It’s been a bit of a blowy week, but those that got out during the calm spells were rewarded with good fishing.
The sailfish have definitely arrived in the Middle Keys, as more than a couple of captains have reported. They’ve been found showering ballyhoo on the reef and have been caught as deep as 150 feet. Live ballyhoo and pilchards are the ticket.
On the reef itself, the yellowtail snapper bite is pretty good, with the 30- to 60-foot depths holding the largest amount of keeper-size fish.
A real mixed bag of snappers is being taken on the patches. Mangroves, muttons and yellowtails are all responding well to the chum. If you really want to get them fired up, integrate the Snapper Up dry chum product from Aquatic Nutrition with your frozen chum. Ask for it at your local bait shop or look online.
The mangroves and muttons are eating live baits such as ballyhoo, pilchards and pinfish. And the yellowtails are taking the usual assortment of cut baits and shrimp.
We’re happy to report some grouper are beginning to show, mostly blacks with an occasional keeper red. As the waters continue to cool, this fishery will improve. Again, live baits – pinfish and pilchards – work best.
There are still plenty of cero mackerel around plus a few scattered kings. With cooling waters, the kingfish population will explode. Live ballyhoo is your bait of choice for the mackerel right now.
We’re seeing loads of baitfish in the nearshore waters and on some of the larger flats, primarily mullet and pilchards. And there are copious numbers of predators whacking at them, including sharks, jack crevalles, small tarpon and even the occasional snook. The jacks and small tarpon can be taken on a plug or a soft plastic, such as a Hogy lure. The sharks are eating cut chunks of jack crevalles, bluerunners and live mullet.
In the bay and gulf waters, the mangrove bite is quite respectable, with keeper-size fish around the near shore wrecks and banks.
Finally, in the gulf, there are plenty of Goliath grouper just for fun. But we’re starting to see keeper-size gag groupers and cobia as well. There’s no sign of quality Spanish mackerel yet, but they won’t be far behind the next cold front.
The week’s best
The SeaSquared boats fished the reef, the patches and the bridge this week. Our guests had mixed bags of mangroves, yellowtails, lanes, hogfish and porgy, with lots of shark releases to add to the fun. The Denyanovichs were surprised by a 25-pound cobia near the Seven Mile Bridge. And the Myre family, from Norway, topped off its morning of shark and snapper fishing with a little swimming at Molasses Key.
Capt. Lain Goodwin reports the backcountry fishing has been red hot. There’s plenty of snook, jacks, snapper and trout with a few juvenile tarpon close to Key Largo. Out west in Flamingo, there's been schools of redfish on the flats. The bait of choice has been pilchards and Johnson spoons.
Capt. Chris Johnson specializes in offshore, gulf/bay, reef/wreck, sailfish, shark and tarpon fishing with SeaSquared Charters in Marathon. You can reach him at (305) 743-5305, http://SeaSquaredCharters.com and http://Facebook.com/MarathonFishing.