Even though we’ve been stuck on land for a couple of days, we’re thankful for our first real cold front of the season because it will produce a much-needed shakeup in both the Atlantic and Gulf fisheries.
With water temps reading as low as 63 in Florida Bay, the ballyhoo should push out to the oceanside waters, which in turn should invigorate an already good sailfish fishery.
When they’re chasing ballyhoo, the sailfish can be found in tight to the reef, usually anywhere from 20 to 120 feet of water. While ballyhoo is the bait of choice, it always pays to have other baits aboard, such as pilchards or cigar minnows.
While looking for sailfish on the reef, you may also find some dolphin, but you’ll definitely get into a healthy population of king mackerel that are waiting for a wayward ballyhoo to venture a tad too deep. Go a little deeper beyond the sailfish grounds to the 150- to 250-foot depths at the reef edge and you’ll find plenty of blackfin tuna. Before the blow, there was a very good wahoo bite in the same areas. Hopefully this will be unaffected by the cooler waters.
Once conditions settle down following this cold front, the reef bite should be good, with the shallower edges and patches producing the most consistent action for yellowtail, mangrove and mutton snapper. Live shrimp and ballyhoo plus small pilchards and pinfish work for just about any snapper you encounter.
If you’re looking to fill the smoker in preparation for your Super Bowl party, there should also be loads of king and cero mackerel in the same areas. Live baits or bucktail jigs fished quickly through your slick should produce hard-hitting action.
Hawk Channel should continue to provide its usual assortment of snappers, hogfish, porgy, Spanish, cero and king mackerel. A wide assortment of baits, including live shrimp, pinfish and pilchards, all should produce good action on quality eating fish.
Florida Bay is a little chilly right now, but with climbing water temps, this fishery should show signs of new life by the weekend and offer up mangroves and Spanish mackerel for the catching. Farther out in the Gulf, there’s been some really nice kingfish plus cobia, Goliath grouper, jack crevalle and Spanish mackerel providing non-stop action.
The week’s best
The SeaSquared boats finished the holiday rush by fishing the Atlantic reef and wreck areas, the bridges and near-shore bay waters. Our guests brought back snappers, yellowjacks, kingfish, Spanish mackerel, porgies, hogfish and more. We also had several sailfish and shark releases. As always, for daily catch pictures, please visit Facebook.com/MarathonFishing.
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.