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By Captain Jay

Crazy weather you say? Blizzards in the 30 or more states. some temperatures dropping below ZERO! Then, to top it all off there is piles of snow in places not ready for that kind of weather impact. Take a deep breath if this is where you live, because there is a place within a few hours flight where the weather has been nothing short of awesome. And I mean awesome! That right folks, you are just a few short hours from BLISS and abundant SUNSHINE, with temperatures consistently in the 80’s. That’s right, Key West!!

Sounds like a sales pitch huh? Well copse enough , but no closer to true than fact. It has been nothing short of fantastic this fall, and as winter comes upon us we aren’t sure what to expect. The last few winters in Key west were very mild with consistent temperatures in the 70’s-low 80’s most of the time. Now is the time to come to the Florida Keys.

Happy Anglers with a nice catch

Lots of fish, and happy locals!!

As we approach our holidays here in the beautiful Florida Keys the fishing is usually just starting to get into full winter swing. Sailfish and Blackfin Tuna are prime offshore regulars, as are Wahoo and Kingfish. The reef is abundantly rich with schools of Ballyhoo which tend to have a large predatory following. Grouper, Mutton Snapper, Barracuda, and Mackerels of all sizes come for the feast. This year however it has been warmer this time of year than some of the last few, which have brought on a change in patterns.

Offshore waters have been 79 degrees the last few weeks (which is the lowest constant temp its been) bringing about almost summer like conditions. Low pressure from the Caribbean has given way to predominate SE winds. with the warm water also are many weed lines. The consistent weed lines have brought on consistent Dolphin fishing as well. These fish are mostly in the “schoolie” to “gaffer” size, but some really nice bulls and cows have shown up lately.

Bull Mahi caught in the fall

No Bull!!

On a recent trip offshore we came across a weed line with tons of tree branches, root balls, and tree trunks. All of which were covered with large amounts of baitfish. We caught quite a few Dolphin, Wahoo, Skipjack, and Blackfin Tuna. We even had a Blue Marlin come into the spread and hit 3 different lures before deciding to leave us. All this offshore action… in December!! ‘Thats “summertime” fishing,” you say, BUT, may i remind you this is Paradise!! And Paradise has all the makings for summer in the winter.

The fishing has been a lot of fun lately. Not just the offshore, but also a ton of action on and off the reef and inshore as well. If thawing out on the beautiful waters of the Florida Keys and Key West sparks your interest, come on down. “The weather is here!! Where are you?”Key West Sailboat Sunset

Marlin fishing, or Dolphin fishing? Reef fishing or wreck fishing? A lot of choices it seems. These questions are good ones as September has shown its face on us once again. The summer is slowly on its way out and fall is very closely beginning its arrival. Coming into this month there is a variety of fish to be caught, both inshore and offshore. Surprisingly the weather has been favorable and the temperatures (maybe its just me) have been nice. Highs of 84 to 86 in September are nice in South Florida. Storm activity so far has not been much of an issue either. Winds have been mild, and the water is clear just about everywhere you look. This has also been making for some great diving opportunities as well. If it is targeting a specific game fish, or just having a nice relaxing day on the water, we have a plan for you.

The Offshore Game

This month is always a toss up of what will bite offshore. We have had some great, and not so great, fishing offshore in September. In years past I have seen awesome Dolphin (Mahi-Mahi) and Wahoo action, and other years Sailfish and Blackfin Tunas. And, some years I have seen very slowwwww.. fishing offshore in September. This year if the weather and conditions stay consistent, the Dolphin bite may be pretty good. Strong easterly current has been very prevalent off the Florida Keys bringing new opportunities to anglers every day. Picture this, there is enough current from the Gulfstream right now that if you were to stop and float offshore of Key West, in 24 hours you would be offshore of Marathon, and in 72 hours offshore of Ft. Lauderdale. Crazy isn’t it. This strong current has new weed lines forming daily, and some nice catches of Mahi have been showing up to the docks lately.

The Marlin fishing this month is always hit or miss, but then again when is Marlin fishing “not” hit or miss. A few nice Blues and some Whites have been caught in the last week or so in the bluewater. Here is a video of a Blue Marlin caught on the Outer Limits this summer.

Aside from the Dolphin, some schools of Blackfin Tuna have been starting to move into the 300-400 foot range. Mostly football size, these speedy balls of muscle are a lot of fun on light tackle. Small baits free lined or trolled a good distance from the boat can be the most productive.

Walter Pytell with a big Blackfin Tuna

Walter with a big Blackfin Tuna

Located around these schools of tuna are an abundance of Bonito (Little Tunny) which can be almost as much fun as the Tuna. These fish have a following too as Wahoo and Barracuda are predominately found near schools of Tuna and Bonito. Some of the biggest Wahoo and Barracuda caught in the Keys are caught around schools of these fish.

Reef and Wreck Action

Early fall brings good conditions for reef and wreck fishing. Schools of Ballyhoo are already starting to show up on the outsides of the “bar” and are giving Snapper plenty to eat. The Snapper spawn is pretty much over and the fish are hungry as they try to fatten up for the winter. Yellowtail Snapper are the most abundant and catching a limit of nice fish is generally an achievable goal. Free lined minnows and plenty of chum keep this action packed fishery alive. Along with the Snappers are always a healthy Grouper or Mutton Snapper, and some Kingfish have been showing up on the reef as well.

