Winter Is Sailfish Season in South Florida

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It’s a new year and a whole new batch of fish are moving into the south Florida waters. Lately, we’re getting some cooler temperatures moving through, something that is out of the ordinary for Fort Lauderdale. We’re known for our year-round warm weather. While some Floridians go into hibernation when the cold weather hits, fishermen in know head out to go fishing. Cold fronts are one of the best meteorological events that can happen for the charter fishing boats. Cold weather gets the sailfish frisky and eager to bite any bait they come across. We catch sailfish throughout the year here in Fort Lauderdale, but it’s when the temperatures drop that we catch the big numbers of them.

Sailfish are the most sought after gamefish in the entire world. People come from all around the world to Fort Lauderdale during the winter months to try to capture one of these elusive species. It’s now, during the months of January and February that the sailfishing peaks for us in south Florida. You can almost set your watch by it, when the temperature drops, the sailfish flags start flying. The coldest days are the days when you can catch record numbers of sailfish on a single trip. A lot of variables are involved in sportfishing, but chilly weather is definitely a big positive for catching sailfish.

January-February are great months for a lot of species. Mahi-mahi fishing can be good. They are always around, just scattered and if you can find them, you can do well with either a big one or a nice school of smaller ones. Wahoo are biting too on the edge of the Gulfstream. We catch them trolling, usually on the deep lines, and always when you least expect it. You know it’s a wahoo when the drag ‘smokes’ off the reel on the bite. Regular catches of bonitos and kingfish, sometimes a barracuda or blackfin tuna, are also being caught on the reefs. Fishing is always variable and sporadic, but mainly good this time of year. Good luck to everyone fishing Ft Lauderdale over the coming weeks. I’ll sea ya on the water.

Capt. Andy Roydhouse www.FishHeadquarters.com 754-214-7863

The Winter Fishing Season Is Upon Us

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The winter fishing season in Fort Lauderdale is the time of year when the big boys are caught. It’s not a season for the best action, but we do catch some of the biggest fish we will catch all year long here in south Florida. December and January are perhaps the best 2 months of the year for catching sailfish, our most sought after gamefish. People come from around the world during these 2 months to try their luck at landing this most amazing and beautiful billfish. Our sailfish average around 7ft in length and they put up one of the most awesome aerial displays of jumping out of any fish in the ocean. Sailfish are sometimes called the ballerina of the sea. And what’s best about fishing for sailfish in Fort Lauderdale is, we catch them only a mile offshore.

That’s pretty amazing, catching this huge gamefish only a mile offshore. Most places in the world, you have to trek 20-30 miles offshore to even have a shot at this elusive species. But in south Florida, the continental shelf drops off super close to shore. One mile offshore, we’re in 100ft of water. Two miles offshore, we’re in 600ft of water. And the Gulfstream current, the warm water current pushing water with epic force at 3-4 knots to the north, hugs along this drop-off coming closer to the eastern seaboard closer than anywhere else. We call the waters between a mile a mile and half, “Sailfish Alley”. It’s the best place to go set your baits in hopes of hooking into that trophy sailfish.

Sailfish Alley is a pretty narrow column of water. It’s only a few football fields wide and it’s the area where 90% of the sailfish migrate through. The depths of Sailfish Alley are 100-180ft deep, just outside the reef and the inside edge of the Gulfstream. This area is laden with baitfish such as goggle eyes, threadfin herring, sardines, bonitos, blue runners, speedo mackeral and cigar minnows, among others. This plethora of available food is why sailfish and other large gamefish, patrol these waters for their next meal. My favorite technique of fishing to do this time of year is to go out to Sailfish Alley and do a technique called kite fishing. Kite fishing is an awesome technique of fishing where we fly kites and dangle live baits from the kites with the baits suspended right on the surface of the water. The baits struggle to keep their heads below water, creating ‘fish-in-distress’ signals and broadcasting them out to the predators on the reef. I won’t get too much into the kite fishing technique as I have covered this technique extensively in some of my fishing articles, but it is a great way to target large, surface feeding gamefish in the winter months off Fort Lauderdale.

Sailfish are not the only species patrolling this area for their next feast. This is prime zone for all the pelagic species. In this same area, we also catch mahi-mahi, blackfin tuna, wahoo, bonito, kingfish and more. These species bite strong in some of the conditions we get in the winter months, such as the cold, changing winds and other variables. Sailfish for one, bite extremely well on windy days and during cold fronts. They go crazy on cold weather days. Wahoo bite strong around the tide change and especially well on the new and full moons. Mahi-mahi bite best when we get a strong East wind for a few days in a row. Tunas bite really good in the early, early mornings or the late, late afternoons. They like the low-light of sunrise and sunset. Our biggest advantage over other boats in our area is our experience in fishing Fort Lauderdale, day in and day out for over 40 years.

