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Fishing in the Florida Keys is great year-round

Fishing in the Florida Keys year-round enables ocean and flats fishing, as well as guide services.
Fishing in the Florida Keys year-round enables ocean and flats fishing, as well as guide services.
Jill Zima Borski

While Sam Kaufman of Marathon, Fla. and Evergreen, Colo. just won a two-day shark on fly tackle tournament in the Florida Keys by catching 20 blacktip sharks over two days, the fishing is good year-round for a myriad of species.

We are the envy of the country as we contemplate how we will spend our days. Golf courses, tennis courts, fitness centers, social, cultural and educational offerings beckon. But, Florida Bay and the Atlantic Ocean also sit right outside our homes offering an abundance of water sports. And, fishing is ever-popular and productive in the Florida Keys.

Fishing is great in the Keys year-round. A smorgasbord of species entices anglers to the backcountry, the patch reefs and the Gulfstream. Numerous vendors offer ways to get out on and under the water, to enjoy the bountiful wonders nature has provided.

In the winter months, while many are sipping hot cocoa by the fireplace, South Floridians can be outdoors catching everything but a cold! Sailfish, blackfin tuna and snapper abound offshore while tarpon, bonefish and permit can be found in the backcountry but redfish, snook and sea trout are even better options in Florida Bay.

Offshore captain Augie Moss, who guides out of the Key Largo Anglers Club, took clients fishing Jan. 6 and they caught three dolphin on ballyhoo. Dolphin can be caught year-round in the Keys although they primarily are sought in the summer.

Moss has been fishing Ocean Reef waters since 1993 with his family. Among the things he likes best about his charter location is the ability to be offshore fishing within 15 minutes from the dock. His most popular trip among clients is a half-day of reef fishing where families with kids have a great time. And he exemplifies most guids easy access to ocean and gulf waters.

Moss's versatile boat, a 31-foot Contender, enables tarpon, snapper and grouper fishing as well as yellowtail fishing on the edge of the reef or offshore fishing for dolphin and sailfish. “It’s the perfect vehicle to do all types of fishing offshore,” said the captain.

Making the weather conditions work for anglers is a guide’s job. When it’s windy and cold, billfishing is popular. “Cold fronts push sailfish south, and they can be found around drop-offs such as near where the old Whistling Buoy in North Key Largo used to be,” Moss said as the coldest temperatures of the year blew through the Keys. Traditionally, cold fronts bring in the best offshore fishing, but fishing patch reefs will block you from the wind and waves, if desired, he said. Murky water also works to the angler’s advantage. “Fish can become bolder when the water is dirty.”

Noting the direction of the wind and currents is also a factor in pursuing fish. “When the wind clocks to the south or southeast, generally yellowtailing is good because the wind and current are traveling the same direction,” Moss said.
Anglers can book Moss through his website, www.herefishycharters.com.

Getting out on the water is easy with plentiful guide services on hand as well as a Contender vendor available through Denison Yacht Sales located in the Fishing Village at Ocean Reef and numerous other boat vendors throughout the Florida Keys. Denison Yacht Sales became a Contender dealer in 2013. The brand is well-known and popular, but Denison Yacht Sales offers a half dozen other brands as well, such as Bay boats for getting out in the backcountry. Denison’s Brand Manager Kevin Frawley said among the reasons Contender is their best seller is that even in rough water, a boater can “run hard” and get out to the deeper waters fast; anglers can get their kites up and go fishing! He added, “Contender is located only 22 miles away from Ocean Reef and there are lots of models that are good for tournaments.”

Frawley said most customers seek center-console models and lately, the larger models have been popular. A 30-footer might accommodate five to six people on board while a 39-footer may enable from eight to 15 people aboard depending on their size and what they aim to do out on the water.

Denison Yacht Sales features cruisers such as the French brand Beneteau and the Italian brand Monte Carlo as well as “bay boats” that can draw as little as eight inches because the jack plate can be raised and lowered.

But, for offshore fishing, it’s tough to beat a Contender. Celebrating its 30-year anniversary, Contender is a Florida-based family company founded by Joe Neber in Miami in 1982 and incorporated in 1984.

Les Stewart, director of marketing, said Contender offers 21 different semi-custom models. “Many options open up the brand to pleasure boaters as well as fishermen,” said Stewart. “We believe in building a boat to suit individual needs.”

About four years ago, Contender started producing a luxury series. The 32-, 35- and 39-foot Contenders with the “LS” package incorporates a plusher finish and options such as forward seating with a table, cooking grill, sink and refrigerator for cooking fish right on the boat, as well as a step-down head with teak accents and Corian countertops in a variety of colors. All upholstery is made from marine-grade vinyl. Another option is a side door for easier water access for swimmers and divers. “Although our heartbeat is in fishing, we know pleasure boating as well,” Stewart said.

Contender’s manufacturing and production facility is in Homestead, lured there after the disastrous Hurricane Andrew in 1992 by incentives to participate in the commerce zone anchored by the Homestead Speedway. Its website is www.contenderoffshore.com. Contender at Denison Yacht Sales may be found at www.ContenderOceanReef.com.

No matter the boat brand or an angler’s decision to fish with or without a guide, fishing in the Florida Keys rarely disappoints. And as some avid outsdoorsmen say, a bad day of fishing trumps a good day in the office! For more information about fishing in the Florida Keys, visit www.fla-keys.com.