by Capt. Jay
Wow, here it is July already. July in Key West can be a very busy month for most folks in the Southernmost point. Our nation’s birthday in the beginning of the month, Hemingway Days, the Key West Marlin Tournament, Lobster mini-season, and a whole lot of celebrating… How ever you spend your time in Key West in July, there is always something to do… Now for the fishing!!
Right now is the time of year for Snapper slapping! July is a great inshore snapper fisherman’s dream. From the reef to the shallows, snapper from all shapes and sizes are hungry. July is primarily the time of year that Yellowtail Snapper, Grey Snapper (aka Mangrove Snapper), and many other bottom fish spawn. This brings large schools of these fish to the outside edges of the reef in very large and hungry numbers. Light tackle fishing at its finest, snapper can be a blast to catch on 8-12lb. gear. This time of year can be warm sitting on the anchor so make sure you bring lots of sunscreen and a hat. Our boat has AC which can be very nice to get out of the elements and cool off on those hot summer days. We use a combination of live and cut bait, free lined or weighted to target these tasty fish… and plenty of chum!
Along with the Snappers, come a few others to the party. Sharks and Barracuda are usually a common visitor to the fishing grounds as well as Goliath or Black Grouper. Try sinking a larger bait close to the bottom to attract one of these monsters.
Offshore of Key West in July can bring a host of characters to be caught. Sailfish, Blue Marlin, and White Marlin are still being caught from 600 feet of water and on out passed the drop. On the Outer Limits, angler Gordon Nesbit caught a very acrobatic White Marlin on the 4th of July. Weighing in at an estimated 65 lbs., this speed demon came into the spread ready to eat and took no time at all deciding which bait to slash, devouring the left rigger. As the fish took off to the races, Gordon settled in and went to work. The 30 lb. tackle made good and twenty minutes was all it took Gordon to best this billfish. With leader in hand, Cory gave the Marlin a quick reviving and a healthy release. Congratulations Gordon!
Along with the billfish, Mahi-Mahi have still been passing through the lower Keys waters as well. While most of the fish are school size, there is still a good slammer lingering around from time to time. The Sargasso grass offshore has been very prevalent this year, creating large weed beds, which are perfect places for Mahi to hang around. Many of our Mahi have been caught under these big patches of cover. And don’t forget about the flotsam. medium to large pieces of floating debris can make your whole trip sometimes in July. Remember, “if it is floating offshore, go check it out”. The Outer Limits once found three sailboaters, stranded on a 7ft dingy, 25 miles offshore, who were adrift for 7 days. From a distance it only looked like floating debris… but thats another story.
While the Gulfstream current remains offshore quite a ways, there is still decent fishing within range of Key West right now.
July also marks a three day event for local offshore anglers in the Key West Marlin Tournament. This event from the 16th thru the 19th is set right in the middle of Hemingway Days, which is fitting seeing that the “Bull” liked to battle Marlin… a lot!! Last year the Mr.Z had an awesome showing in the KWMT by placing 3rd with 400 points. The year prior the Outer Limits posted the top Bull Dolphin (42lbs.) in the Dolphin Division and pulled the hook on what would have been the winning Marlin. This year, excitement awaits, as up to 50 or more teams prepare to take to the Straits of Florida in search of these tackle testing superstars of blue water.
Fact, in the last few years, there have been more Marlin caught by the Outer Limits and the Mr.Z than any other charter boats in Key West, and this year is continuing on the same path. Look to see either one or both of these teams on the podium this year as well.