Islamorada, Tavernier, Key Largo - First Time

Thread starter #1

CamoDawg85

Senior Member
For those who are well versed in fishing these areas, or have at least been enough to offer sound advice, I'd be curious to get your thoughts/suggestions on a potential mid or late-April 2019 trip that my bro-n-law and I have been contemplating for a few years now. We would trailer my boat, which is a 20ft Seafox. The plan is to stay Saturday to Saturday. The goal here is to target reef fish and pelagics. We have fished out of Panacea and Mexico Beach for 10+ years and have done well but I expect south Florida fishing to be a different animal. I always check marine weather forecast, actively use VHF and have a decent bottom machine. If someone is interested in lending some good advice (NOT looking for your GPS coordinates or secret spots), I'd appreciate any feedback or suggestions you have. Feel free to PM me or am happy to chat via phone if it's easier. My questions are as follows:

1) How is the wind typically in mid/late April?
2) Out of the 3 cities listed, which would be the best for a newbie to learn on?
3) How difficult is it to catch live bait in April? Could I throw a net and/or sabiki?
4) I know "artificial reefs" are a good attraction in the northern Gulf, is it the same in south Florida or does one just need to find a live bottom and go from there?
5) Is there one lure/rig a person should always have on standby when fishing this area?
6) Any other very important or critical things someone new to the area should be aware of/keep in mind?

Thank you in advance.

Jeff
 
I've been once to the keys and trailered my 17ft sea pro down, I prefer islamorada myself over largo. Islamorada tends to be a little cheaper since its more fishing oriented. The wind sucked when I went and I ended up down in the last week of march that was one of the windiest the locals had seen. Finding live bottom isn't a problem, making sure you're not fishing somewhere you aren't supposed to be is the bigger issue. Its way different than trying to find bottom out of Panacea just due to the sheer amount of reef. I loved it and want to go back though I wouldn't trailer my boat again unless I stayed a week, we stayed 3 days and my boat stayed in the basin for 2 due to the roughness. I'll look when I get back but I think I have some points marked that are just public numbers like the chica rocks etc.
 
Thread starter #3

CamoDawg85

Senior Member
Doomtrpr - many thanks for that insight. I have been starting to research for public numbers just haven't found the right google search yet.
 
Thread starter #5

CamoDawg85

Senior Member
Anybody else have feedback? I’ve seen a good many posts on the keys area in the past. Feel free to chime in! Really curious about the winds in the spring time, or if I need to audible and plan for summer or early fall. Can’t bleed into GA bow season :)
 

jdgator

Senior Member
Definitely Islamorada.

In my experience April is not a "peak" season for pelagics in the keys but everything will be there. You definitely need to watch the winds and weather at all times down there. It can get pretty bad in March/April.

With a 20 foot boat, I would buy or net some pinfish or greenies and slow troll the outer edges of the reefs with live bait. Try to cover the water column. If you have a planer or downrigger, bring it. You could get into reef fish, kings, sails, and the random mahi.

I would bring some Mann Stretch 25s and 30s and/or maybe some Stubby Bubblers or Rattle Jets + a small box of frozen ballyhoo in case you can't get your hands on live bait. I would also have a big Yozuri plug rigged on a large spinning reel in case.

I am sure you'll get some action.
 
If you stay in Islamorada you have the option of fishing the Gulf. Too far to run from Tavernier, or Key Largo. April can be windy. Calm before the front and windy after. As for the oceanside, you have the reef proper at 3 to 4 miles to where it drops from 25 feet to 90. The 3 miles from the islands to the reef are what we call patches. The light color areas are sand and the dark is either grass or rock. The rock is where the life is. Anchor up tide and chum. Drift light line back with no leader and light weight for Snapper, Porgy, Hogfish, Jacks, Mackerel, Grouper. Low light is best. Live shrimp is the ticket here. You can cast net or hair hook Pinfish in the grass in the backcountry. If you want to try the Gulf, you really don't have to know spots, just areas. Run back to the west of Sprigger Bank and anchor with a block of chum out. Lots of Mangrove Snapper and maybe some Trout. Keep an eye peeled for Cobia as they may swim up the slick or follow a hooked fish in. Also plane along the trap buoys and look for Tripletail and cast a Shrimp to them. Islamorada is absolutely the most diverse area one can fish. I have been here since, well a loooong time. Contact me when you get here and I will answer any question you have, Whitetailer.
 

GLS

Classic Southern Gentleman
Islamorada is a true fishing village. One of the best family trips we had when the kids were young was there. One feature of the Keys is that they are so close to the United States and you can drive there. Gil
 
Thread starter #9

CamoDawg85

Senior Member
If you stay in Islamorada you have the option of fishing the Gulf. Too far to run from Tavernier, or Key Largo. April can be windy. Calm before the front and windy after. As for the oceanside, you have the reef proper at 3 to 4 miles to where it drops from 25 feet to 90. The 3 miles from the islands to the reef are what we call patches. The light color areas are sand and the dark is either grass or rock. The rock is where the life is. Anchor up tide and chum. Drift light line back with no leader and light weight for Snapper, Porgy, Hogfish, Jacks, Mackerel, Grouper. Low light is best. Live shrimp is the ticket here. You can cast net or hair hook Pinfish in the grass in the backcountry. If you want to try the Gulf, you really don't have to know spots, just areas. Run back to the west of Sprigger Bank and anchor with a block of chum out. Lots of Mangrove Snapper and maybe some Trout. Keep an eye peeled for Cobia as they may swim up the slick or follow a hooked fish in. Also plane along the trap buoys and look for Tripletail and cast a Shrimp to them. Islamorada is absolutely the most diverse area one can fish. I have been here since, well a loooong time. Contact me when you get here and I will answer any question you have, Whitetailer.
Whitetailer, thank you VERY much! This i exactly the type of info I was searching for. Just trying to understand what I’m going into and if I need to purchase diff equipment, change my time frame, etc. Once my bro-n-law and I nail down a more definitive timeline, I’ll shoot you a PM and we can go from there if that’s ok with you?

Thanks again. Jeff
 
Thread starter #10

CamoDawg85

Senior Member
Definitely Islamorada.

In my experience April is not a "peak" season for pelagics in the keys but everything will be there. You definitely need to watch the winds and weather at all times down there. It can get pretty bad in March/April.

With a 20 foot boat, I would buy or net some pinfish or greenies and slow troll the outer edges of the reefs with live bait. Try to cover the water column. If you have a planer or downrigger, bring it. You could get into reef fish, kings, sails, and the random mahi.

I would bring some Mann Stretch 25s and 30s and/or maybe some Stubby Bubblers or Rattle Jets + a small box of frozen ballyhoo in case you can't get your hands on live bait. I would also have a big Yozuri plug rigged on a large spinning reel in case.

I am sure you'll get some action.
JD, this is good stuff! Based on your lure/presentation advice I need to ask Santa for some new toys :p

So on the plus side, it sounds like I might not have to venture out 20-30 miles like I do in the FL panhandle area. Is most everything feasible within 5 miles? This will make me feel better if a thunderhead blows up. How often do you fish that area?

Thanks! Jeff
 
Whitetailer, thank you VERY much! This i exactly the type of info I was searching for. Just trying to understand what I’m going into and if I need to purchase diff equipment, change my time frame, etc. Once my bro-n-law and I nail down a more definitive timeline, I’ll shoot you a PM and we can go from there if that’s ok with you?

Thanks again. Jeff
Sure thing Jeff. 305-393-0013
I will give you all the insight you need.
www.tarponcountry.com www.rustyiv.com
 
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