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Keys fishing for beginners to experts

Capt. Steve Friedman
April 26, 2010
Islamorada - Saltwater Fishing Report

Plenty of wind and clouds have made for a challenging week of fishing. It's these kind of conditions where the prepared angler can have some fantastic results. Or the novice angler can fuel a desire to practice more in order to be better prepared for the next angling adventure. But there are situations where any skill level can yield excellent results.

For the novice, catching a tarpon doesn't have to be technical. You don't even have to cast the rod in most instances. A simple outfit of a 10-20 lb spinning rod, a reel loaded with 20 lb test and some 80 lb test leader (to prevent cutoffs) will suffice for most tarpon. Grab a bobber big enough to float a crab or mullet, and a 6-8/0 circle hook and you're good to go. Find an area where the tarpon congregate, like a bridge or deep water channel, attach your bait to the hook, open the bail and let the line out with help from the currents and now you're tarpon fishing. With the circle hook, the fish practically hook themselves. Keep the rod bent and reel whenever the drag stops. Let the fish run and maintain pressure enough to tire the fish quickly.

The intermediate angler can also enjoy fishing on days where the wind is blowing and the clouds are looming. A boat ride back to Everglades National Park (with a guide that knows how to navigate safely around the maze of flats) can produce outstanding catches. One of the most common fishing rigs in this area is comprised of a live shrimp attached to a weighted jig head like a Backbone lure or Hank Brown's Hook-up lure. Use any color you like, as long as it's chartreuse.

It gets tricky around the mangroves where the roots like to grab hold of the hook. There are numerous channels and open flats that will be kind to wayward casts. A cast slowly retrieved near or on the bottom will catch redfish, snook, snapper, ladyfish--just about anything. Case in point, a 30-pound permit was caught this week on a day the wind was blowing about 20 knots. The angler used a live shrimp and quarter ounce jig head in a deep channel. The line came to an abrupt stop during the retrieve and engaged the drag system immediately. This fish didn't settle down and angler and guide surmised the fish was possibly a large sting ray. But it soon became obvious that this was a true game fish on the line and after a forty minute battle, the angler had the catch of a lifetime boatside.

When the wind blows hard like it has this week, the veteran angler knows this can be good conditions for bonefish and permit. The more the wind blows, the closer you can get to these spooky fish. An experienced angler practices playing the wind for these occassions. Also, he or she knows that only a few good opportunities might present themselves. Be ready to get the bait in the zone as fast as possible before the fish knows something is wrong. Playing the wind, knowing which way the current moves, and releasing the caught fish quickly are all part of an expert angler's arsenal.

Keep an open mind about the weather and know your skill level to help you focus on the kind of day you might enjoy, despite less than ideal fishing conditions.

Islamorada Fishing Forecast:

Tarpon are moving in now and when the conditions get right it will be on full throttle. Looks for good tides, calm winds and warm weather.

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Florida Keys sight fishing specialist for flats and backcountry fishing.

Contact Info:

A Fishing Guide, LLC
116 South Dr.
Islamorada, FL 33036
Phone: 305-393-3474
Alt. Phone: 305 8531782
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