: Florida Keys
I'm heading to Key West for a conference next month and I'm driving from Miami. I'll have a few days to leisurly drive down. I've never been there before and have no idea what to expect for bonefishing opportunities. Any suggestions for places with flats that I can drive to to fish?
03-18-2004, 06:26 AM
There are too many places along the road side to stop and fish to name. Essentially, I have looked for flats that are near deeper pockets of water (seen by looking at water color). I also tend to look for these situations near mangroves, as the chance for snook escalates. Be sure to bring the proper footwear, as the first few inches, or even more, of the substrate are often loose sand with pieces of live and dead coral in-between; it's a great way to get your feet, ankles, and shins sliced up if you're not careful. Try calling some of the fly fishing shops in the Keys for likely places and hot patterns; the time you invest in a call will be more than worth the time spent out on the water searching for those elusive Key Bones.
I had spring conferences for 4 years straight in the same manner, I booked extra days and hopped along the keys in search of bonefish. Finicky fish but my best was an 8# at Bahia Honda - a MUST to visit.
First on the list is Pennecamp State Park, Key Largo. Easy access but watch the tides and second the footwear advice. You can also step on critters like rays down there and need protection on the tops of your feet as well as bottom and sides. If you have limited time just blow right past this area, there's much better stuff ahead.
Then the usual stops at shops in Marathon, Islamorada, etc - you have to poke around to find good shore access to flats. There was this one place I stayed in Islamorada, it was some guys house. Everyone there was a bonefisher, and you could walk the shore for bones. I can't remember what it was called but it's a great little insider's secret. Across from a major campround, house painted a yellow/khaki color with decks on the water and the office was his kitchen. It was $75 / night but when you factor the DIY fishing into it well worth it.
If you are goin' on your own I'd spend a day at least on Bahia Honda State Park. The latter allows camping but are booked way in advance. Kayak rentals available, just one of the most gorgeous places on earth.
Two spots I got fish on my own - the Green Turtle Inn sign at Matecumbe, a public stretch of land and Bahia Honda lower keys. Good spots to fish on your own.
Ben Iannotta who wrote the Miramichi article in Chronicles guides full-time on Summerland Key, PM me for contact info.
03-19-2004, 06:57 PM
Thanks for beating me to the punch, I am leaving for the Keys on tuesday and welcome any additional information that anyone has.
One spot worthwhile on the way south is the canal and mangrove swamp that borders Cartsound Road. I don't think that you will find bonefish there but you are bound to see some snook, mangrove snapper and small tarpon. There is a big sign for Cartsound Road on the left as soon as you enter the Keys on Route 1. There is fishable water along a good section of the road and it eventually brings you right back to Route 1 in the area of the state park in Key Largo. Just watch the back cast or you may hook onto a buick at 55.
A very worthwhile stop along the Cartsound Road is Alabama Jacks, an outdoor restaurant, best Grouper sandwich in the Keys. Its always a good stop to take in the scenery and enjoy a good meal and a cold beverage...
I am staying just a couple of miles south of Bahai Honda, What would you recommend for fly pattern and color? (Specifically what did the 8# take...) All previous trips to the Keys have been mostly spinning tackle. I am hoping to wear out the new rod.
Good luck down there, a little tan gotcha with a little flash if my memory serves me right. Beautiful sand flats at the right tides. I didn't see any shoals of fish but they were tailing and pushing water at low light and cruising mid-day. I mostly saw small groups of big fish while on the Keys. I'd recommend renting the kayak for transportation or focusing on the darker flats to the south near the waterfront campsites with a brown fly.
Tarpon exploded on pilchards while I was there too, but I didn't make a cast with my little bonefish fly and light rod. I didn't feel like losing my flyline.
Lots of nurse sharks around the rocks on the north end of the park. Kayak around to the backside if you have time, best bones over there but remember to wear very good footwear and shuffle, not step.
The Matecumbe fish was on a small fabric crab plopped into the sandy patches between broken coral. It was frustrating trying to pick the patch the fish would swim over, then I finally got lucky and the fish swam right into the clear spot I had the fly in.
03-30-2004, 07:33 PM
Well I'm back...and cold already... My fishing report for the Florida Keys is as follows...WIND, WIND, WIND, temps in the low 80's every day. I was in the lower Keys Tuesday to Tuesday. Wind blew 30 to 50 steady from Tuesday to Friday. All of the flats were extremely choppy and visibility was nil. Juro, The flats at Bahia Honda, ocean side were running whitecaps 2-3 feet, Sea's were very confused and there was no hiding... YUK
I did manage to take a couple of Jack crevalle off of a sea wall on the bridge between Bahia Honda and Big Pine, biggest was about 8 pounds. I was rippin a Bob's Banger in the channel as fast as I could for these guys.
On Saturday we fished the backcountry in an area known as the trench off of Niles Channel, It is a twenty foot hole surrounded by beautiful flats and mangroves. Flats were unfishable but the fish were stacked in this hole. Water temps were 69-70 degrees. Big tarpon were rolling everywhere around the boat but no hookups. The experts down there claim that the tarpon need 74-78 degree water to go on the feed. Caught some mangrove snapper and other small reef fish on a pink shrimp pattern. Hooked and lost a large cobia on a pattern similar to a cockroach. We lost a couple of sharks on light tackle in the same area.
We took my friends Hydrosport out to Looe Key on Sunday. Managed to get a couple of Cero Macks. Boy they fought good for their size. Threw a chartreuse and white deep sand eel into the chum slick for them, biggest may have been 5-6 pounds. Had something on out there that took 150 yards of backing before snapping the leader, was probably a big cuda or kingfish, however we'll never know.
Monday was the only calm day and of course I had already planned an offshore trolling trip. Unfortunately, did not get any shots at sails although several boats around had hooked up. We did get into the grouper and kingfish real well with several fish going over 30-35 pounds. Sorry, these were on conventional tackle but they were still a blast to catch.
Overall, a great trip,
03-30-2004, 07:58 PM
Thanks Ray, great report! Sounds like you had a lot of action despite the weather:smokin:
Sounds like you made the best of a tough situation!
I can't imagine whitecaps at Bahia Honda, the most I'd seen were little lake waves lapping the shoreline when I was there. The jacks by the bridge were a score!
Thanks for providing the detailed information, I am sure someone down the road will benefit from your ability to adapt to the conditions and have a great time.
I'll bet you have a new appreciation for key lime pie :)
03-30-2004, 09:07 PM
Ahhh... jacks on the long rod... how I long for the days of pitching topwater patterns and watching a pair of them give chase to the side of the boat. The last time I was in the Keys was around this time last year, and wind was a problem every day. Sounds as if you did well, considering the conditions.
03-31-2004, 03:24 PM
Yes to the Key Lime Pie and definitely a new appreciation for Meyers Rum...That stuff tastes good with just about anything:eyecrazy:
Now only a few short weeks to get the boat ready.