As water temperatures drop, expect lots of fish action offshore and backcountry

Brisk conditions last week marked the end of October but not the end of hurricane season. Sandy reminded us all that it is not over till it is over. As things begin to settle back down, there are lots of fishing opportunities for anglers looking to fish the backcountry or offshore.

The backcountry around Flamingo continues to produce lots of rod bending action for anglers fishing with artificial lures, like gulp-tipped jigs or silver/gold spoons, and live baits like shrimp or pilchards.

As the water temperatures start to drop, expect the bite to only get better in areas like Cape Sable and Snake Bight. Thanks to rebounding seatrout populations, there will be no closed season again this year.

Remember to keep up to date with current regulations as they change almost every year, check out http://www.myfwc.com/ for any questions about local fishing regulations.

Before conditions started to deteriorate offshore, captains were reporting a strong bite of dolphin, tuna, kingfish and even some sailfish. Most were reporting catches while trolling fresh ballyhoo around current rips, bird activity and wrecks, or power drifting live baits like ballyhoo, speedos, or large pilchards off the reef edge.

Capt. Mike MacDonald from the Upper Keys Fishing Club got out this past Sunday and reported large north to northeast swells in addition to the gusty winds while trolling off of Key Largo. With the unfavorable conditions, he was able to land a few skipjack tuna before heading back to the dock.

Expect there to be some debris traveling down the Gulfstream this week in the wake of Sandy, holding dolphin, wahoo, and tripletail. Additionally, encounters with sailfish and wahoo will be on the rise with the arrival of cooler daytime temperatures. Live baits will give you the best chance of meeting with success.

This past week, as Sandy approached the Keys, I had the distinct pleasure of guiding in the Kathy Holeman Memorial Light Tackle Tournament, conducted by the International Women’s Fishing Association.

I fish a lot of tournaments every year, several of which are women’s tournaments, but none of them are as challenging, enjoyable and fun as this one. Anglers compete over three days and are only allowed to fish with 8lb Ande pink or 6lb Ande clear mono line on spin, plug, or fly tackle — making this a true light tackle tournament.

In the five years I have guided this tournament, no one has ever used 8lb, only 6lb due to the difference in points. I have never fished with a group of such competitive lady anglers who say they are all just out for fun, but actually really want to win.

This tournament also gives you an idea as to fish populations in Florida Bay: the year before the freeze, there were 347 snook released over three days between 20 boats. The year after the freeze there were only 14 snook released. This year, more than 100 snook were released between 16 boats, in addition to loads of redfish, seatrout, ladyfish, jacks and tarpon.

This is just one of many tournaments held by the IWFA every year. If you are a lady angler and are looking for a group of fun loving like-minded individuals, I highly suggest checking out the IWFA at http://www.iwfa.org/.

For those of you who know me, know that to me, fishing is more than just a game, it is a way of life. So fish hard and fish often.

Capt. Mike Makowski is a backcountry fishing guide and owner of Blackfoot Charters in Key Largo. His column appears biweekly. To send him fishing reports or photos, e-mail captmikemakowski@yahoo.com or call (305) 481-0111.

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