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January 28, 2023

Lower Keys and Cudjoe Key Fishing Report Late January 2023

lower keys tarpon

This January has offered some awesome fishing in the Lower Florida Keys backcountry. With mild weather and sunny days the water temperature was often reading above 80°. Weather like this has the potential for producing a grand slam kind of day!

Today, the Lower Keys are getting over a bit of a cold snap, chilling the keys to the 60s. Due to that cooler weather I recommend my customers to book a fishing trip in the evening. Sunset fishing charters have been best, as it seems a full day of sunshine brings our water temps up 3 or 4 degrees higher than it was in the morning – and that can really make a difference for fish biting. When things slow down due to cooler temperatures, I often use smaller baits in slightly deeper water. As the temperature begins to rise I start looking for dark muddy bottom or turtle grass on the south facing sides of mangroves that get the most sunlight.

Night Fishing Has Been On Fire!

The night fishing has been phenomenal, as always! I’ve been successful with fishing dock lights and bridges with the current flowing rather fast, best at the top of falling tide. On night trips, with decent weather and tide conditions, it’s almost guaranteed that everyone catches a tarpon. Fly fisherman are also able to spank a few with a black tarpon toad!

If the wind’s blowing, don’t let it get you down. I find that we catch the biggest and most fish in dirty water, when the wind is cranking beyond 15 mph. The dirty water allows me to use heavier tackle without spooking the fish.

When the wind isn’t blowing as hard, I like to hit our patch reefs and nearshore wreaks catching mutton snapper, yellow jacks, cero and king Mackerel. It’s a great way to catch dinne!

Snook are Plentiful in the Lower Keys Backcountry

lower keys snook

What Great news it is to see that our Snook population here in the Lower Florida Keys and Cudjoe is skyrocketing! Conservation efforts are paying off and we are being rewarded with big, often beyond 30” Snook… And I’m seeing them everywhere on our backcountry fishing charters!

Until Next Time, Tight Lines!
Capt. Craig Clopper


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Ryan W.

Google Reviews
“Captain Craig with Goliath Charters is the premier captain of the keys! Every trip out with his charter has been an absolute blast. Bucket list catches , drag screaming action, and expert knowledge are what makes Captain Craig the gold standard of Charter Captains.”

Matt C.

Google Reviews
“I am still buzzing from an absolutely amazing guided trip with an extremely knowledgeable and personable captain that offers the coolest experience in catching dinosaurs. if you’re interested in fishing the florida keys in the most memorable way do not hesitate to book Capt Craig Clopper!”