We must have been good boys and girls because Santa has delivered us some excellent fishing. But all things considered with what we’ve endured due to Hurricane Irma, we deserve it.
Sailfishing is on-again, off-again. It’s all about finding high-quality blue water pushed right up against the reef. Find this scenario and you’re likely to find the sails. Live ballyhoo and pilchards are your top choices for bait.
When you find the sails, you’ll also most likely encounter blackfin tuna and scattered schoolie-size dolphin mixed in.
Good numbers of kingfish are present, with the greater concentrations near the deeper wrecks in 130 to 150 feet of water. They’ll take just about any live baits, such as pilchards, cigar minnows and small bluerunners. Most are in the 10- to 15-pound class but we’ve seen some really nice fish pushing 40 pounds, as well.
The mutton snapper bite remains good on the wrecks, with big fish around 20 pounds mixed with the 10- and 15-pounders. Live pilchards, ballyhoo, cigar minnows and pinfish all work well.
On the reef, there’s plenty of action for yellowtail snappers, with the most consistent bite in the 30- to 50-foot depths. Most fish are in the 14- to 18-inch category. Mixed in are muttons and lots of groupers. So, get your last licks in on the groupers before the season closes on December31.
The patch reefs and Hawk Channel are alive with all sorts of good fishing.
The patches hold mostly yellowtails, with some mangroves and muttons also. Copious numbers of cero mackerel are there if you’re looking to make ceviche for your Christmas party. And there are groupers, mostly shorts, but some keeper reds and blacks here and there. Shrimp and cut baits work for the yellowtails, while pinfish, pilchards and ballyhoo are best for the rest.
Hawk Channel is where to find the greatest variety this time of year. All the snappers are there — yellowtails, mangroves, muttons and lanes. There’s also good grouper action. Again, you’ll get lots of shorts, but the occasional blacks and gags plus good size, eight- to 12-pound, reds end up on your hooks also.
Rounding out the Hawk Channel offerings are king, cero and Spanish mackerel, porgies, bull sharks and fun rod-benders such as jack crevalles and bluefish.
Florida Bay is producing some mangrove and Spanish mackerel action along with plenty of sharks of all kinds, including bulls, blacktips, spinners and lemons, all hitting the shark baits on a regular basis.
All of us at SeaSquared Charters with you a very Merry Christmas filled with friends, family, food and, of course, fishing.
The week’s best
The SeaSquared boats saw the beginning of our holiday guests, who enjoyed great fishing for snappers, groupers, sharks and more.
Rob Brotemarkel, from Windber, Pa., and his son, Nathan Hengst from Key West, had a fantastic morning fishing with Capt. Kevin Wilson and Knee Deep Charters out of the Geiger Key Marina.
For his first time ocean fishing, Nathan brought in a 21-pound kingfish, a 20-pound black grouper and an 11-pound mutton snapper. Rob landed a 44-pound kingfish. And the pair tag-teamed to release barracuda and a 250-pound lemon shark. Two more legal black groupers and their limit of yellowtails topped off their trip.
Capt. Chris Johnson hosts a series of free fishing seminars at the Hyatt Place/Faro Blanco, mile marker 48 oceanside in Marathonm this season. The second in the monthly series takes place Jan. 2 with the topic being Hawk Channel. It runs from 6:30 to 8:30 pm and there will be prizes and giveaways.
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.