November in the Florida Keys is by far one of my favorite times of the year! So much change is a challenge and a blast to figure out! Many species are returning from the northern trip into the upper gulf and north Atlantic! As these fish begin to return to our turquoise waters the catch possibilities are endless! November is the time of variety! With the flats cooling off the deeper near shore wrecks, reefs and rocks are the ticket for a fun day! But when the weather stabilizes for a few days the permit fishing can be epic!
Fall is typically the time we see the larger mature offshore fish on the flats! As usual, when permit fishing with fly rods, crab patterns are great! Hit them on the head and stay tight to the fly! For the conventional anglers live crabs are the winner!
A trick I like to use when live crab fishing is to keep a small 2 or 3 gallon bucket on the deck half full of saltwater for the crab to rest in until a shot is presented. The bucket extends the life of the bait by keeping it in a stable environment instead of dragging in the current eventually snuffing the tasty morsel! Another tip is to pick only male crabs… females aren’t as hardy and usually don’t keep overnight! If you’re on a multiple day trip a crab trap is a great way to keep crabs overnight! If you’re stuck in a place that is away from the water, or you are traveling to a new area the next day, a 5 gallon bucket with an aerator is the ticket!
As the cold fronts begin to push south so do the migratory species the live in the warm waters of the gulf during the summer months! Among the common winter migratory fish are wahoo, sailfish, cobia, tuna (all species common), bonita and a host of snapper, grouper and mackerel! November is known for birds! Match the bait with live baits or plastics! I fish mostly Marsh Works 3” Bayou Chub in white on a ½ oz jighead for casting distance! A steady retrieve is usually the ticket! Vary the retrieve to see what the fish want! Once figured out have a blast!
The bait usually begins to show thick and is relatively easy to cast net or sebiki! For the seasoned bait fisherman this is old hat! For the novice, find some structure or wreck anchor up current and start throwing freebies out! I like to use a chum block to get a look at the life of the spot and decide if it is worth fishing or should we change locations! Circle hooks are my go-to for bait and make not paying attention less of a no-no! As long as the tide is moving and the boat is drawing bait the fish should follow! If the fish aren’t interested MOVE!
Finally sharks are the most interesting and important part of the ocean to me and are starting to show thick! Crevalle jacks are my go-to shark bait - easy to catch, fun and hardy. A day old is even better unless blacktip shark fishing, then keep ‘em alive and on top with balloons! Many say that barracuda is great bait and it works wonderfully! However the populations are declining as the sharks are too! With this in mind I try not to take a predator out of the ocean for any purpose!
So let the sharks swim and the cuda’s too... a photo lasts forever! Have fun and enjoy the outdoors and leave no trace so future generations can have the same smiles!