January has brought us cold and windy days with water temperatures in the 60’s as well as negative low tides. There have been a few calm, nice days here and there, but the norm has been Old Man Winter giving us his worst.


That being said, fishing never stops here in the Keys. All year round we have great fishing, the species and tactics may change, but the action still remains on fire.


The snook and redfish are still chewing in Everglades National Park. On our nicer days we’ve had some incredible fishing for both species with good numbers of quality fish being caught. On the colder, windier days it has been a bit tougher. Regardless, reds and snook have been consistent throughout the month.

However, the real stars of the month have been Spanish mackerel and mangrove snappers. If you’re looking to fill your cooler, this option is pretty much a sure bet. Fishing the Gulf or the bridges for mackerel and basically everywhere for mangrove snappers has been very successful. We’ve easily hit limits and released a ton more of these guys almost every trip that we’ve targeted them.


**Pro tip: When you target mackerel and other toothy critters make sure you tie on a short bit of wire leader to avoid cutoffs.

On the Gulf side, many captains are reporting good mixed bags of cobia, trout, permit, snappers and mackerel as well. Chumming and putting in the time has been the ticket to a day filled with a fun variety. These fish make for consistent rod bending fun for the entire family!


One of the biggest factors accounting for all this winter success has been the presence of good, quality bait. White bait (pilchards) has been all over the place which has made for happy fish. Throwing my 10 foot Bett’s Morada cast net I can quickly and easily black out my livewells and get to fishing which has made for equally happy customers as well.


There have been reports of tarpon starting to show off the beaches in Cape Sable, Whitewater Bay and the East Cape. The water temperatures have already climbed to nearly 70 degrees in a few locations so we should start seeing more and more of these guys in the coming months.


The water is only going to get warmer meaning we should see fewer and fewer cold days, so as previously mentioned, next month we should start to see more and more early season tarpon start to show up. Additionally, expect an increase in activity from our already present redfish, snook, snappers and other popular species both locally and in Everglades National Park. Additionally, the bait should keep hanging around in good numbers for a while which will help to keep the bite going strong.

Captain Charles Hertel grew up in Islamorada and has been fishing the Keys since he was four years old. Captain Charles can provide charters ranging from half-day, family fun trips to all day angling expeditions deep into the Everglades. For charter information call (305) 790-1345.


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