12/13/17 + 12/14/17 Patch Reef Fishing in December Islamorada and Backcountry

12/13/17 – Got out for an afternoon half day with my mother-in-law Ginger and her boat captain Tyson.  Ginger brought her boat down from Hollywood to enjoy some days in the Florida Keys.  They wanted some eating fish and it was very rough early in the AM so we postponed until the afternoon.  By noon things had laid off to 15 mph and continued to drop, we headed out about 1:00.  Fishing was a little tough as far as finding legal edible fish went.  We caught some bar jacks and kept a few of them, and got a nice big sheepshead which is not common on the patch reefs but do get a few once in a while.  We also got a cero mackerel.  After that it turned mostly to blue runners so we moved.  Tried some areas further south but the water was cold coming out of the bay and muddy, so we didn’t even stop to fish.  I turned back around and we tried some deeper patches out in 20-30 feet as it was much calmer now.  First stop was random fish but nothing edible… some small snappers, grunts, more jacks.  The next stop though we got some porgies, and then the hogfish started biting!  We caught probably 15 hogfish which was cool, but unfortunately you have to throw them back now as the rules have changed.  The hogfish in islamorada had been beat up the last few years so hopefully they will come back stronger now with protection.  We did manage a few keeper snapper here too, so we ended up with a good bag of fish for the restaurant for dinner.

12/14/17 – Today I had Pam and Lars down from Arkansas.  They are also fishing with me tomorrow.  We got out early and headed into the backcountry.  It was still pretty cold but the winds stayed low.  We caught the start of the incoming tide and were loaded with good live shrimp.  We started catching right away… a lot of nice size snook!  The big girls came out to play in the cold for sure.  Also a mix of black drum and some nice size redfish!  Then Pam and Lars both caught small tarpon of 15 and 25 lbs!  Just unbelievable fishing and they each got a backcountry SLAM!  We continued to catch more fish and even a few trout which we kept for dinner.  Don’t like to kill the reds or drums if I don’t have to.  We had a banner day and ended up with probably 2 dozen snook, maybe 15 red and black drum, 2 tarpon, and 3 trout.  We tried another spot at the other part of the canal but not much there, tide wasn’t right and water didn’t look good.  But on the way home we found some tripletails and caught several of them including one keeper for dinner too.  Fishing doesn’t get better then this, really the type of day you dream about all year long.  It may be that way again the next couple mornings too before things warm back up.  But the december backcountry fishing in the everglades is on fire right now that is for sure!

Capt. Rick Stanczyk
Instagram: @richardstanczyk
Facebook: Islamorada Tarpon Fishing