By the book, winter in the Florida Keys is sailfish season. But not everything happens by the book. Looking to celebrate Hook Shots’ 50th episode, the crew was hoping for billfish glory and redfish. At the same time, just catching anything and escaping the brutal Northeast winter suited them fine. Between deep-dropping for big snowy groupers, jigging amberjacks, flats fishing reds, and ripping into hard-driving ‘cudas and Crevalles, drags screamed, beer bottles clinked, and chops were busted thoroughly.


The Deal: The beauty of the Florida Keys is that even when your primary target eludes you, no matter how off the conditions, you’ll find something that wants to chew. The trick to walking away with a smile is being open to various styles of fishing, and appreciating the non-glam species. For this episode, the crew was so happy just to be bending rods and not having to shovel snow, and fish was a good fish. Fishing, after all, should be fun above all else, and there was no shortage of that on this shoot.

When To Go: If it’s sailfish you crave, you’ll want to book a trip to Islamorada between November and March. During the cold months—if Mother Nature cooperates—cold ocean water will prompt migrating sails to make a run to the Keys. If Mother Nature isn’t on your side, there’s still plenty to do in winter. Blackfin tuna, snowy grouper, snook, tilefish, wahoo, king mackerel, and amberjacks are just a few other local players that will keep rods bent.

What To Bring: Almost all Keys charter boats will be rigged to the nines; there’s no need for you to bring any tackle. However, if you insist on bringing a set-up from home, opt for a medium-action spinning rod and reel with a good drag spooled with 20-pound braid. This has you covered for inshore patch reef fishing, pitching livies to snook in the mangroves and little tuna offshore, and even firing a live ballyhoo to a sailfish—provided you know how to fight big fish on light gear.


Where To Stay: If you’re looking for a place to stay in Islamorada, we can’t say enough good things about Smuggler’s Cove Resort, which served as our home away from home during this shoot. It’s far nicer and more comfortable that a motel, but much more reasonably priced than many of the other area resorts. The bar is hopping and the food is top notch. Smuggler’s Cove Resort; 305-664-5564

Despite somewhat tough conditions, Captain Billy Chapman on the Captain Cadilliac busted his hump to get us on as many fish as possible in as many ways as possible. Clients can expect the same drive, whether they’re itching for sailfish, grouper, wahoo, or snappers. You can find him docked behind the world-famous Worldwide Sportsmans tackle center.; 305-395-5305