Santa brought us the gift of good sailfishing all along the reef, so get some live ballyhoo and head out to the areas in 100 to 300 feet of water.
There is also a fair number of dolphin in the same zones. And we've had scattered reports of blackfin tuna in the 10- to 15-pound range along with some wahoo.
On the edge of the reef, there's been a huge uptick in the number of king mackerel being caught. Live pilchards and ballyhoo work best.
Fishing for yellowtail snapper on the main reef is excellent. And smaller live baits, such as pilchards, fished back in the yellowtail slicks are attracting large muttons, some approaching 12 to 18 pounds.
The patch reefs and Hawk Channel are holding a variety of snappers, hogfish, porgy, mackerel and more. This fishing is reliable for filling the cooler with good-eating Florida Keys fish, and the nonstop action makes for outstanding entertainment for families, novice and experienced anglers alike.
The calm bay waters still offer up a first-rate mangrove snapper bite plus loads of Spanish mackerel. And a little further out in the gulf, there's excellent fishing for bluefish, jack crevalle, cobia, Spanish mackerel and large kingfish.
I sure hope you got out today for the last day of grouper season for 2014 (the closure is for four months). There are loads of them on the reef and in the gulf. Many are sub-legal, but there are plenty of keepers among the bunch.
Everyone at SeaSquared Charters thanks you for following us throughout 2014 and wish you a brilliant 2015.
The week's best
The SeaSquared boats have been jam-packed with holiday visitors, running trips on the reef, patches, Hawk Channel, the Seven Mile Bridge and in the bay. Our anglers caught all the snapper variety, a few nice groupers, loads of hogfish, big yellowjacks, Spanish mackerel and kingfish, plus an assortment of non-edible reef fish. We had several groups choose to add catch-and-release shark fishing to their outing, with a 10-foot tiger shark for the Ozgur group the highlight.
On Sunday, Capt. Greg Poland found some dolphin offshore of Islamorada for his longtime client, Ed Sisson, and followed that up with excellent shark fishing with the Toscano group.
The Mandel family, from White Plains, N.Y., fished with Capt. Larry Bell and deckhand Alex Bell of Blue Magic Charters. They caught their limit of mangrove snappers plus bluefish and mackerel in the bay.
Capt. Ariel Medero, of Big Game Sportfishing in Marathon, mixed it up for his clients with catches of dolphin, loads of snappers, yellowjacks, and groupers with a few sharks thrown in for fun (all sharks are released unharmed).
Moe's Custom Charters in Key West also had a variety of first-rate catching for their anglers with dolphin, king mackerel, groupers, snappers and more.
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 in Marathon. You can reach him at 305-743-5305, http://SeaSquaredCharters.com and http://Facebook.com/MarathonFishing.