As a native Floridian, I have spent countless hours enjoying the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. All that time spent in, on and around the ocean has provided one lesson that I would happily pass on to anyone willing to listen: prepare.
I had the opportunity to spend time fishing the flats of Flamingo, just west of the Upper Keys, in my 20s. As an inexperienced boat owner, I learned quickly the results of a lack of preparation. A calm sunny day turned to an absolute nightmare with gale-force winds and rain by the bucket full.
After the storm passed, my boat was washed up on a mangrove island and I was stuck. Not having the necessary safety gear or emergency supplies for such an event could have proved catastrophic. Luckily, the U.S. Coast Guard is there to help wayward boaters (thanks again, guys).
On a separate occasion, a few friends and I were fishing off of Singer Island when another catastrophic event occurred. We were concentrating on catching sailfish and wahoo that day, but did not foresee the opportunity that the ocean often offers the prepared.
Twenty five cobia swam right up to the boat, and we did not have a single rod rigged for these fish. Now the results of this event were not as severe as my previous tale, but equally as disheartening to anyone who has tasted cobia. My goal from that point on was to be prepared for both the good and the bad that Mother Nature will throw at you.
Offshore report: Early wind and swell forecasts look good for getting offshore this week. Sailfish are loaded off of South Palm Beach and Broward counties. The baits of choice are goggle eye, blue runners and trolled/skirted ballyhoo. Keep a Sabiki handy for catching live baits. Several individuals have reported bait showering. It is also prudent to keep a jig rod handy for small bonito that may be chasing bait. They make fantastic bait. Sailfish are running at the 120- to 180-foot depth mark. Look for birds, weeds and current rips. All will likely hold fish. A few wahoo, dolphin and blackfin tuna have also been reported in the same water depths.
Inshore report: Snook season opens on Feb. 1. That is good news for those looking for excellent table fare. Keep in mind, the limit is one fish per person, per day and the fish must be between 28 and 32 inches in overall length. Most fish that are running the ocean and inlets are down south beginning at Boynton Inlet, but there are plenty of backwater snook in the central and northern Palm Beach area.
Lake Worth Inlet has had a very good jack and bluefish bite on strong northeast winds. Pompano are biting fairly well on the beaches. The key is to fish a few different spots if you are not finding the schools. On Jan. 24, anglers were catching their six fish limit of pompano in minutes near PGA Boulevard and the beach, while 3 miles to the north, they did not catch a thing.
Tight lines, crystal clear waters and sunny days to all.
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Rob Fielding is an addicted angler and the owner of Sharkey's Tackle in Jupiter. For more information call (561) 630-3100 or e-mail Rob.Fielding@SharkeysTackle.com.