To start the new year, here’s a review of new fishing regulations that apply to the waters of the Florida Keys.
Hogfish: On Jan. this fishery reopened to all, including charter boats and recreational anglers, in all waters. We’re not sure how long this will last, so get in on it while you can. The legal size is still 12 inches to the tail, with a limit of five fish per person.
Mutton snapper: The legal size has been increased to 18 inches. The limit is five fish per person and is included in the aggregate bag limit of 10 snappers per person.
Amberjack: The recreational harvest of greater amberjack in federal waters of the South Atlantic closed on Nov. 30 and will reopen March 1.
Grouper: Closed on Jan. 1 until May 1.
On that note, here’s what’s happening out there.
There’s still a fair number of sailfish around off the edge of the reef anywhere from 100 to 180 feet of water. Pilchards, cigar minnows and goggle eyes are all working well. If you can find live ballyhoo, it’s icing on the cake. Mixed in is a scattering of blackfin tuna and dolphin plus a good bite of king mackerel up to 20 pounds.
Mutton snapper are chewing a bit on the wrecks. Again, pilchards, pinfish and ballyhoo are the prime baits.
Along the reef and on the patches, the yellowtail snapper bite remains strong, with fish mostly in the 14- to 16-inch range. Most all depths are working now.
Among the yellowtails are good-size mangrove snapper in the two- to five-pound category and muttons going five to 10 pounds. There are also plenty of cero and king mackerel in the same areas. The yellowtails are eating live shrimp and cut pieces of ballyhoo, while all the others are taking live baits, including pilchards and small pinfish. The mackerel will also take a shrimp on a jighead fished back through your slick.
Hawk Channel has been producing its usual wintertime variety of fun-catching and good-eating fish, such as hogfish, porgy, snapper of all variety and, of course, grouper, which now must be released.
The nearshore Florida Bay and Gulf of Mexico areas contain decent numbers of mangroves and lots of Spanish mackerel. And, we’ve had an impressive showing of Florida pompano in recent days. Further out in the gulf, you have your pick of cobia, kings up to 50 pounds, Goliath grouper and all the sharks you can handle.
The week’s best
The SeaSquared boats fished nearshore all week, with our guests coming home with snappers, groupers, yellowjacks, kingfish, Spanish mackerel, porgies, hogfish, Florida pompano and more.
We also did a few shark trips, where our guests released large bull, blacktip and lemon sharks on light tackle. Snappers, Spanish mackerel, hogfish and yellowjacks came back to the dock.
Capt. Chris Johnson specializes in offshore, gulf/bay, reef/wreck, sailfish, shark and tarpon fishing with SeaSquared Charters, docked at Faro Blanco Resort and Yacht Club in Marathon. You can reach him at (305) 743-5305, http://SeaSquaredCharters.com and http://Facebook.com/MarathonFishing.