Published On: January 19th, 2024Last Updated: January 19th, 20244.9 min read

The Snapper bite has been hot on the reef!

Florida Keys’ ‘Hell Week’ Fishing Report

In true Florida Keys style, we ended 2023 with a flurry of fishing trips. The day after Christmas every year marks the start of the busiest week of the year in the Florida Keys. It can get pretty hectic that week, so the locals commonly call it ‘Hell Week!’ Hotel occupancies this year were 90-100%, with many families looking to put a unique island twist to their Christmas festivities. During this week, we fished nonstop, with multiple trips per day. We fish a lot of double half-day reef trips during hell week because catching Yellowtail Snapper is very popular this time of year.

Winter and spring are excellent times to catch Snapper on the reef without baking in the hot sun. The fish are usually quite active this time of year as the water is cloudy due to the windier weather. This ‘dirty’ water makes it harder for the Snapper to see the fishing line, leading to more bites.

Yellowtail Snapper Trip

Yellowtail Snapper are very popular this time of year because they can be caught on 4 hour trips.

If you don’t already know, our crews fish pretty much any day of the year except Christmas and Easter. This past Christmas fell on a Monday, and it was a wet one! It rained all day, even causing some flooding. The very next day, we were back at it, fishing again. December 26 and 27 were beautiful days with some fantastic fishing.

Unfortunately, the weather forecasts predicted that on Thursday, December 28, our luck was about to run out. With a 90% chance of rain and plenty of wind due to a cold front heading our way. Two days prior, we called our scheduled clients and asked if anyone wanted to move to Friday or Saturday. We explained it was safe and fishable, but they would be wet most of the day. Fortunately, we were able to shuffle around all but one trip, and we were able to provide clients with much more enjoyable weather.

We hate disappointing our clients, so we do everything possible to make a fishing charter happen. However, we are always honest and realistic with our clientele. If factors out of our control, such as the weather, prevent us from providing a high-quality service, we will communicate that to the client as early as possible.

Friday Morning 12/29 was beautiful. There was a light breeze and cooler temperatures on the water. The morning AM trips were all catching Mangrove and Yellowtail snappers. Lots of Kingfish and Cero mackerel were around for a good fight.

Kingfish (Mackerel) are pretty common for us on the reef this time of year.

One of our affiliate boats, Ben O’fishal, managed to reel in a big Amberjack. They were thrilled with their big fish and ordered a replica mount of the fish by Gray Taxidermy. Because of the weather issue the previous day, all vessels ran multiple trips, making for a very long day. It was worth the effort. By the end of the day, our clients had a great time catching fish and enjoying the excellent weather.

Greater Amberjack

A big Amberjack caught aboard the Ben O’ Fishal

It was a good week, and our diligence with repairs and preventative maintenance paid off, allowing us to accommodate as many families as possible without technical issues.

Running a fishing charter business in the Florida Keys can be tricky. Over the years, we have seen many challenges: costly boat repairs, skyrocketing fuel prices, hurricanes, uncooperative weather, seasickness, and the list goes on and on. So, to combat these issues, we work very hard to be as proactive as possible and do our best to anticipate problems as far in advance as possible.

In the days leading up to the New Year, we also had several repeat clients who liked to visit the Keys for the holidays. Our crews always have fun catching up with our returning customers. It is great to reconnect with these families, share laughs, and reminisce on past trips. Grouper season ends on December 31, so we tried our best to get anyone that wanted a grouper that week prior to season closing. Seasoned angler Mark Busch was able to eek out a nice Black Grouper before the close of the season aboard the Main One with Captain Marty Lewis.

Captain Marty fishing this month with good friend and value client Mark Busch.

Mr. Bob, a Marathon resident six months out of the year, had two half-days booked just before New Year’s with Captain Steve. Mr. Bob enjoys catching Yellowtail Snapper and sharing the fresh fish with his family. While his catch was being fileted one day, he mentioned he was treating his family to a fresh Yellowtail dinner that evening at an Italian Restaurant in town, called Frank’s Grill. We told him he made a great choice because the food is delicious there, and the owners are wonderful people. If you have never tried this restaurant, it is a must! Just be sure to make reservations since the restaurant is small and cozy.

Well, that was ‘Hell Week’ for us, but honestly, it wasn’t too bad. We got to fish a bunch and put smiles on many people’s faces. We were sure to purchase our groceries ahead of time and avoid the most congested parts of town that week!

If you plan to come to the Florida Keys for fun in the sun and angling action, ring us at 305-289-0071 or visit our contact page. We hope to see you soon; a private fishing charter is one of the best ways to upgrade your vacation to the Florida Keys!

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