For the next month and half, the big game fish are moving through. This time of year offers the best chances at catching your desired big game species. As my dad always told me, you gotta make your hay while the sun is shining. In other words, best to go sailfish fishing when the conditions are optimal and the sailfish are biting. Good luck to everyone fishing in the near future. I’m excited to see the big game fish we catch over the next month and a half. I’ll sea ya on the water!

Capt. Andy Roydhouse

www.FishHeadquarters.com

754-214-7863

Great Snapper Fishing This Month in Fort Lauderdale

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Nice pile of snappers on the cutting table after the trip.

Nice catch of vermillion snappers caught on our drift fishing trip out of Fort Lauderdale.

I haven’t done a fishing report in a while, but with the fishing as good as it is, I feel a fishing report is warranted.  Our snapper fishing off Fort Lauderdale over the past few weeks has been nothing short of amazing.  While the snapper fishing over the summer months was not as productive as in years past, the snapper fishing this year during October is well above expectations.  On our daytime drift fishing trips, we’re catching lots and lots of vermillion snappers, yelloweyes and some big mutton snappers mixed in.  This is in addition to the regular catches of porgies, groupers, grunts, jacks and all the bottom fish species.  An odd kingfish, tuna or cobia is also being caught on our daytime drift trips.  Being off-season here in Ft Lauderdale, with everyone going back to school and getting into the swing of work/school stuff, we haven’t had the huge numbers of people on the trips as we normally do in the spring and summer months.  This is a great thing for the drift boat trips because it gives you a lot more room to fish as well as a higher ratio of more fish per person aboard.  This is a great season to come out and try some drift fishing.  You’re almost guaranteed to get some nice snappers to bring home.

Nice vermillion snapper behind held up at the dock by the lucky angler who caught them.

Nice vermillion and yelloweye snapper caught by Andy on our drift fishing trip.

Night fishing is just plain ole’ awesome this month.  Snappers, snappers and more snappers are the catch on our night trips.  The snapper species we target at night are the yellowtail snapper and the mangrove snappers.  We do get a few of the bigger mutton snappers as well.  But the sheer numbers of the yellowtail and mangroves that we’re catching at night is just incredible.  This year has been better snapper fishing than I have seen in quite a few years.  I love to see the bite so good because we have slow fishing sometimes in Fort Lauderdale, where it’s tough to catch anything.  Fortunately for us, the bite has been really strong, so almost every trip is a good catch.  We’re having nights where 3 deckhands have to clean fish for over an hour after the trip because we caught so many.  Night anchor trips are also yielding a some sharks, cobia, bluefish and barracuda too.

Nice pile of yellowtail snappers on the dock after a night trip aboard the Catch My Drift.

Big pile of yellowtail snappers after a night anchor trip aboard the Catch My Drift this week.

Sportfishing boats are getting their fair share of fish out there.  Some good catches of mahi-mahi (a few really big ones), wahoo, tuna, kingfish and some of the big game fish around the wrecks.  It’s a mixed bag for the sportfishing boats this time of year, they can catch just about anything.  Mahi-mahi are funny in that they come through really strong for 2-3 days in a row, and then they disappear for a week or more where there are none to be found, and then they pop up again practically jumping in the boat.  It’s very hit or miss with the mahi-mahi or as I like to say, “Hero or Zero”.  Still, even on the days when the mahi-mahi are non-existent, the tunas, kingfish and other reef species are keeping us busy reeling in some nice fish.

John holding a pair of big snapper on his trip aboard the Catch My Drift

Nice snappers caught on the drift fishing trip out of Fort Lauderdale.

If the bite on the troll slows down, we usually switch over to deep dropping over the shipwrecks to try to hook into a big amberjack or grouper.  There are some big groupers still lurking around the wrecks and deep dropping is fast paced fishing.  You drop down, and either get a bite in the first 2-3 minutes or you reel them in and try to hit another wreck.  It usually only takes a couple shipwrecks before you find a wreck that is holding some fish.  Fish move from wreck to wreck every day so you have to experiment a little with some trial and error to find where they are biting that day.  And if the big game fish aren’t biting on the wrecks, we can always drop some multiple-hook chicken rigs to load up on the vermillion and yelloweye snappers.  It’s a buffet out there these days.

Ryan holding a big mahi-mahi caught on our sportfishing charter.

Nice bull dolphin caught on our sportfishing charter out of Fort Lauderdale.

The secret to fishing in Fort Lauderdale in October is to stay versatile.  You need to switch from technique to technique until you find what’s working that day.  That’s one big reason the afternoon is often the better trip time.  We have all that trial and error from the morning figured out so we can go right to what was working for us the best immediately when we go back out for the afternoon run.  The mullet run is just getting started which rejuvenates the reefs with lots of available food (baitfish) and get the big game fish such as sailfish, sharks, tarpon and barracudas, snapping all over the reefs.  Good luck to everyone fishing in these coming weeks.  I’ll sea ya on the water!

Capt. Andy Roydhouse
754-214-7863 cell
www.FishHeadquarters.com

Andrew holding a 30 pound wahoo just caught trolling at sea.

Nice wahoo caught trolling on our sportfishing trip