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February Fishing Forecast

February fishing is normally great on the west side of the Everglades where there’s plenty of deep water channels for fish to congregate.  Your best bet is to target those channels and runoffs around Flamingo and the Cape of Florida on the lower stages of the tide.  The low water levels of the winter and spring will force all the fish off the flats and into the channels.  You can expect to catch just about anything from redfish, black drum and trout to snook, sheepshead and goliath grouper.  

Closer to Key Largo, the shallow-water patch reefs have been on fire.  I’ve been spending most of my time fishing these shallow Oceanside reefs along the edge of Hawk’s Channel.  The great thing about patch fishing is you don’t have to go very far to get into a great bite.  All you need is plenty of live shrimp and a couple blocks of menhaden chum.  Both of these can be found at the Yellow Bait House in Key Largo and the timing couldn’t be better as they are selling live shrimp for $1.50 a dozen.  While you’re there pick-up a few packs of ¼ ounce HookUp Lures and you’re ready for a great day on the water.  Take a look at your charts and find any of the 1000’s of reefs located in 10-40 feet of water and you’re in business. 

You want the boat to be at least 40 or so feet away from the edge of the reef.  The position of the boat is vital to having a successful day.  If you are too close you will be getting hung-up on the reef too much which is not good for you or for the reef.  The best position is up current and just within casting distance of the outer edge.  This will allow your chum to drift over the reef attracting the fish from the rocks to the outer edges.  It won’t be long before the ballyhoo show-up in the chum slick.  Ballyhoo make a great bait for catching the larger snapper and grouper.  You can easily catch them with small gold hooks baited with pieces of shrimp and use a small bobber to help with casting.   You can fish the ballyhoo many ways but a few of my favorites are removing the head and tail and cutting 3-4 inch “plugs.”  I will also debone it by filleting it from the tail towards the gills and then removing the backbone. 

The live shrimp rigged on a HookUp Lure can be fished on a medium action set-up with 10-15lb braid and 30 lb. leader.  The lighter tackle adds to the fun and can test your skills at times.  People rig shrimp 100’s of different ways but with HookUp Lures run the hook from under the chin up through the horn.  This technique will keep the bait from spinning in the current.  The ballyhoo rig should be used on larger medium-heavy tackle with 30-50 lb braid and 30-50 lb leader.   Make a knocker rig with a 1 ounce sinker and a 5/0 circle hook.  This combo is large enough to cast the heavier ballyhoo and to fight the larger snapper and grouper it will attract.  Make sure to know the regulations and be able to identify the many species you catch on the reef.  If you like catching fish you won’t be disappointed!!!

'Til next time, Tight Lines and Light Winds…….

Captain Lain