Pursuing Wintertime Bonefishing
by Capt. Barry Hoffman

As the balmy summertime weather fades in the Keys and is replaced by cooler and windier days, your tactics and strategies for bonefish should change as well. These changes in weather promote the bonefish to alter the areas they inhabit and promote them to spawn in large schools. However with a bit of local knowledge, you can keep right in the action throughout the winter months.

As December makes its way upon us, we begin to experience the effects of the cold fronts that make their way through the Keys every 4-5 days.  The flats that may have produced back in October and early November, may become noticeably void of life as the water temperature begins to drop.  During this time of the year, bonefish have a comfort zone which they prefer (not unlike myself this time of year) . Although I have caught bonefish in water as cold as 62 degrees, once the flats reach about 68, it gets a bit too cool for them up there. Focusing on finding warmer water will be the most important aspect of your wintertime bonefishing.

As these fronts pass through the Keys, they bring with them cooler temperatures and brisk winds from the North. These seasonal changes combine and will drive the bonefish from their usual flats in the backcountry and Islamorada. The wind cools the shallow waters of  Florida Bay first and are then transported oceanside by way of the many channels that slice through the Keys.  These chilled waters wash over the neighboring flats as the water falls from the backcountry. As these flats cool, the bonefish search for warmer areas. The oceanside flats north of Islamorada,  provide the perfect habitat to search for wintertime bonefish. These northern-most reaches of the Florida Keys are without the major waterflows emptying from Florida Bay. Therefore the water temperatures remain consistently higher due to the fact the water has a better chance to warm up without the cold water bay influence.

During a prolonged cold front, finding areas that are able to warm up at mid-day, is the key to wintertime bonefishing.  The fish will seek out these typically quiet areas in an attempt to get warm and feed. There are many secluded bays and coves that offer protection from the strong winds that frequent the Keys this time of  year. The best time to fish these areas is during the higher stages of the tide when the fish can slip high onto the flats and stay throughout the slack tidal period while the sunlight warms the shallower flat. If the water is still low and falling, concentrate on finding edges that the warm water is falling into. Chances are the bonefish will be taking advantage of it.

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You can contact Capt. Barry Hoffman at:

Phone: (305) 852-6918
Email: guide@flatsguide.com
Or, visit his Web site
http://flatsguide.com/
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