Bonefish (Grey Ghost)
Known for very fast and very long first runs, this is probably the species most synonymous with flats fishing. There is a reason why they are called "gray ghost of the flats" and are a real light tackle challenge. Here in the Keys, bonefish generally average in the 6 to 8 pound range with fish of 10 to 12 or larger not uncommon.
They are usually fished in water less than two feet deep, and sometimes are seen so shallow that their tails and dorsal fins show as they root out food from the bottom. This is called "tailing" and is the most demanding of angler skills. Bonefish prefer water temperatures over 72 degrees, but can sometimes be found in slightly cooler conditions.
They are here year round and can be caught whenever conditions are favorable. The best months are probably March through November.
Tarpon (Silver King)
These incredible fish offer the ultimate in a shallow water big game fish. During the spring migrations, fish can average from 80 to over 150 pounds. They can be found rolling and feeding in deep backcountry finger channels, in shallow grassy basins or along the edges of bars and flats in 4 to 6 feet of water. Known for explosive strikes and unbelievable jumps, these "silver kings" are the favorite of many anglers.
Tarpon tend to prefer water temps in the mid 70's for the channels and usually need 78-79 degrees for the flats. The big fish are here in good to excellent numbers from March through July and small tarpon 8-20 pounds are here year-round, disappearing during cold fronts in winter.
The permit is a very strong and hard fighting fish, averaging 8 to 16 pounds. Fish in the 20 to 35 pound range are common with fish to near 50 pounds showing fairly often. They seem to tolerate slightly cooler and slightly warmer conditions than the bones, and are also here all year with February thru November probably being most productive.
Permit are usually found in waters less than 3 to 4 feet deep and will also float in channels or off flat edges in calm situations. They can often be the most challenging species to approach and hook with a subsequent battle that can last an hour or more.
Our local backcountry offers some excellent Snook fishing. The average size is 6 to 8 pounds and 24-32 inches. You will find them around bridges, sea walls mangroves, pilings just about any structure. They eat Mullet, Shrimp, Pilchards, Pinfish and a multitude of artificial lures or combinations of live and dead bait. These crafty fish are are tough fighters.
When hooked they make long hard runs and will jump out of the water all in an effort to cut you off on something. Watch the sharp edges on their gill plates when removing hooks. Snook are prized not only for their fight but also for their fine delicate taste.
The unique combination of year-round warm water, brackish rivers and backcountry bays, mangroves, forage, and moving water, makes South Florida one of the leading fisheries for Snook in the world. One of the greatest sport fish that near shore angling has to offer.
Redfish love the warm waters of south Florida, the oyster beds, mangroves, and grassy flats are their regular haunts. They are prolific, and definitely not timid when it comes to eating - Which makes them a great sport fish for light tackle and fly-fishing.
Redfish are often seen "tailing" (very similar to bonefish) on the shallow flats as they feed. And a well placed cast, which is right on their nose, is rarely refused. They pull hard and often make several runs, the second and third sometimes longer than the first.
Seatrout are frequently targeted from December to April. They are for the novice or expert, bait or fly, lures work well also. When fishing for them you can use the old standby a popping cork rig with a shrimp or artificial hanging below the cork. Remember Pop the cork Sea Trout come to the gurgling sound the cork makes.
Sea Trout are found over grassy bottom and in the"muds" that is muddy areas where the bait is routing in the bottom stirring up shrimp and small fishes. Trout will also go up on the shallow Flats to feed and you can sometimes catch them on fly or a favorite top water plug. Watch those two large front teeth when you take the hook out.