Offshore, we’re starting to see a scattering of dolphin. By no means would I call this a mahi run, but there are a few showing up. They’re mostly nice fish in the 15- to 20-pound class, with some larger than that.
Most of the dolphin are being found incidentally by anglers going to the humps or live-baiting for sailfish off the reef edge. Again, I can’t stress enough, there’s no consistency. Keep your eyes peeled for birds working the surface of the water, especially frigates, and chances are there are dolphin close by.
There are good numbers of tuna at the humps. The best way to catch the largest of the fish is live-baiting with pilchards. Trolling is also working, although the fish taken on the troll are typically smallish at about five pounds.
On the reef, we’ve seen a slight spark in the sailfish fishery. It’s better than a couple of weeks ago, but there are not yet piles of them coming through. Spend your fishing time in quality blue water with the right baits, such as ballyhoo, pilchards, cigar minnows and goggle eyes, and you’re likely to have a shot at raising a sail or two.
There’s also been good tuna fishing in these same areas, especially around the higher-profile wrecks. Anglers are getting nice fish averaging 10 to 20 pounds.
The Atlantic wrecks hold plenty of amberjack, which you’ll be allowed to keep starting March 1. There are mutton snappers there, as well, plus a few good-size African pompano. Pinfish, pilchards and live ballyhoo all work well.
Typical for February, fishing for yellowtail snappers on the reef is hit and miss. As the month winds down and we get into March, we should see an improvement in this fishery.
There are still plenty of cero, Spanish and king mackerel in our waters. They’re everywhere from the reef edge into Hawk Channel and even a few in Florida Bay.
Rounding out our fishing this week are mangrove and yellowtail snappers plus yellowjacks around the bridges and in Florida Bay and the gulf.
The week’s best
The SeaSquared boats bounced around just about every venue in the Middle Keys, from the humps offshore to the reef and wrecks to the bridge and bay.
Our anglers caught blackfin tuna, mutton, yellowtail and mangrove snappers, kingfish, African pompano and released amberjacks, groupers, hogfish and lots of sharks. The Frank group, who fished with Capt. Wayne Burri, scored big with a half dozen large muttons and a bonus wahoo. And the Balabans lucked into a school of dolphin in just a half-day inshore charter with Capt. Kevin Goodwin.
Capt. Kevin Wilson of Knee Deep Charters out of the Geiger Key Marina entertained guests from Missouri and Illinois. Live-baiting on a kite, both groups caught large kingfish before going on to get their limits of yellowtails.
Capt. Chris Johnson hosts a series of free fishing seminars at the Hyatt Place/Faro Blanco, mile marker 48 bayside, this season. The fourth in the monthly series takes place March 6 with the topic “Shallow Water Sharks.” It runs from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. 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