Know the Rules

Fishing in Florida during the colder months can be an extremely rewarding experience if you know the rules. Now we are not talking about the rules and regulations on creel and bags limits. Although knowledge of these regulations are mandatory in every region, it’s the small subtitles that can make a difference of success for the visiting angler.

We hear all the time that fishing is the same regardless where you fish. But in Florida that can’t be further from the truth. The various species are stealth and they spook very easily. And catching them can test even the most passionate angler.

There several interesting techniques that can increase the potential for success.

Know your target. Some of the most important items to be aware of when fishing in Florida is to know your targets specific tendencies. Temperature preference, tide phases, feeding habits, and movements and means of comfort and hideaways are important tips that help the angler. Being familiar with these can help improve your success potential

Match the hatch is probably the second most important tip to remember. Many species are creatures of habit and they will feed on the most plentiful and easiest bait available. So the best way to increase the success rate is use a lure or bait that is similar to what’s in the water. Color is also important but it’s the contrast and presentation technique that can have more influence. The key: mimic the food source and try to “BE THE BAIT”.

Downsize your gear. The lighter the gear the easier it is to place the bait in the proper location, present it naturally and then feel the bite. Minimize any foreign objects from the environment. Anything outside the lure should appear natural. So use the lightest leader materials, limit you connections to only small knots and avoid any type of metal on your tackle or baits.

Technique and Presentation. Regardless of your lure or bait selection, it’s the natural presentation that can make all the difference. The retrieval technique can make the difference between a strike and spooking your target. Remember, most strikes occur during a pause in any retrieve when the prey is most vulnerable.

Change it up. Some anglers will switch their salt to fresh water gear to encourage the strike. Modifying baits such as adding a rattle or cutting a slice from a plastic swim bait that mimics a wounded fish may spark the interest of a feeding fish. As a general rule, “change is always good”.

Although there are dozens of other techniques, I have found these to help increase my catch rate.

Never be satisfied with the basic package, experiment and challenge yourself and you will not be disappointed.

Until Next time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

Fishing the Florida Keys on Foot

Fishing on foot in the Florida Keys gives the angler many different opportunities to experience a unique fishery not found anywhere else. The Florida Keys boast over forty-two bridges with casting platforms and over a hundred miles of easily accessible shoreline where the angler can try their luck. And occupying these venues, anglers will find hundreds of different species of fish resulting in no shortage of saltwater targets.

Fishing on foot is one of the easiest and most popular type of fishing in the Keys. And even though it doesn’t require any special gear, the angler should be prepared for many unforeseen hazards before venturing out to any of these locations.

Anglers should use the same planning scheme when fishing in the Keys as they would in their home waters. They should become familiar with bag and creel limits and any special regulations applicable to the new area.

Bridges and elevated platforms offer the best opportunity for angling success. Moving water attracts many species of fish close to these structures in search of bait. And the tremendous amounts of water flow between the Florida Bay and Atlantic Ocean during the changing tides makes for a hot bed for both predator and prey.

Coral rock and rubble often line the base of many bridges and abutments adding to the turbulence.

These structures can also provide safety for many species but unfortunately add to the frustration when anglers cast too close and get caught in the debris.

This chaotic configuration of structures and easy access makes for the “perfect storm” resulting in an outstanding fishery.

Shorelines and rock seawalls also offer a similar opportunity to catch fish. Sandy bottoms and grass flats can extend hundreds of yards out from the water’s edge. Many bait fish will find protection in both the grass flats and under the thick shoreline vegetation. Both small and larger species can be found searching these areas for food. So anglers should focus their attention on areas that include both distance and close proximity to the shoreline.

Occasionally, anglers may want to wade into the flats but extreme caution should be taken if they are not completely familiar with the area. Swift water and deep holes can cause the angler to lose their footing and fall into the water

So regardless of whether the angler chooses a bridge or shoreline, they will experience nature at its finest. Most anglers typically catch something, others are lucky enough to catch dinner and a select few may catch that trophy where memories are made from.

One note of caution – The Keys is an open wildlife preserve with many wild creatures. These creatures make dens around many of the bridge abutments, the rock jetties and the mangrove shorelines. Extreme care should always be taken to keep your distance from any wildlife.

Shortly, we will be discussing which gear and various techniques that work best on bridges and shorelines. So check back soon.

Until next time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

It’s Not Too Late

Well it’s been several months since your final catch of last year. Most anglers began right away performing that off season maintenance on their gear. Ridding the salt, sand and grime from the reels and rods.

This is a reminder – It’s not too late!!

The most important duty is disassembling the moving parts of the reel to expose any debris that can shorten the life of the reel. This cleaning should be followed by lubricating certain parts to insure good operation first time back on the water.

Rods are a bit easier. Wash with a mild soap and dry completely. A good corrosive resistant coating. Especially focus on the guided for hidden dirt.

If you have not completed this basic duty then now is the time. All reel and rod manufacturers’ web sites can give you the best maintenance procedures to follow for your particular gear and equipment.

Remember, once you re-assemble your reels, tighten down the drag knob then back it off one whole turn. Helps lengthen the life of the drag mechanism.

Until next time – Tightlines   Capt. Tony

Time Well Spent

Most anglers spend hours fishing and enjoying the outdoors. But sooner or later, it might just be the catching that matters.

There are dozens of bridges and hundreds of miles of shoreline to fish on the Florida Keys. For the average visitor, it’s impossible to fish them all. To be realistic and if time were not a problem, you could work your way from Key Largo all the way to Key West and never run out of a place to wet a line.

To avoid this daunting challenge, my best bet was to ask for help right from the start. I stopped by a local tackle shop and picked up a fishing and boating chart. Most charts described bodies of water, bridges and many other topographical features. I found this chart to be the most valuable tool to finding fish.Chart 1

The chart turned my focus to several bridges located just south of Islamorada. The three bridges were Channel Two, Channel Five and Long Key Channel.

The topography showed that water flowed aggressively underneath these bridges during the four tide changes. This water movement swept current between the Atlantic Ocean and Florida Bay. And with this rapid movement of water, comes tons of bait fish followed by many predators.

Seemed like the perfect place to start.

All three bridges had adequate parking with walkways that run the entire length of each bridge. The walkways were parallel to the bridge and separated a short distance which allowed fishing from both sides. The walkways were encased with a four foot railing providing safety for anglers and families.

Every fifty yards or so, the walkway had a ten foot fishing platform extending out on both sides. This area allowed the angler to cast a little farther away from the bridge but also able to cast under the arch where many species hide and wait for bait fish to float by.

It seemed each bridge walkway area I visited favored the angler, but in reality I found the various species had the upper hand.

But with my plan in place, gear rigged and ready to go, I was ready to challenge any condition, any obstacle, even my in-experience in this new place.

Until next time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony