Fishing Key West In January

Kingfish in January
Large Kingfish in January

January Fishing Contents

Fishing Key West in January can be paradise. While the rest of the country is digging out from the snow and cold, Key West has tropical weather on tap most days making a great destination for folks looking to warm up. 

The first of January can be busy here in Key West with higher room rates after the first of the year till about the 10th then things to slow down through the end of the month. A great time to visit Key West for all of its charms. The night life is perfect as the weather is cooler making visits to downtown restaurants and bars nicer and the sunsets spectacular. 

The Weather

Almost the middle of our cooler months (our winter) January has its weather. We typically get the tail end of the cold fronts that are affecting the rest of the country. This results in winds from the North West for a few hours as the front approaches then the North for a day followed by the North Easterlies as it cools off to the mid 60s most times and occasionally the high 50s. As this cycle progresses the winds come around to the South East ushering in the mid 70s and sometimes 80 degree air temperatures for several days in a row. I cannot say I enjoy fishing Key West in a North West wind but the rest of it is fine by me for several of our options, there is always something I can do in our fishing. 

Cooler air temps in January will affect the shallows the fastest due to the shorter depth in the water column. The inshore waters of Key West are super sensitive to the temp changes especially if the winds were strong and the water gets agitated during the front that cooled things down. This holds true also when the warm South Easterlies kick in. Fish love a warm up but a cool down can put some to be lethargic for a day or two and in the shallows this needs to be considered when lining up a day of fishing Key West

Fishing Inshore

Backcountry Fishing

Backcountry fishing can hold all the cards in January as being the best bet for fishing Key West and by far our most popular fishing charter this month. Mostly due to the fact our backcountry fishing charters are conducted in and around the islands and are not affected as much by inclement weather. Our winter lineup of fish species are not as affected by the temperature fluctuations as some of our tropical fish species. Fishermen also love this trip because the casting and catching can be consistent using live bait and artificial lures. 

speckled sea trout
January Holds Good Speckled Sea Trout.

A great trip for kids, new fishermen, bass fishermen or anyone that doesn’t want to see big waves yet still get out and go fishing. The lineup for backcountry fish species are Speckled sea trout, jack crevalle, pompano, blue runners, lady fish, sharks, mutton snapper, mangrove snapper, cobia, redfish, snook and barracudas. 

Flats Fishing

Flats fishing is a discipline of sight or target fishing in the shallows on the flats here in Key West. When the conditions are right, things can get very interesting. However a windy day or colder waters can turn a flats fishing trip into a deeper water backcountry fishing trip for species that do not mind the cooler temps in a quick hurry. This is why I use my Yellowfin bay boat in the winter time for both my flats fishing and backcountry fishing charters. I do not need to get super shallow in January and my bay boat rides nice in a chop keeping my folks dry and comfortable.

barracuda caught flats fishing
Sight Fishing The Flats For Barracuda

On the flats when the conditions are right we typically sight fish for permit using crabs on a spinning rod or crab fly patterns with a fly rod.  It can be very popular and rewarding to go top water fishing for barracudas as well. Jack crevalle and small cobia can be targeted behind the rays  as well as mutton snappers. My anglers and I also enjoy beating the trees for snook and reds occasionally if the conditions allow.  Lastly let us not forget that Tarpon certainly love a good warming trend. So, with a little flexibility a nice day can be had flats fishing in January. 

Fishing Offshore

Deeper waters do not get affected as much by the cooler weather, especially on the Atlantic Ocean side of Key West. The offshore water temperatures are fed and influenced mostly by the warm currents of the Gulf Stream. The reef cools and warms throughout the day as the tides move water in and out to meet the meandering current of the Gulf Stream. 

