Here it is just the first week of March and we’ve already had more cold fronts than we did in the entire month of February. As crazy as this weather pattern is, it makes for decent fishing off the reef edge, specifically for sailfish, kingfish and blackfin tuna.
This time of year, typically you want to look for a blue-water to dirty-water edge. Depths anywhere from 140 feet and more are generally your best fishing grounds as this is the lane the sailfish prefer for migrating to their spawning grounds off Mexico.
Set your drift such that, in perfect conditions, you can sit right on the edge of the two currents and drift down the length of the color change. Pay attention to where your bites come from. Some days the sails sit in the pretty blue water; others they stay in the dirty water.
The usual assortment of live baits — pilchards, ballyhoo, cigar minnows, goggle eyes — are all successful in attracting your target species.
Keep your eyes peeled for diving frigates, especially on your offshore side, as they may be an indication of the presence of dolphin. We’re beginning to see increasing numbers of dolphin show up, although there’s no consistency in that fishery quite yet.
On the wrecks, the amberjacks and mutton snappers are biting well. Pinfish and pilchards are your best live bait choices. To target the biggest of the AJs, use large live baits such as bluerunners, grunts and outsized pinfish.
The yellowtail snapper bite on the reef is becoming more reliable, with most keeper-size fish coming out of the 40- to 60-foot areas. These fish average 14 to 15 inches.
There has been a fair amount of muttons on the reef edge, so it pays to have a live bait down near the bottom. Use pilchards, ballyhoo or pinfish. Of course, you’ll end up catching plenty of groupers, too, but remember, the season does not open until May 1, so all must be released.
Hawk Channel is providing steady action on lanes, yellowtails, nice-size muttons plus plenty of cero and king mackerel, groupers, lots of jack crevalles and even bluefish.
On the bayside, there are loads of mangroves on the banks and around sunken trees left over from Hurricane Irma. Shrimp, small live pilchards and pinfish work best for the largest mangs.
The week’s best
Snappers were the order of the day on the SeaSquared boats last week. Yellowtails, lanes, mangroves and muttons. Spicing the catches were amberjacks, yellowjacks, margate, Florida pompano and more. Lots of sharks, including hammerheads, blacktips and others, provided catch-and-release fun fishing.
Capt. Kevin Wilson of Knee Deep Charters out of the Geiger Key Marina entertained his clients with limit catches of yellowtails along with some mackerel.
Capt. Chris Johnson hosts a series of free fishing seminars at the Hyatt Place/Faro Blanco, mile marker 48. The fifth in the monthly series takes place April 3 with the topic “The Mighty Tarpon.” It runs from 6:30 to 8:30 pm and there will be nearly $1,000 in 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.