12/29/17 Late December catching variety in the Florida Keys

Got out with Tom and John today for a full day of backcountry fishing in the Florida Keys in December.  John is a regular to Bud n Marys and has fished with several guides out of there, and it was Johns first time in the backcountry saltwater fishing!  They were down from chicago where it is getting very cold.  The guys wanted some fish for dinner and sharks were a request as well as possibly snook or tarpon.  I said we might be able to do that, if not we’d give it a good try!  We caught pilchards to start our day and had some nice live shrimp too.  Bait was fairly easy which was good.  We tried some snook areas I hadn’t fished in a while.  Didn’t have much luck in the first area, we worked it hard making several moves.  We could hear snook popping our ‘freebie’ baits, but they wouldn’t bite our hooked bait.  We quit after an hour or so without any luck and tried another area.  There were 3 boats ahead of me here so that was discouraging, but christmas week can get packed in spots as just about every guide is out on the water.  We squeezed in and did hook a couple nice snook but they didn’t stay buttoned for us, one cut us off on a tree and the other pulled the hook.  But we had a couple shots, the other boats were catching a few but I dind’t want to crowd them so we left.  We tried an area for sharks and tarpon, had decent shark action and the guys each caught several blacktips.  We also did hook a nice 90 lb tarpon or so, but he unfortunately threw the hook straight away!  I’d been lucky lately not missing many bites but it was due to happen.  We then tried a spot for more snook and found a few redfish which was cool, and also caught a couple snook as well plus missed a few more fish.  We are catch and release with the redfish so we still had to get some dinner.  I didn’t have much time we high tailed it to some snapper areas, first stop was a bust.  The second stop though we hit the jackpot!  We caught our limit of nice 13-15 inch mangrove snappers in about 20 minutes.  Just incredible it usually takes you a couple hours to get that many but they were just eating every bait that hit the water.  The pilchards helped too getting the good size ones.  After that we called it a day and it was another good one with a tough start but strong finish.  Back at it tomorrow, looks like it’ll be getting slightly colder each night through the weekend, with it possibly getting into the 50s again early next week!  Should be good for our standard winter routine – snook, redfish, drum, mackerel, etc…  Will not be good for the little tarpon bite we’ve had.

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