1st keys trip, late feb. Charters?

We're going to be in the keys the last week of Feb., staying in Marathon and Islamorada. I have a boat reserved for 2 days (new 19 pathfinder at Capt Pips) but experience boating down there so I don't expect to do much damage with it:) To the fish, I mean. Hopefully I won't do any damage to the boat:) Maybe I can pick up a few pointers from the guides beforehand and catch something, but if we just end up cruising around and maybe doing some snorkeling that's cool too.
So a couple guides; I've caught lots of yellowfin, dolplin, etc...off the west coast, so going offshore for sail, etc...doesn't interest me. I know weather plays a huge role, but with decent conditions, what's my best bet? We're not flyfishers, btw, and we tend to favor chasing bigger fish, knowing full well it's riskier and we might not do as well.
I've read some about cobia, and would like to target them if possible. Sounds like they're kind of hard to pin down. Ditto permit at that time of year.
In reading a bunch of charter websites, I can't get a handle on a couple things...is heading out to gulf wrecks an offshore type of trip, or are they reachable by mid size CC's? (again, weather dependent, I know). I'm guessing flats/bay boats stay in a lot closer, correct?
Suggestions on charters, specifically for wreck fishing? Or for any flats guys that could effectively target cobes or permit at that time?
Pretty much open to anywhere from Key Largo to Key West.

Replies

  • DogDocDogDoc Posts: 686 Officer
    Sorry to not have much info for that area; most of the guides and wreck info is VERY location specific.
    A few thoughts:
    That time of year, it's still possible to target sails AND cobia on the outer reef, and would be very doable on a good weather day out of your CC rental. Drifting live bait over deep structure puts you in the game for cobia, wahoo, sails, kings, and certainly barracuda and sharks...all of these the bigger fish you might seek. Depending on the depth of the structure, the same baits deeper would target snapper and grouper, although the grouper are closed until May 1.
    There are a lot of bottom fish on the patch reefs between the islands and Hawk's Channel that time of year.
    All of the inshore channels and bridges will hold the same bottom fish, and the deeper channels under the 7-Mile bridge not too far from Capt. Pip's might see kings or yellow jacks, etc. Late February is generally a bit early for tarpon there, but there could be some hanging around. On a warm day the inshore species might be available, but again, it takes a long time to learn the tides/currents/flats combinations that are most successful.
    I don't know for sure, but most of the Gulf wrecks are quite west of the Marathon area...they would certainly hold cobia that time of year, but might not be accessible. There could be some channel markers on the gulf side of the banks north of marathon that would hold cobia, but someone else would know better than me. Also, be sure your rental allows the boat to be taken north/west...down in the lower Keys there can be some strict limits because of safety reasons.
    Last time I looked, there was a guide or two who would fish with guests out of Capt. Pip's, and there are several great guys who post here frequently from Marathon. Fishing inshore with a guide first would allow you to hit the ground/water running when you DIY on the rental. (That is ALWAYS the best plan in my opinion...the guides know their stuff and can provide the local knowledge on techniques and general areas...just don't go back the next day and fish their specific spots, please.)
    If you don't mind traveling west 25 miles, Capt Bill Welder is the best teacher I know on techniques and will put you on fish, and Capt. Tom Urban will be certain to show you a fun day on the water with any fishing or snorkeling/diving interests you may have.
    I think you'll find a lot of general info in the Forum Archives...look up topics , or look up past fishing reports for the same time of year and you'll get the idea.
  • Andyman33Andyman33 Posts: 119 Deckhand
    check out capt dallas -- he goes on your boat and can give you great knowledge - we have hired him 3 times now-- plan on it again in june
  • MNmanMNman Posts: 19 Greenhorn
    Thanks for the info, I appreciate it. I plan on doing 2 charters before having the boat, so hopefully I'll pick up a few tips. I still don't plan on pushing it when we have the boat...my wife might have had enough time on the water by that time, so I mostly plan on saving any heavy duty solo fishing till next trip.
    Is it significantly closer to run to the gulf wrecks from Key West? That would be no problem. A couple names of guides for a wreck trip is my primary goal at this point I guess.
  • 2thekeys2thekeys Posts: 162 Deckhand
    Check out Captain Cadillac, he's at Bass Pro, recently got a really good write up from Tred Barta in " florida sport fishing" and I have fished and known people who fish with him..first class Captain.

    MNman wrote: »
    Thanks for the info, I appreciate it. I plan on doing 2 charters before having the boat, so hopefully I'll pick up a few tips. I still don't plan on pushing it when we have the boat...my wife might have had enough time on the water by that time, so I mostly plan on saving any heavy duty solo fishing till next trip.
    Is it significantly closer to run to the gulf wrecks from Key West? That would be no problem. A couple names of guides for a wreck trip is my primary goal at this point I guess.
  • Relentless39Relentless39 Posts: 44 Deckhand
    Give me a call or send a pm with how I can contact you. I run a boat out of Islamarada and I can help you on yours.
  • NauticalWheelerNauticalWheeler Posts: 442 Deckhand
    For Gulf-side structure out of Key West there are artificial reefs around 10 miles out, a shoal about 3 miles past that, and a wreck 7 miles beyond that. There is another wreck about 14 miles out, but more to the west. These are all public numbers. Outside of those areas I'm not aware of any structure without running another 10+ miles. The floor on the Gulf side is a desert with not much in between. I'm sure the guides and locals have a few more spots but that info is Top Secret.

    The Atlantic side has much more structure with the patch reefs, reef, bar, and more wrecks not too far outside of the reef. There can good numbers of larger fish on the wrecks too (amberjack, other jacks, groupers, snappers, kingfish, cudas, sharks, and others) though they can get a bit beat up after seeing a few boats. On most days the Gulf side will be calmer if you have an E/SE/S wind.

    Winter is a good time to find large cudas on the flats and channels, which could be good if it's too windy to get out deeper. Your odds of catching cudas are much higher than catching cobia or especially permit, although cudas are not always easy to catch either. I think they are underrated as a game fish. Crevalle jacks are another underrated game fish (probably because they are common and it's easy to get them to bite) but they fight harder than almost anything out there. Of course sharks can be found in various depths and can put up quite a fight if you're into that.
  • TavernierGuyTavernierGuy Posts: 917 Officer
    Look up Piner Wahoo or Capt. Dallas down there.
  • captdallas2captdallas2 Posts: 130 Officer
    btw, who are good guides for the on the customer's boat thing in the Upper Keys? I have steered a few guys to local tackle stores up there but I don't have any numbers of guides up there now. I have been meaning to add a few back country guys to my blog.
    Tight Lines,

    Dallas,

    fishing consultant
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