Wreck fishing has been a game of “HOLD ON!” as of late. Big Amberjacks have been testing the forearms of many of our anglers. Averaging 50-70 pounds these brutes are a tussle on light tackle. Some big Grouper will also start showing up to the wrecks as the water starts to cool down towards the end of the month. Pinfish, Greenies, Blue Runners, and G-Eyes have been the baits of choice. Many good size Sharks have been around these wrecks as well. Bull and Sandbar Sharks have been the largest ones to blame for eating a hooked fish or two. Tie on the steel leader and get ready to “HOLD ON!”

No matter what your skill level is or what you wish to target, there is a plan in September to catch fish. Don’t forget that September in the Keys and Key West is off-season, so take advantage of lowered rates on hotels and travel packages.

 

 

 

Cullen and Scott Snapper fishing        Every year right around the first of August, Scott and Cullen come down to Key West from Tampa to have a father son vacation. Fishing on the Outer Limits is usually part of the activities. With the offshore fishing being hit or miss, we opted for a 1/2 day reef  and wreck fishing. It was a great call as the offshore was a bit slow this day. The reef was alive with Grey (Mangrove) Snapper and Yellowtail Snapper, Bonitos, Mackerels, ect.. Catching these fish was nothing short of as soon as you could get a bait out. While the action was fast, the fish piled up and soon we had our limit. Next, we decided to hit a wreck that was a mile or so away, Hefty Amberjacks were the first to strike and put father and son to the test. With screaming drag all they could do was hold on for the ride. After boating a handful of these brutes we called it a day.Cullen with a Shark bitten AJ

“Jaws” Awaits

The next afternoon was a different story. Scott’s brother Shawn had arrived in Key West and along with his son and daughter had accompanied Scott and Cullen for another 1/2 day. Our plan was to try for Amberjacks again. Unfortunately we were too late. Some big sharks had shown up to the party and ate every fish we hooked. After loosing a few fish we decided to run to another close wreck and give it a try. Smaller AJ’s were abundant and we caught quite few on vertical jigs. As one of the fish was being pulled up to the boat it was followed once again by a shark. Having already had a piece of one of the shark’s previous victims we dropped it back down 50 or so feet and immediately the battle was on. Scott worked the shark for almost 30 minutes and “jaws” was boat-side. Arms tired and back stretched, Scott was worked and the shark was released. With no more pesky predators around the kids reeled in a few more AJ’s and gave thanks to mother ocean.

Here is little GoPro video you might enjoy :-)

 

Every July in Key West, FL, three days are set aside on both of our boats for the annual Drambuie Key West Marlin Tournament. This tournament is usually a dead ringer for the third week of the month. Falling on the same week as Hemingway Days, downtown Key West is bustling during these seven days. This event is held at the Conch Republic Seafood Company, two blocks from famous Duval Street. The tournament can bring close to 100 boat entries and as many as 400 anglers. Recent years have been less than half of that, as economic adversity has given many tournaments a low number of participants. Still there are usually a steady group of fishermen and women who are consistently entered every year. The Mr.Z and the Outer Limits have both been participating in the KWMT for many years, having both been in the money on many occasions. Mr.Z Blue Marlin 7-20-13

This Year Was No Exception

The tournament was met this year on the Mr.Z by Captain Curly McGinn and mate Steve Liberatore. With eager optimism, they entered into the event as a Drambuie sponsored boat. This sponsorship is set up by Bacardi, who distributes Drambuie. The Mr. Z has been a Bacardi sponsored boat for many years. Having already released two Blue Marlin in the two days prior to the tourney, the crew was dialed in.

The first two days of the tournament were very slow for the majority of the boats. One Marlin on the first day, and one on the second day left day three as still anybody’s game. Mid day on day three the Mr.Z hit pay-dirt. With a pounding strike a Blue Marlin grabbed the Aloha Lures “Mongo” from the rigger and screamed drag. Troy Anderson was first on the rod and in the fighting chair. As the fight ensues the fish goes down and dirty on Troy. With great technique he slowly gains a few feet at a time. Now with the Marlin, boat side mate Steve put the finishing touches on the leader and released the fish.

The Crew Accepts the 3rd Place Trophy

Capt. Curly and Capt. Steve with the Drambuie Girls

With only a few hours left in the tourney, the difference between first and fourth places was an amazing 17 points. A 20 pound Mahi, or Wahoo, or a Sailfish would have given them a first place trophy, but it wasn’t meant to be. As a matter of fact, two more marlin were released on the final day, but due to time of release the Mr. Z was able to hold on to 3rd. As a sponsored boat, the winnings of the tournament are split and 50% goes to a charity that the KWMT committee votes on in the fall.

A great job done by a great crew! As always the next Marlin is just up over that wave! :-)

The Mr.Z has been on the bite lately catching Marlin, Wahoo, and Dolphin.

Here are some of Captain Steve and Captain Curly’s videos of recent catches. Hope you enjoy them.

This is a video of a 50lb. Wahoo caught with the Cureton family.

During the 2nd annual Bondi-Putnam RPOF fishing tournament angler Melissa Putnam hooked into an unexpected Blue Marlin estimated at 125 pounds.