By Robert Trosset
All throughout the Keys we have been seeing clear water move in on the reef. The cooler temperatures and shifting winds during the cold front season bring changes to the Gulf Stream that bring the clear water in and kick the dirty water out. Most of the days on the water this month we have seen 40-100 foot of visibility.
The cool clear waters on the reef bring bigger fish in shallower. Every year when grouper season closes on January 1st; I tend to see more and larger grouper on the reef, a trend that usually lasts until season reopens May 1st. Once the pressure is back on the grouper they will become more elusive but you still have time to catch a trophy when the season opens. Now is an excellent time to get out and scout your favorite hunting grounds for when the season opens back up.
I have also been seeing lots of snapper and jacks while diving. Mutton snapper, mangrove snapper, yellowtail and yellow jacks are all on my list this time of the year. When you can see the bottom from the surface it is easy to find that trophy snapper or just shoot a few for diner.
The second reef that runs intermittently along the barrier reef at certain points from Key Largo to past the Marquesas is one of my favorite places to dive. From Sand Key to the End of the Bar, just south west of Key West, has been the best conditions. Typically 50 plus feet of visibility. There are many spots with excellent bottom contours holding fish. Plus being farther from land usually equates to clearer water. Look for the telltale signs on your fish finder of large drop offs and marks separated from the bottom to find the bait. Big fish tend to follow the food so if you find one you can find the other.