Happy New Year! While the rest of the country has been in large part in the “deep-freeze,” we have been enjoying mild weather, about the best in the country.
Offshore and backcountry, fishing has been absolutely wonderful with lots of action and many options to choose from as we finish out the year. Offshore the sailfish have taken centerstage. A tournament is taking place each weekend for the next month or so as we transition to 2017. How time flys by.
On average, I say you can expect three to six chances in a day’s time if you’re paying attention. The key is “keeping them glued” and making each bite count. Using live bait like goggle eyes or blue runners, and suspending them from the kite clip, you can expect bites from any one of the following: wahoo, sailfish, black fin tuna, king mackerel, cobia and a wide variety of jacks during the winter season which extends through March. We got a report that the wahoo were biting off Key Largo recently.
Roger Dominguez, with his son Roger Jr. trolled at high speed for about an hour one morning off Key Largo and caught a double header of wahoo in the upper 30-pound range. The good news is they were tied up tight by 9:30 a.m., boat hosed off, and with more than enough meat for their table.
Another report of wahoo on the speed troll came in from Lee Holt last week. Terry Harrelson and Lee Holt ended up with three wahoo up to off Key Largo fishing aboard the SeaCow in what they described to be a “Perfect Day.”
Now way offshore and in the deepwater, like 2,000 feet deep water, there were some swordfish bites and a couple nice ones were landed. A 299-pounder was brought aboard the Broad Minded by Captain Nick Stanczyk and crew out of Bud N’ Mary’s Marina. When they had the opportunity they also dropped to the bottom with chunk bait and caught barrel fish and some beautiful brilliant red colored queen snapper.
Much of the activity off the Upper Keys oceanside during the winter months takes place over or very near to the living coral reef, which is located anywhere between three and seven miles southeast of our island chain. Very often the patch reefs hold a lively food chain/support system complete with crab and shrimp, which move with the tide from Gulf to ocean in the winter months.
Lately there have been lots of big schools of ballyhoo and good numbers of cero mackerel over the patch reefs. On a day when the water is “gin-clear,” these patches are easy to find around some of the brilliant white sandy bottom in contrast. There are days when the action is so good at the patches you can actually make a whole day of excellent fishing and never even reach the edge of the main reef. Patch fishing can be a great option for bay boats in the 22- to 24-foot range.
Another idea for the bay boat this month is to venture west into the open Gulf, not far, just a few miles west off Sprigger Bank area — even off Oxfoot Bank in like 6 to 12 feet of water for Spanish mackerel. They bit well last week. Just bring a block or two of chum, and if you forgot to bring the number two wire, don’t panic, just try a longer shank hook and wind faster! Speedy spanish mackerel are toothy critters. You can catch a bull redfish out there in the open water this month if your lucky. You have to go to a little effort as well.
My old buddy Capt. Joe Johansen used to tell me to hook a big glob of blue crab on, rig it on the big rod, and let it sit out there on the bottom while your mackerel fishing. Right about the time you forget about it you may be surprised at what finds it out along the open bottom.
At any rate, the snappers are biting in Florida Bay, mostly mangroves, around some of the deeper coral walled channels and ditches. There’s a few trout around and a snook here and there around some of the island motes near Flamingo and other areas inside the boundaries of Everglades National Park.
I think the shrimp are getting big back there in the bay, compared to summer size. Yahoo! Camarones!
Let us know what you caught. I’ll catch you next year!
Capt. Donald Deputy writes for The Reporter every other week. Reach him direct with your very own personal fish tales and photos at firstname.lastname@example.org