Reef Fishing After The Cool Down

After the cool down, what to expect when fishing the reefs off Key West.

Yellowtail Snappers Reef fishing

December 12th 2018 – Winter has arrived here in Key West. Things are finally where they should be, weather wise with cool North winds and air temps in the 70s. I personally love this time of the year. The temps are nice to work in and the fish are eager to eat, rewarding my anglers with many different prizes. Here at Dream Catcher Charters we are ramping up for the Christmas week in hopes for a mild Christmas break with great weather and incredible fishing. 

Red Grouper
Red Grouper closes early on December 12th in the South Atlantic

Last week the weather was all over the place. 68 degrees and Northerly winds one day then East to Southeast the next with 85 degrees. This was not a huge issue for the exception that it was tough to get set up on any patterns so it made the Key West fishing hit or miss. 

There were some nice yellowtails, muttons and red groupers caught last week, along with some smaller Kingfish, cero mackerels and jacks. Lots of bait on the reef but like I said no consistency to the weather so things were a bit confused. The cold front pushed through on Monday and Tuesday with a pretty stiff North Westerly wind that really made things fun for fishing on the reef. 

The Key West deep sea fishing boats were able to compound a bit on the confused conditions with the occasional dolphin and black fin tuna mixed with Bonito while trolling inside 500 ft. 

Reef Fishing Forecast

Coming up this week it looks like we have steadier weather conditions. Northerly winds 10-12 through the weekend and into next week. Steady air temps in the mid to high 70s. 

I think the Key West reef fishing will be lit up. Also with a northerly wind the seas will be less than if it were Easterly or Southeast. Its a good protected wind for us and great for fishing the reef. 

With these cooler temps and steady pattern, expect to see loads of baitfish on the reef being crushed by cero mackerel, king fish and jacks with the high possibility of sailfish too. 

Usually this time of the year I love to troll lipped plugs on the patch reefs for grouper and large snappers. Unfortunately the powers that be have decided that Red Grouper will be closed early this year (December 12th) due to the fact they think the recreational sector (us) have caught our quota.  “whatever”……… But.. that wont stop me for trolling for grouper and snapper in hopes for a black grouper or a mutton snapper hitting my clown colored Rapala x Raps. 

On The Wrecks

There will be some decent wreck fishing around the deeper wrecks off Key West in the cooler temps for Amberjacks, Mutton snappers and scamp groupers. Some bee liners are on the wrecks as well. The farther I am able to run to the West toward the Dry Tortugas the snapper fishing gets better in deeper waters on the wrecks. There are loads of red snappers as well but, we can’t keep them this time of the year and rarely do they make the trek back to the bottom and live when caught in 250 ft of water. 

Reef Fishing Charters

December can be a slower month for us as fishing guides on the reef. Partly because its offseason and partly the inconsistent weather. If you are planning on being in Key West and want to get out to the reef to catch some tasty fish give me a call. I am one of the few fishing guides that doesn’t make his people go out on inclement days. I will always share with you the conditions and if you decide its too much, we don’t go. Simple.. Rates for reef fishing charters start at 750.00 for the half day up to 6 persons. 

Yellowfin 36 Center Console
My Yellowfin 36 Center Console Reef Fishing boat.

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These are the trolling plugs and colors that are my favorite…