I usually start out this Fishing Forecast with a bit of commentary on the weather for the up coming month and then I delve into the possibilities for the month’s fishing opportunities. With this year’s El Niño event buggering up all sorts of patterns in weather, currents and fishing I’m going to take a different tack.July is a great time of the year to be here in the Florida Keys due largely to the fact that there are so many possibilities on and under the water. We dive year round here in the Keys and with the warm water now the number of divers sky rockets. If you’ve never tried spear fishing before you may want to give it a try this month. A perfect target for you to learn this sport with is the Lionfish, this non - native and highly invasive species has grown more common in our waters and is wreaking havoc with reef communities from the shallow patches on out to deep water environments. These fish eat EVERYTHING in their path and they reproduce at an alarming rate. These fish are a perfect species to target in many ways, they are slow moving, have no size or bag limits, they’re great table fare and you don’t require an expensive and hard to use spear gun. Through out the Keys there are dive centers that carry the proper equipment that you need to harvest these tasty fish, the dive staffs will be a great source of information on hunting Lionfish. Check out www.MyFWC.com for rules and regulations on licensing, harvest areas and equipment rules.A great local organization www.reef.org has been a leader in Lionfish education and harvest for many years is the best source of information on this invasive species. Here are several facts about these fish from their fantastic web site.Lionfish are:1) Voracious predators being shown to eat native fish and crustaceans in large quantities, including both ecologically and economically important species like grunts, snapper, nassau grouper, and cleaner shrimp
2) Not known to have any native predators
3) Equipped with venomous dorsal, ventral and anal spines, which deter predators and can cause painful wounds to humans
4) Capable of reproducing year-round with unique reproduction mechanisms not commonly found in native fishes (females can reproduce every 2-4 days!)
5) Relatively resistant to parasites, giving them another advantage over native species
6) Fast in their growth, able to outgrow native species with whom they compete for food and spaceHook and line fishermen have it made in July! Snappers spawning, Dolphin schooling and the backcountry ain’t too shabby either! To top everything else going on remember that we have Lobster Mini Season to look forward to at the end of the month as well. So with all this going on where do you start? Boat prep for those of you who own a vessel as well as making sure all your licenses are up to date. Now that this is out of the way lets look at the backcountry action.The Everglades National Park will be a busy place despite the ongoing water issues facing Florida Bay. The heart of Florida Bay and the Everglades is the Flamingo area called Snake Bight and the surrounding waters this area is historically an amazing flats and basin complex for Redfish, Snook, Sea trout and Tarpon fishing. This Summer we all hope to see good action there but it doesn’t look good. Try branching out to the East and West of Flamingo and see what can be had. With out getting into the politics and finger pointing on the water issue s involved I have some homework for you to do. Go to www.EvergladesFoundation.org for a great look into the facts and science behind this growing problem facing all of us in Florida.Bluewater fishing and all along the reef should be outstanding as it has been all year. Mahi mahi, Blackfin tuna, Wahoo and more will be available in deep water and the reef is teeming with snappers, groupers, Hogfish and more. This time of the year there is a huge increase in night fishing along the entire reef tract, its a great way to beat the heat and the snapper fishing tends to be on fire. Tarpon fishing an hour before sunset and into the dark can be very productive as well, I love drifting the passes with crabs and top water plugs, aside from Tarpon don’t be surprised to hook a Permit, big snapper or Jack doing this.Start prepping now for Lobster Mini Season, get the latest regulations for the area you live in here in the Keys, each town all along the Keys has a different set of regulations on the harvest of lobster in their waters. Most importantly gather your gear now and have all that is needed to legally harvest lobster. Start with a legal dive flag and go from there.I’ve given you all some homework to do this month and some effort on your part in these matters can help the environment all around you here in our piece of Paradise. Be careful out here on the water this month and enjoy what we have here as well.