While there is still good fishing for blackfin tuna at the humps, we are starting to see them along the reef in 100 to 200 feet of water, too. There are dolphin chasing ballyhoo in the same areas.
And with the increasing number of cold fronts rolling through, we can anticipate sailfish season kicking into gear in full force. Look for frigate birds diving on spraying ballyhoo as an indication of where the action is.
Closer inshore, the reef and Hawk Channel are heating up with activity of all kinds. Yellowtail and mutton snapper are biting well on the reef. All depths are holding fish, so check your favorite spots and you'll eventually hit pay dirt.
Groupers have re-emerged along the reef line, on the patch reefs and in Hawk Channel. There are significant numbers of cero and king mackerel, and the Spanish shouldn't be far behind.
The patches, channel humps and bridge areas provide excellent fishing for mangrove and mutton snapper, and hogfish. Pilchards and shrimp are your baits of choice.
If you'd like to pull on something large and toothy, there are piles of sharks around the bridges and nearshore flats and channels. You'll find mostly blacktips and spinners with the occasional bull. We even caught a seven-foot hammerhead on Monday. These aggressive fish take all variety of live and dead bait.
There's a huge volume of ballyhoo and mullet streaming through the bridges and channels from the bay to the ocean, with an equally impressive number of Jack crevalle and barracuda blasting the baitfish. This provides more catch-and-release fun on light tackle and top water plugs without straining the fuel budget.
The cooling waters in the bay and gulf are spurring on the cobia and grouper in addition the very consistent mangrove bite we've enjoyed for a few weeks. And it shouldn't be too long before Spanish mackerel invade the Florida Bay grassy areas, and it will be time to fire up the smoker.
The week's best catches
Capt. Larry Bell and deckhand Alex Bell of Blue Magic Charters in Marathon fished the Fowler family from Nebraska in the bay. The group brought in mangrove snappers and cobia and released a bunch of jack crevalle and sharks.
Capt. Ariel Medero of Big Game Sportfishing at the Hammocks in Marathon reports still plenty of dolphin and tuna offshore, and he's catching nice fish just outside the reef. Fishing for yellowtails, muttons, mangroves and groupers is heating up on the reef. And the gulf waters hold plenty of mangroves along with the occasional grouper and cobia.
The SeaSquared crews entertained customers on the reef and in the bay with good action on large mangroves plus yellowtails, muttons and a couple of grouper. We also had a few sharks at the Seven Mile Bridge areas for added entertainment.
Capt. Chris Johnson is a member of the Yamaha National Fishing Team and specializes in offshore, gulf/bay, reef/wreck, sailfish, shark and tarpon fishing with SeaSquared Charters out of Porky’s Bayside Marina in Marathon. You can reach him at 743-5305, http://SeaSquaredCharters.com and http://Facebook.com/MarathonFishing.