By Capt. Nate Wheeler
November is coming to an end and oh boy what a month it was! Good warm weather really kept the water from cooling down too much, keeping the inshore bite red hot. In a time when cold fronts can really slow down the shallow water bite, we enjoyed a great month of fishing. Very large bonefish were quite abundant. I actually found fish that were tailing so hard in such shallow water, I was unable to pole my Hewes Bonefisher any shallower to get to them. Permit were up and about on the prowl as well. Lots of bait swimming around the shallow water with quite a few small tarpon out and about. They were very cooperative to eat small flies.
Off shore has been very hit or miss. Funky water has kept the major push of pelagic from moving into the shallow water. On the flip side the mangrove and yellowtail snapper bite has been unbelievable. Some very nice groupers were biting as well. It seemed the shallower on the reef fished, the better. The sailfish bite was pretty good despite not having the greatest water all the time. Live ballyhoo off the edge of the reef seemed to provide the best action.
With December approaching I am getting pumped. Although the water has been weird, off shore fishing in the Lower Keys is like a bomb waiting to go off. As soon as the wind and current gets right, it will go off. December is my absolute favorite month to fish in the Florida Keys. Options are wide open. It is the last month grouper is open and is always a hot bite. Black, gag and red groupers push into the shallow water, usually 20-30 ft to feast on the large ballyhoo schools that work their way down the reefline.
The cooler water kills most algae and produces nice clear water on the reefs. Sailfish and mahi mahi can be caught right on top of the reef in 15-40 ft of water. When these offshore quarry move into the shallow water they display an incredibly bright array of colors quite different from when they are out in the deep blue. December is a great time to target wahoo and blackfin tuna as well. All kinds of species work our way down here following the large schools of bait. Large mutton snappers in the 10-20lb range will be quite common everywhere from Hawks channel patches to the deep reefs. Great time of year to fish. My favorite!