacken tuna, wahoo and bonito. They will eat live pilchards and also ballyhoo.
We may spend some time fishing for snapper along the reef edge or on a patch reef. Mutton snapper are also here year round and one of the hardest fighting snapper you will find in our waters.
Fishing your conditions will take you in the shallow bays and flats when it’s windy and rough to the offshore waters beyond the reef when it’s more calm. Being on the water every day I can say I really love to not get beat up and have fun catching some fish.
Rely on your guide to tell you what would be your best option for wintertime fishing in Key West.