NORWALK, Conn. -- To even the most optimistic angler, the dreary months of January and February seem to drag endlessly.
While hardy souls are rewarded with the occasional winter flounder and blackfish through December, the brunt of winter and first snowfall unceremoniously slam the door on the recreational fishing season off Norwalk’s coast.
The ensuing cabin fever, endless hours spent tinkering with rods and tackle, and the perpetual grayness becomes suffocating. This syndrome know to all fishermen can only be cured by a trip to warmer waters. The panacea for this illness is without a doubt, the Florida Keys.
Since the 1800s, frostbitten northerners have found this 150 mile archipelago a welcome retreat of gin clear water and perpetual warmth. Largely undeveloped until the early 1900’s, the Keys exploded in population with the construction of Henry Flagler’s Overseas Railway.
From his summer home sitting high above the Long Island Sound in Mamaroneck, N.Y., Flagler dreamed of sharing the newly discovered beauty of South Florida with the rest of the nation. With his vision a reality in 1910, Connecticut residents were able to board a train at Penn Station and in a few short days arrive at Key West, the southernmost city in the continental United States.
What drew travelers to the Keys 100 years ago still captivates visitors today; the islands’ incredible beauty and staggering biodiversity are world class. As one would imagine, the islands also offer some of the best fishing on Earth. The Keys are home to the world’s third largest active coral reef, and with that comes the opportunity for anglers to target dozens of trophy fish mere miles from shore.
Northeast anglers will be familiar with the Keys’ various species of tuna, mahi-mahi, and shark which call the waters off of New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut their summer home. While the Norwalk Islands are home to several reefs and wrecks, their Keys counterparts offer more than a few species to burn some line. Grouper, snappers, jacks, and dozens of other mid-sized reef fish provide non-stop action and will have even the most salty of sailors grinning from ear to ear.
Throughout the years, the list of those bitten by the Keys fishing bug reads like a who’s who of American culture; the likes of Ted Williams, George H.W. Bush, Harry Truman, and Ernest Hemingway all called the Keys home. So next time you decide to rearrange your tackle box for the 3rd time this week, or turn on the Outdoor Network instead of filing your returns, grab your rod and head to the Keys. Your wife will be glad you did!
John Haffey Jr. is a Norwalk resident and Long Island Sound enthusiast and has navigated and fished Coastal Connecticut for years.
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