Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Full Moon

I have posted before that the full moon can make fishing a challenge. Most of the fish targeted here in the Keys are current feeders. The full moon currents and the light of the full moon cause the fish to change their feeding habits.

Daytime fishing can become a challenge on the full moon. Normally, there are only one or two days at and just after the full when daytime fishing, well sucks. Night fishing on the other hand is fantastic. So if you are vacationing around a full moon plan on scheduling a night trip.

Tarpon guides are all geared for night fishing. On the full moon the bite can last all night long. Reef fishing charters at night are very productive if there is a favorable current. Yellowtails, mutton and mangrove snapper are great night feeders. The biggest complaint about night fishing trips is that they are short. With the ten fish per person aggregate snapper limit, it doesn't take long to limit out when the current is running with the wind.

So does the full moon mean all day time fishing sucks? No, the big tide changes can be very productive for flats fishing. At low tide, when flats are fully exposed, bonefish, permit and tarpon can be targeted along the edges of the flats. This is a great time for you to get in touch with your light tackle side and have some fun.

Fishing on the reef can still be productive, but you have to change your tactics. Because of the stronger tides, visibility on the reef will be either very clear or very dirty. In the clear water target grouper, hogfish and porgies. Use live or very fresh dead shrimp on light jigs for the hogfish and porgies and live pinfish, ballyhoo and pilchards for the grouper. This is normally a slower bite than chum fishing, but can produce a very good catch. The key is to cover a lot of ground and hit plenty of live coral fields. This type of fishing is where flourocarbon comes in handy. I use 12 pound flouro with the jigs. While any jig head will work, I have better luck with the white buck tail jigs just heavy enough to get to the bottom. For the grouper use a long leader, six to ten foot, and keep the bait about five feet off the bottom. The grouper bite will be slow, so just dead stick the grouper rod and work the jigs.

Chumming in clear water is optional if you are targeting the hogfish and grouper. If you do chum, you can catch yellowtail if you use very small hooks and light leader. I have had to go as light as six pound test and size six hooks to catch 'tails in clear water on a full moon.

If you have dirty water and a decent current on the outgoing tide, the reef can be just as productive on the full moon as any other time. The problem is the if. Tides in the Keys are a bit abnormal. You only have two to three foot swings and there is often a low high and a high high. This makes the currents very difficult to predict. So be prepared for any conditions if you want to catch fish on the full moon during the day time.

There was a comment on my last post about Oceanside 101 guides. As you all hopefully know, most of my trips are fishing 101's. While I can cover a lot of techniques in a day, most of my regular customers like to book me every year for the first day of their stay to learn something new. One thing I recommend is learning to throw a large cast net (eight foot or larger). The right bait can make your trip so try to add castnetting 101 to your lesson plan. Another thing is make sure your boat has a good round or oval livewell to keep your bait happy until it is time to fish. Most of the Pips and Vacation Boat rentals boats have good livewells. If you are renting make sure you have at least a twenty gallon bait well. Then your Oceanside 101 trip can be productive.

Make Marathon in the Florida Keys your next fishing vacation destination.

Tight lines,

Capt. Dallas

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