Islamorada Help

I usually go down in the summer for mini or the first part of lobster season. My wife and I are going down to fish for a few days next week and I don’t know anything about winter fishing down there. We don’t care to bottom fish much and from what I’ve read, the outer reefs where we snorkel in the summer now hold sailfish, kings, wahoo, and more. Some of the captains reports mention “pesky” large sharks as well so we probably won’t do a ton of snorkeling out that far.

I’m looking for tips on where and best methods to catch bait (I am planning to take a 7’ cast net and hope I don’t have to try and fly down with a 10’ or 12’), the best alternatives for kite rigs (slow troll with live bait rigging etc), ideal depths for sails and wahoo and anything else to look for, if the tuna come off the humps at all in winter and if there may be a stray mahi around (is it worth trolling straight out from 40’, and if there might still be a lobster around somewhere.

We will be coming out of Tavernier Creek and some of the captain’s reports have mentioned little conch reef, which is 20’ or so where we usually lobster.

I’m checking a cooler with reels and gear along with a rod tube so my supplies are somewhat limited. We’ll be in a 24’ with dual motors.

I know this is a lot to ask, but it’s cold and you guys aren’t fishing and I know you like to show off your skills…

Thanks in advance for any help! Trying to get my wife her first sail…

Just got back from the keys, hopefully the weather treats you better than it treats us. We still got out there and found some fish so hopefully you can too. Bally are as easy as anchoring with a chum bag out on a shallow reef, you should be able to load up with a 7’ net just fine. If you want bigger baits speedos aren’t hard to get. PM me and I can tell you exactly where to load up on those. For sails, freeline baits on 30-40lb flouro in 120-200’ of water. Mahi scattered but still around, managed to pull some off floating debri when we were down there. Good luck!

Kite fished with goggle eyes a number of years ago the week after Christmas in islamorada. Nasty northeast blowing but made for a perfect conditions for this type of fishing. Idled boat directly into the wind had the two kits pinned to spread out port and starboard. We fished a reef in about 30 feet of water less than 10 miles off the beach. Two goggle eyes per kite. Keeping bait in the top 1-foot of water column was key, took a lot of work and had to keep a sharp eye out for sharks. Went seven for ten on sails with multiple fish over 40 pounds in about a 4-hour time period. If offshore is too nasty there are still some nice size Tarpon inside the lagoons down there this time of year. Flamingo Key is not too far of a run we loaded up on reds and trout over there. January is typically a little too cool for the bonefish. Let us know how you do, my wife and I were talking about taking our family down there next year as our family Christmas present.

We fished last year from New Years TIL the 7th. Multiple trips only produced 1 wahoo and nothing else. We fished in the Key Largo area. Apparently further south must be producing because when we were there I heard it was the worst time of year for trolling out there. We pulled a normal Charleston offshore set up

Mike Martinez

"Team Hookers Dream

2014 Sea Hunt Bx22br Yamaha 200

1994 Ken Craft 175CC 1998 Yamaha 115 “Dream Machine”

Go to Costa Ric.

Long drive to C R, hard to pull the boat!

How is the weather…? Looks like the artic blast is staying north.

We had a great trip - I appreciate all of the help. I don’t really have the patience for trolling offshore, much less the style of sailfishing they do down there in the winter (I only fish offshore a time or two per year when we go down there). First day - went out to 15’ on the last reef and chummed up some ballyhoo. I haven’t ever rigged them before, but I had checked some youtube vids on it and managed to get them live rigged pretty easily (they stayed alive on a slow troll for an hour). We followed the fleet of 20 or so boats slow trolling and pulling kites around 150’, but never hooked up. I had my bails open with a loose rubber band holding the line in case of a bite, but may have had too much pressure on the line for the fish - apparently they don’t want to feel any resistance on that live bait bite. I saw one caught, but it was rough for us to be sitting still so I fast trolled out to the humps and caught a 25" dolphin on a blue and white small chug just before getting out there. It was too early to troll or throw live baits and a little rough for the wife so I jigged up a small blackfin for dinner and lost my first ever AJ at the boat.

Second day we got out later and chummed up ballyhoo but no sail bites after an hour or so so I went and found a bunch of undersized lobster and went and got drinks at Snappers. Weather on both days was 80’ and we snorkeled comfortably without wet suits. Water clarity was great at outer reefs and it was cool to show my wife how to hunt for lobsters.

Third day was a little colder and after one last attempt at a sail we went to a spot someone gave me for lobster and I must have seen 300 in a small area - don’t think I’ve ever seen that many in one place. I caught about a dozen of the biggest ones, but they were all about 1/16" too small - I think someone had recently picked through them because there were some heads in the water. Had a cuda as big as me pop up about 3 feet away in that dirtier water and decided to roll.

Overall we had a great time, but it

Sounds like a fun trip, I also like to head over towards Alligator reef and load up on pilchards. Did you see many birds flying around? If I don’t have any luck kite fishing for sails, I bring everything in and start running and gunning for the birds and drift back live pilchards.

02’ Seapro 17’CC w/ 90 yamaha 2stroke