by Capt. Mike Weinhofer
Yeah January is here and winter water temperatures have dropped and Santa has brought us the cold fronts we need to help the fish settle in for a long winters bite. As the water temperatures drop the ballyhoo settle in on the reef edge and the reef fish are sure to follow. The reef is still full of yellowtail but the grouper and mutton snapper migrate to the shallow edge of the reef to follow the large quantity of ballyhoo. The new concentration of bait does not go unnoticed by the Kingfish or cero mackerel as well, quite often you will see the mackerel sky rocketing on the reef feeding. Another amazing site on the reef is the Sailfish spraying ballyhoo. This is where the sailfish swim in 60-90 feet of water then they race into schools of Ballyhoo making then jump towards the reef for the protection of the shallow water. Quite often you can wait on top of the reef with live ballyhoo and sight fish the sails in as little as 10-12 feet of water. You must present the bait quickly because the sails will not stay up on top of the reef they race up to feed and race back off. It is beautiful to see as well as a blast to fish. On the northward sometimes you will even find large dolphin up on top of the reef spraying ballyhoo. It is important that you are quick to cast a bait because the opportunity will not last long. Once you drop off the reef edge there will be Sailfish from 120-250. It is a great time of year for kite fishing. The majority of the fishing in January in the blue water will be inside of 400 feet of water. The tunas are feeding early morning and late afternoon. There will be a time in January that the wind will blow southeast for a couple of days in a row. This is your key to go offshore and look for Dolphin. Yes dolphin I know they are typically a spring and summer fishery but every year in January we get a southeast wind for 4-6 days and the dolphin snap.
On the Gulf side the cold waters will bring in tunas to the shrimp boats and cobras to the wrecks. The wreck fishing for cobra and snappers will be filled with shark bites. While your on the wrecks always make sure you have a spinning rod ready to go for cobia. Sometimes they pop up on the surface and you get your shot and they are gone. So make sure you are ready for ti when it happens.
The flats off Key West will fill with trout and barracudas. There will still be permit and the occasional bonefish and yes even a small tarpon or two, but the main targets will be barracudas, sharks, jacks and snappers. On the colder days the fish will slide off the flats into the deeper channels feeding along the edges. On the sunny days the flats will slowly warm in the mid day sun and the fish will climb back onto of the flats to forage for food. Watch your tides this time of year and hunt for the warm pockets of water.
Enjoy the cool winter breezes and the hungry fish. Winter time fishing is a blast. Just take a day and go enjoy why we are all here.
Capt Mike Weinhofer
Compass Rose Charters, 305-395-3474