by Capt. Nate Wheeler
2018 is definitely ending in a bang. December was a fantastic month all across the board. The wahoo, a personal favorite of mine showed up in good numbers crashing and tearing up the baits of unsuspecting anglers. The biggest fish seem to come on trolled lures in the 200-300 ft. range. This is the same area to also fish for the very tasty blackfin tuna.
On a more visual note the sailfish showed up real heavy. We were able to land fish in as shallow as 20 ft.! It is truly an amazing thing to see these incredible creatures from the deep throw their sail up and push bait balls into the shallow water. No other way to catch these fish than pulling up and throwing bait to them. It kind of reminds me of flats fishing but on the reef.
Speaking of flats, early in the month while the weather was warm we had a great permit bite. A few of the guides had multiple permit on fly. On more of the action side there have been a ton of big jacks chasing the ballyhoo schools around.
Looking forward to the New Year? Hands down the greatest part about fishing the Florida Keys in January? You’re not ice fishing. I did that one time and I can’t say I’m a huge fan. Right now you might as well be ice fishing in the shallow water. Cold wind and water pushing into the shallow water will quickly drop temperatures into the 60’s. Water temperatures this low, will drive out most of the notorious shallow water gamefish. Instead focus should be on winter time targets which can be a lot of fun. Large schools of jack crevalles, snapper, trout, ladyfish, barracuda and sharks will be pushing their way south following winter migrations.
With the shallow water significantly slowing down, I turn most of my attention towards the deeper water. The right weather can provide incredible bites for snapper on the reef. Just a little bit deeper off the reef lay the fish of glory. Sailfish, or offshore tarpon as I like to call them, will be in full swing and ready to fatten up for the winter before they turn and make their spring migration to the west. With so many variable with these finicky fish it’s hard to say what the best method on any particular day is. The always consistent method is to cut the motor and drift live baits. Patience pays. Putting out some live baits in 100-200ft has the chance to catch anything. A large cobia could be a tasty surprise. Stay warm and fish hard.