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With July we continue through a period of outstanding action overall, some of the best fishing action of the entire year in fact, however we also have some transitions for certain species to consider now. The Tarpon continue proving good action in the back country but changes are coming soon, schools of Bonefish remain on the flats. Mahi continue to dominate the blue water fishing while the primary reef species Snapper & Grouper remain aggressive. It’s a time of exceptional action for a few of the more elusive species such as Permit and Wahoo when fishing the waters of Key West!
July brings great Mahi Mahi action offshore. The Mahi action continues to improve during late June & all of July and is now the angler’s bread & butter species in blue water. Mahi (Dolphin fish-Dorado) are plentiful, schooling fish that provide excellent action at a blistering pace. High leapers when hooked up, beautifully colored fish that are a favorite for the angler that collects replica mounts as well as those simply pursuing great table fare. When the Mahi are biting as they are in July, businesses close on the island…it gets that good! A prized and very sought after but elusive sport fish makes a strong appearance now…Wahoo typically improve to a high point of activity and numbers in July. Black Fin Tuna continue to be on our radar but are slowing as we get into later July. There are few species of pelagic fish capable of the total chaos when a school of big Black Fin or Mahi show up. The iconic Sailfish bite is pretty much done after one of the best Sailfish seasons of the last decade.
The offshore predators remain aggressive during July. This is an awesome month for large Barracuda. We have moved into an exciting period for offshore angling however, a ½ day charter has some challenges with ever changing travel times between marina and fishing grounds. Best bet book at least the ¾ day (six hour trip) especially if you are a party of three or four or more. We recommend no more than 4 anglers per vessel for the ultimate fishing experience. Although we can accommodate groups up to six, we will be the first to say…more than four aboard a light tackle boat negatively affects the trip. Remember all light tackle boats operate with a captain only aboard so with no deck mate to assist a captain can only see to so many anglers timely. If planning a trip always think in increments of four per boat for the best trip.
Light Tackle Reef & Wreck:
Our gentle July winds are typically light and refreshing and very welcome after the stiff breezes of May and June. Gone are the gusty offshore days and with them the rougher sea conditions. This is a much calmer time for the angler with concerns about rough sea conditions to head out to the nearer shore wreck sites as well. In fact…locally we refer to the July & August time frame as “the calms” offshore.
The Grouper and Snapper family continue to produce. The Mutton Snapper are now in a post spawn state so fall back to normal habits. However, Yellow Tails Snapper and cousin the Mangrove Snapper are plentiful and tasty nowadays and become the stars on the reef for table fare species to target! Our elusive Permit is always challenging but July remains a peak action time for these prized sport fish as they enter into the last days of spawning. Cobia remain in decent numbers and provide quality action but are now out of the “excellent” range let’s say more the “good range”. Spanish and Cero Mackerel remain in the “good” range and can be counted on for fun with lighter tackle. Amberjack rebound most years in July from a low point in activity during June. The predator action with Barracuda and Sharks continues to be crazy good.
Always a fun and productive trip the back country this time of year remains an excellent time for fast paced action while targeting a very wide variety of species. Anglers will appreciate our calm, crystal clear waters remaining filled with Tarpon however we look to those early departure times to fend off the afternoon rising water and air temps. The overall population of Tarpon in the back country has peaked for the year so we now enter “post spawn” for these prized “bucket list” fish which indicates their movement towards slowing action. Several additional sport fish species, edible fish, and predators are in the near shore shallows now to target. Snook most days take up their positions on the mangrove shorelines and channels. The numerous schooling species of the shallows will continue to provide non stop action most days. Just a few of the schooling species remaining in our bays now are the ever present brutish Jack, Lady Fish, Blue Runners, Grunts, Porgies…the list is nearly endless again in July that keeps the younger anglers happy with the super fast bite of schooling fish. A perfect trip for the hard core light tackle angler who enjoys sight casting to the novice angler or the family.
Tarpon action remains good for now. The sunset Tarpon feeding activity continues to be productive with good tides. Albeit, maybe not at the level of May and early June but still worth the try. We do not recommend more than 3 anglers as a max on our Tarpon bay boats for night trips. If you have more than three anglers understand the time restraints in catching multiple Tarpon and the need for larger vessels to accommodate the chaos that comes with larger fish going berserk at boat side. With larger parties we recommend multiple boats for the ultimate Tarpon experience which we easily can provide, remaining close together while on the water to maintain that all important one large group ambiance. A competitive nature easily rises when multiple boats head to the remote back country as one large group.
The ½ day to ¾ day trips with early departure times continue to produce well but the afternoon water temperatures are climbing. Therefore in July and especially August the later part of the day our action slows considerably. The Mangrove Snapper fishing continues to be very good in the back country for those who intend to save a few “keepers” for an evening meal. For serious “table fare” harvest we recommend our reef & wreck trips as the back country is essentially a marine sanctuary so we are careful to not “over harvest” fish there. The predator fishing continues. Giant Barracuda and several species of Sharks in the shallows are on the hit list. Our Monster Shark charters are awesome and continually produce multiple larger sharks even on the ½ day trips. July remains predator time so anglers can count on these aggressive species to be ready to go “head to head”. We “highly recommend” a back country charter this time of year and especially for those guests looking for a shorter than full day trip in calmer waters but be prepared to get off the docks early.
Our Bonefish action remains good for July. Although the success rate for the “Flats Slam” where the angler successfully lands a Bonefish, a Permit and a Tarpon in the same day becomes far more difficult as the Tarpon action begins a slow decline and a portion of the Permit population remain offshore as late spawner’s….this rare feat at the very pinnacle of flats fishing accomplishments is still possible. Permit have been rather scarce on the flats until lately but the action is improving now as some of the early spawner’s resume more typical habits. Still most of the shallow Permit population will be found in the back country. Tarpon are still primarily found at home in the back country or deeper channels as well as our large tropical sun heats up the extreme shallows of the flats.
The juvenile Tarpon (fish ranging from 10 to 20 pounds) will be better targets as the heat comes with July and the post spawn adult Tarpon begin to think about the migration to move away from our waters. By months end the Tarpon fishing will have drastically slowed for the remainder of the year…look to the Mangroves and the juvenile fish by late July for the better Tarpon action. The flats angler should certainly be including Barracuda and sharks on his hit list. Just a remainder that we provide a true “flats fishing experience” and this should not be confused with the back country fishing. These are two totally different experiences and if you are unsure of the differences call us at 866 259 4205 for more insights. Fly fishers can still enjoy the flats but again the bite there becomes more challenging.
We recommend fishing morning trips for July and August as the air temps and in turn water temps slow the afternoon bite. Fish early and understand 90% of the fish will be taken before 2:00 o’clock. Reef trips in the afternoon fishing slightly deeper waters along with the patch reefs can be good trip choices for later in the day departure times. Sharks are plentiful and active. Pursuing these heavy weight monsters on light tackle is challenging to say the least and talk about something you cannot do at home!
Let’s go Fishing!
Call Key West Pro Guides today to book your charter 866 259 4205 daily 7 AM to 9 PM. We look forward to your call!