To some…a snow covered cottage tucked away in the mountains seems idyllic for winter…for the angler…a Sailfish “tail walking” across azure blue waters off Key West is what they have in mind for a winter wonderland…

Key West Pro Guides Fishing Report January 2015

For this report friends…verses covering the past and recent action…let us explore the coming action for January to early March…

When you mention offshore fishing during the cooler water temperature months in the tropics Billfish instantly come to mind. A top rated and prized species of these behemoth sport fish is the Sailfish. “Sails” bless the waters of Key West with a huge population providing excellent light tackle action starting in December every year. In fairness Key West from January well into our summer months becomes one of the most prolific offshore fisheries on the planet. Let’s take a look…


Looking forward, the offshore action will be exploding in the near weeks and months to come. From spawning Sailfish to “Smoker” sized Kingfish our light tackle action will be nothing short of exceptional. Always elusive, the Wahoo action will continue to be quite good far offshore on the weed lines and current breaks until the end of January. Spanish and Cero Mackerel will be schooled up and freely roaming through all of March while Black Fin Tuna explode onto the scene in mid-February. Giant Barracuda and plentiful sharks will patrol these same offshore fishing grounds with aggression as well. The winter months bring action but with variety, a perfect combination for the seasoned veteran or the angler looking for a “first time” memorable experience. Now’s the time to head offshore with the renowned Key West Pro Guides guide team.

Reef & Wreck:

In Key West, we make a distinction between our light tackle “offshore” fishing and our “reef & wreck” fishing. On any given day, the overall population of fish on the natural reef and numerous ship wreck sites during the winter months is impressive, offering the light tackle angler several options. The angler must think in terms of the “water column” to provide an accurate indication of what we will be experiencing when dropping live baits straight down to a huge fish population we already KNOW are there and aggressively feeding. Starting from the ocean floor the bottom dwellers such as the Snapper and Grouper families will be out in numbers. Moving a bit towards the surface we typically come into contact with Amberjack cruising just above the structure and cover. The “Amberjack” is the absolute master of the “Jack” family and rules with an iron fist. Brutally strong fish with unequaled tenacity the “AJ” is a serious match for any light tackle angler. Closer now to the middle of the water column as we continue moving towards the surface we often times cross paths with several of the “pelagic” sport fish typically found well offshore such as the Kingfish. Black Fin Tuna are routinely taken near deeper wrecks sites and the wondering Wahoo can make a surprise appearance also. Continuing on our way towards the surface from the middle of the water column some prized Permit action has been good for all of last December, however may slow somewhat for January before turning back on by February.

Key West is truly an amazing Permit fishery drawing anglers from around the planet to make a yearly pilgrimage to the island to pursuit these prized sport fish. The Cobia is a shining star of the reef and wrecks from December through April. Cobia although not as well known to some anglers, do have the ability to leave a lasting impression. Cobia are certainly aggressive and it would be fair to say curious fish that can quickly reach the fifty pound plus weight range in our waters. For those anglers with the dinner table in mind as well…Yellow Tail Snapper are the perfect target species. Plentiful, action packed and tasty…our Yellow Tail action sometimes can be a bit slower during January, however they can be counted on for fun and success most days. Of course anytime you have structure or cover regularly holding bait fish and smaller species you will quickly have a number of predators present. Barracuda and several species of larger sharks are residents of the reef and ship wrecks.

Back Country:

There is never a time of year when the back country will not produce and enjoyable day. Sure, the fishing can have some peaks and valley’s like any fishing grounds but with its natural beauty, abundant marine life, sea bird population, blooming flora and fauna and always flats calm, shallow and protected waters, everyday spent in the back country is special. The winter months in the back country provide the angler a large overall population of fish with a wide variety of species to pursue. From sport fish such as Permit, Redfish, Speckled Sea Trout and the occasional Cobia to predators including Barracuda and numerous sharks. The table fare species are well represented with tasty Pompano and especially the Snapper family. For sheer action we target Jacks, Ladyfish, Blue Runners and more. This is an excellent time for the fly fisher as nearly every species found in the shallows during the winter months will readily attack a well presented fly. Here’s a shocker to most anglers…Bonefish can be targeted reasonably well albeit not the typical sight casting approach by anglers as on the flats but still successfully.


Flats fishing is the one area that does suffer a bit during the cooler water temperatures of winter. In fairness Bonefish will be your primary target species during this time period and their action falls into the “fair” range for December, January and February. Until about March the flats anglers need not wake from hibernation. Of course the similarities between the flats and the back country make the back country a perfect option. The angler is still armed with light tackle or fly gear, still pro-actively and stealthily moving across “skinny” water often times sight casting to the fish. No need for Cabin fever here! Our flats guides excellent in the back country as well so if you request your favorite or renowned flats guide while visiting the island during the winter months…no problem!

All in all friends our winter months in Key West bring outstanding fishing options and opportunities. The sun is shining, the palm tree’s swaying and the beer is cold it may hurt your teeth…let’s go fishing!