By Captain Tony Young
Anytime someone asks for the best time to visit the Florida Keys, in regard to fishing, I always reply with the same answer. Anytime is a good time to visit and any month provides opportunities that the previous month did not. Historically October is no exception, as the water transitions and fisheries shift. For me, October is all about diving for big fish.
The south Atlantic grouper season opens on May 1st and closes on December 31st each year. The two best times to hunt large grouper in the Florida Keys are opening week and the month of October, in my opinion. There are many reasons for this, but simply put the water in South Florida is hot during the summer. Most large fish will move to deeper water to stay in slightly cooler temps. As October approaches and the water slowly drops, the larger fish return to depths that are diveable for most hunters.
October is usually the start of our winter pelagic season in the Florida Keys, the most commonly targeted would be wahoo. Leaving the dock this time of year is always a toss-up, do you focus on reef for grouper or head offshore for wahoo. This is the month we have those options.
If you search wahoo spearfishing online, you will find countless articles and videos on how to target them. Years ago, this information was not as available, but the past few years this fishery has truly blown up. Take advice from others but find your own patterns in your area. When you get into wahoo, treat the fish like any other and focus on just an easy dive down to them with a relaxed trigger pull.
The main difference when hunting grouper and wahoo, is that grouper usually live where you are hunting. If you spook them, they will hole up where they feel safe. In this situation, you can usually work your way in and get off a shot. On the other hand, if you spook a wahoo they will take off, never to be seen again. Migratory fish are armed with the ability to sense danger when it approaches. If you are calm and relaxed, they will generally act the same and allow you to swim right up. If you dive frantically and excited, they will keep their distance.
With October now upon us, take this opportunity to target some late season grouper and early season wahoo. There are only a few days out of the year that both can be hunted, and the month of October provides many of those days. As always, keep a safe distance from other boats and use your dive flag.
Dive safe and happy hunting!