The month of August, sometimes the peak of the “summer doldrums,” provided some consistent fishing and some of the best bonefishing that I have ever seen. Though the weather was typical August (hot & humid with afternoon storms) the bonefish and their behavior was anything but typical. Generally, during this time of the year the bonefish are most active at first or last light or only active at midday on strong tides around the full and new moons. This year has been different.
I have been finding large schools of bones (up to a hundred fish) waking and tailing across large backcountry banks to the east of Key West. These fish have been most active at the beginning of the incoming tide, even if that occurs at midday. On some days the we are seeing five or six schools this size, waking in various directions around the boat at the same time. We are also seeing more fish actively tailing in the heat of the day. Just yesterday, we had multiple shots at large fish tailing and rooting around in less than eight inches of water at around 1:00 in the afternoon. Most of these fish were so shallow that their dorsal fins and backs were completely out of the water as they moved about looking for food. The fish have also been unusually large, averaging around 7-8 lbs with many larger than that. In fact, I caught a personal best 14 lb monster a couple of weeks ago. The fish have been fat, healthy and putting up great fights.
The permit fishing has been a little bit disappointing for the past couple of weeks, but that will surely change as we get into fall. The tarpon fishing has been very reliable. Good numbers of babies (up to about 30lbs) working basins on calm mornings and patroling the shade of mangrove shorelines. We have also had the added bonus of seeing some large fish over 100lbs laid up along quiet edges. These large fish are often more aggressive this time of the year than in the spring because they are rarely fished for and are way more relaxed.
The bonefishing and permit fishing typically get better and better as we move into September and October. The fish feel the change of season coming, the water temperature begins to moderate, and both species are outstanding fall targets. If the bonefishing is anything like August, this will be a fall that we will long remember. Hopefully, this August wasn’t an abberation but it is instead a new pattern that we can expect for years to come.