Fishing the florida keys patch reefsFishing the florida keys patch reefs

Fall Fishing on the patch reefs in the Keys:

With our temperatures beginning to cool off it is again time to hit the patch reefs.

This time of year the waters cool down and the fish begin to migrate back to shallower water for the winter. For those familiar with the reefs along the east and southern coast of the Florida Keys. The inland patches which are along the oceanside of Hawks channel are packed with many reef dwellers like mangrove snapper, hogfish, grunt, many species of grouper, margate, porgy and many others.

A trip to the patch reefs can be a memorable event if planned out ahead of time. The first decision you need to make is what is your targeted species. By choosing a targeted species you have to have the correct bait, tackle and look for the right kind of patch for the species your fishing for. Today we will break down a few species and the method you should use to catch them.

Hog Snapper

To target hog snapper or hogfish as they are commonly reffered, first you have to have the right tackle. Start off with a heavy spinng reel with 20 - 25 lb test mono with no leader and 5/0 eagle claw long shank hooks. Use no chum while fishing for hogs. When selecting a patch reef, look for one with large ferns and little rock or structure preferrably 10 - 14 ft in depth. The best bait is large frozen shrimp. Drop your bait near the base of one of the patches ferns. If their is a hog there it will hit immediately. If you are regularly getting broke off in the initial strike, your line is too weak or too light. You may want to anchor your boat in such a way that the stern of your boat is within ten feet of the fern you are spot fishing. Remember to verify the length of your catch as well as the count you keep.

Snapper and Grouper

To target these species, i like to use multiple rods, a light to medium spinner and a medium sized boat rod. Once you have chosen a patch reef, determine the wind and current and anchor your boat so you chum will flow onto the patch and pull the fish off toward your boat. This is often the hardest part to get right because so often the wind blows the boat one way and the current flows the opposite direction. You can anchor off the stern if your boat will allow it safely.

Once anchored, start your chum line using a bag of blood chum along with a 5 gallon bucket of hand chum. You can use any of several bait types successfully for most smaller fish. For the larger fish you will need to catch some live bait like ballyhoo. Catch the ballyhoo as you use them so they are fresh and lively. Set the livebait up on a boat rod without weight or leader allow them to swim freely at 45 degree angle to the lines your fishing behind the boat. Large grouper, Mutton Snapper as well as larger mangroves will not let the ballyhoo swim freely for long.

For all species of reef dwellers other than hogfish, you will want to look for a patch with good structure, large rocks or boulders. Most patches are elevated on the west of inland side and sloped on the oceanside. The best fishing is when you can anchor on the inland side of the patch and the wind and current are both in the same direction flowing parrallel to the patch.

That is all for now... Enjoy your trip

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