An old business saying goes like this, “it all has to do with location, location, location.” This holds true to fishing offshore as well. Just in a different sense. “Where to go today?” is the question. Offshore fishing in the fall and winter months can be tricky sometimes. The location of the wind direction is key, and if you get it right, you can have some great fishing.
Throughout the fall and winter months the Lower Keys has little consistency when it comes to fishing offshore. As opposed to the spring and summer where the wind is predominately from the east to south direction, which are generally the best winds for offshore fishing out of Key West, the fall and winter have a constant change in wind direction. Cold fronts with, as the weather reports call them, “Fresh” north to northeast breezes make their way through the Keys waters bringing with them lower temperatures and sloppy seas conditions. As with “sloppy” I’m talking “a very confused” sea. Fronts pass through the Keys relatively quickly, first beginning with a west wind, then clocking around to the north, northeast, and then back to east all with in a few days. This quick clocking around of the wind can make the seas offshore somewhat of a washing machine. These are not very favorable days to be 20 or more miles offshore looking for Marlin, Tuna, and Dolphin fish. Now sure, every now and then you might catch a few good fish during fronts, but don’t count on any consistency. However, when the front slacks off enough that the warmer low pressure of the Florida Straits and Caribbean Sea pushes East to Southeast winds back into Keys waters, head offshore and get ready. Warmer temperatures from south to southeast winds brings with it a push of hungry marine life. Mahi, Tuna, Wahoo, and even Blue Marlin can be caught offshore in the fall and winter. As a matter of fact the Blue Marlin fishing can be good in these months, though the reason many people don’t boast catches, is they don’t fish offshore this time of year. As said before, the fishing is mostly dictated by the wind and your days of southeast winds are limited, but they are there, and they can be worth the look offshore.
Take this last week on the Outer Limits for example. Monday started off beautiful, and great conditions for offshore. Light southeast winds, 80 degree air temperature, and 78 degree water temps.. Joe and wife Sandy had a great day with constant nice Mahi action, and a bonus with 3 Wahoo, just inside the shelf. The wind pushed what scattered Sargasso grass there was into a few lines and most all the fish were caught near these weed lines. We did manage to make a few deep drops targeting Swordfish, but unlike the day before we did not have any takers. The day before was quite different as we released one Swordfish and lost another one, but we will leave this type of fishing for an upcoming report.
Tuesday was pretty much the same conditions but with a little stronger breeze. The slightly choppier sea had the Blackfin Tuna popping baitfish in the 500 foot depths, along with a few Mahi up to 20 pounds mixed in as well. Our clients were once again cranking on fish repetitively as multiple hookups were constant and we released quite a few Skipjack Tuna as well.
Then Wednesday, the front came. Blistering north and northeast winds in the 25 knot range had kept many boats at the dock for a few days. Yet, during a front there is always a backup plan…