Deep Sea fishing

There are many factors that can dictate the Deep Sea Fishing during January. It can be great and not so great. The Gulf Stream is like a snake, its East bound flow meanders in and out from the reef off Key West as far as 40 miles and as close as 1. When the Stream is close it can be anyones guess what the tropical conveyor belt may bring in the way of pelagic fish species such as mahi mahi, white marlin, blackfin tuna, skipjacks (skippies) and wahoo.  Its not uncommon at all for our deep sea fishing boats to bring in a nice load of January dolphin (mahi mahi). Not predictable at all. 

Blackfin Tuna
Blackfin Tunas Good Bet In January

We can have an impressive sailfish run that is just off the reef as they chase the copious amounts of bait available. Just off the reef our daily routine when deep sea fishing is to look for wahoo and tunas inside 300ft  along with kingfish (king mackerel), cero mackerel, bonito and blackfin tunas in various depths all to entertain our anglers. A good 4 hour or 6 hour deep sea fishing charter will get you in the fish pretty well. 

The 47′ Viking sport fishing boat “InXS”. Where luxury meets deep sea fishing charters. Located at Oceans Edge Resort and Marina on Stock Island in Key West. Fast and super comfortable with all the amenities of home including air conditioning, clean bathrooms and full kitchen.Tournament ready every day with custom rods. 

The "In XS" 47Ft Viking deep sea fishing boat

Reef Fishing

The reef fishing can be on fire in January. There is a TON of ballyhoo and other types of natural bait available keeping all the reef species happy and attentive. Grouper season for the South Atlantic is closed in January but our mutton snapper, mangrove snapper, lane snapper and yellowtail snapper fishery is amazing putting loads of great food fish in our anglers coolers. On the reef in January it is not uncommon to get into a sailfish bite or a big Kingfish along with yellow jacks, cero mackerel  and barracudas. Our reef fishing charters do not need to run far to make things happen. 

mutton snapper
Mutton Snappers On The Reef

Many folks watch the weather before booking here because January can be windy. However this practice can cost a good charter as most of the center console boats we use for January reef fishing will be sold out weeks before the dates anglers might want to go. Roll the dice. 

Gulf Wreck fishing

Fishing in the Gulf of Mexico can be rewarding in a few ways. The first thing that comes to my mind is the fantastic cobia fishing. A full day of wreck fishing can land an angler some nice size hard fighting cobia up to and exceeding 50lbs off the over 50 gulf wrecks that are scattered yet numerous North and North West of Key West. One or two of the draw backs to fishing the Gulf in January is the blue fish and Goliath groupers. It can be hard to get a bait to the trophies without them either stealing your bait or your fish. 

Big Cobia
The Wrecks Can Hold Big Cobia

The kingfish and Spanish mackerels can be thick in out in the Gulf waters. It might be worth a mention that rules for grouper change from year to year and it’s a great idea to make sure the species you wish to target it in season. If you are on a fishing charter your captain will keep you in the clear.. 

Pro Tip – A charter boat MUST have a federal permits to fish in the federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico (9 miles from land). Make sure your captain has the necessary permits.

January is a great time to visit Key West and go fishing. Room rates can be low, the crowds are not so bad and the weather is truly awesome, especially compared to the rest of the country that time of the year. Our sunsets go down early in the evening and are spectacular making a nice backdrop for a great seafood dinner at one of our top 10 Key West restaurants

Pro Tips - Fishing Charters

While January is typically one of our cooler months, it can be one of my favorites for fishing. The second and third week are a little slower and I really enjoy the reefs both shallow and deep for lots of action. A great time for my All In Wonder fishing charter where I do a few different types of fishing in one day. 

Pro Tip About Fishing guides – We will book up closer to the charter dates this month so waiting till the 10 day forecast comes out might not be a terrible idea before you book. 

I think that January is one of our best kept little secrets. 

Call my office and speak to Gennifer (my wife) to see what I have in my schedule or the schedule of my colleagues. She works with many of the long time professionals on the island and can help you find the right boat. 

Tight Lines – Have fun. 

Call Us 1-305-292-7212
Text Us 1-786-847-3808

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