Key West Winter Fishing

Fishing Florida Keys Fishing in the winter has its advantages

As the winter approaches my friends up in the great white north are sending me images of the snow, fish caught under ice and the deer they managed to bag this year. In response I am sending them images of our amazing pink sunrises, breathtaking sunsets, palm trees with Christmas lights and awesome fish caught while wearing a pair of shorts and t-shirt. I think we win.


Permit Fishing On The Wrecks and The Flats of Key West Can be great in December

November was a bit testy this year with some ample amounts of wind. We had to keep checking the calendar making sure it wasn’t March. The winds were part of a few cold fronts that ushered in the first chills of the year. I have heard many say, “well there goes the fishing”. Not so.

With the shift from tropical to Northern weather patterns its not only the temperature that gets really nice but the fishing can follow. On the reef I particularly enjoy the amazing yellowtail and mutton snapper bite that comes on super strong with the onset of cooler weather as the ballyhoo hit the reef in droves. Its super easy fishing and full of some great surprises with strikes by almost world record sized cero mackerel.

When I say super easy fishing I mean super easy. I usually pick my day for decent weather to jump out there in one of my Yellowfin bay boats to catch some dinner and have some fun. I take with me a couple 10-12 lb light spinning rods a couple of 15-20 lb med heavy spinning rods. I don’t load up with chum or bait at all but I make sure I am laden with plenty of blue/white or yellow/blue buck tailed jigs in the 1/4 to 3/8 ounce size. I also make sure I have some smaller lipped plugs too, like the MirroLure MirrOlip L29MR. This will entertain me or anyone on the boat while filling a two person bag limit an assortment of those tasty creatures.

The spots I fish out there are various and not by any form of the imagination a secret. I work areas by drifting from 12 – 60 ft depending on the water visibility and bait concentrations. Setting up with the light spin fishing rods for yellowtail snappers I generally use a braided line and lead it with a 20 lb fluorocarbon (bite tip of #2 wire for the cero mackerel). I chose my jig and lure color by trying to match the bait on the surface. Blue and white generally gets the job done as it looks just like the ballyhoo that are littered all over the surface. From the bow of my Yellowfin bay boat I start casting to the dark coral ridges I see. Letting the jig sink or the plug dive I stall the retrieve briefly and Wham! Fish on! If pulling the jigs or lures fast is your thing, use wire. Cero mackerel are like flying teeth and your plug is like a ball of yarn to a cat for them. They will certainly make short work of your tackle box with cut offs.

The weather seems to have mellowed out like the crowds on Duval Street lately. I like it like this, fortunately for all of our businesses here in Key West it will not last and season will be roaring up on us in no time. Get out there and do some fishing, you have worked hard, you deserve it.

We can be reached for fishing charters and fishing information
at 305 292 7212 Any time.. 

Capt. Steven Lamp
Email Capt. Steven
Dream Catcher Charters


About Capt. Steven Lamp
Veteran Key West Fishing guide Capt. Steven Lamp has been fishing the waters of the Florida Keys professionally since 1993. Specializing in Flats, Backcountry, Fly Fishing, Wrecks, Reef and Offshore fishing in Key West, Florida. Capt. Steven is also the founder and director of Dream Catcher Charters located in Key West, Florida.