Last week's cold front was a major disappointment in terms of its effects on our fishing. The slight drop in temperature didn't last long, and we were left with nothing but a bunch of wind to deal with.
Hence, sailfishing has been sporadic, with the best bite happening in the Islamorada areas and down west around American Shoal. Live ballyhoo is the best bait by far.
A scant few blackfin tuna are biting along the reef line in 100 to 200 feet of water. What they lack in quantity, they make up for in quality, with hefty specimens meeting their fate on the sharp end of the gaff. With a scattering of dolphin mixed in, live-baiting will bring you the greatest success with these blue-water predators.
King mackerel are increasing in numbers off the edge of the reef and around the wrecks. Add a little bit of wire to your live baits while sailfishing and you may hook into a kingfish.
There's a fairly decent mutton-snapper bite on the wrecks. And if you're looking for a workout, there are plenty of amberjack to muscle into the boat. These reef donkeys are a ton of fun on light tackle and make excellent fare for the smoker. Live baits are the key to success.
The shallow edge of the reef in 30 to 40 feet remains consistent for snapper fishing, with loads of yellowtails, large mangroves and some really nice muttons. The usual assortment of cut baits as well as shrimp work for the yellowtails, while the mangroves and muttons prefer live baits, such as pilchards and small pinfish.
The patches and channel humps are holding their usual variety of fun-catching and good-eating fish, including all the snappers, hogfish, porgy, cero, Spanish and king mackerel, plus groupers to be released.
Finally, the bay and gulf venues continue to provide reliable fishing for mangroves and Spanish mackerel, lots of bluefish, jack crevalle and sharks with scattered cobia as a bonus.
The week's best
The SeaSquared boats kicked off 2015 with inshore fishing for big mangroves, yellowtails, hogfish, porgy and yellowjacks. Our anglers left the dock with gallon-size bags full of filets to have cooked locally or enjoy back home.
The Cortis family from Novi, Mich., fished in the gulf waters off Bamboo Bank with Capt. Chuck Brodzki. They caught more than 100 fish, including mackerel, trout and ladyfish. Already recognized as a junior tournament champion back home, 13-year-old Anthony landed whopper Spanish and cero mackerel over five pounds using artificials on 10-pound spin tackle.
On another trip, Henry Samel, 94 years young, and his son Mike, both from Montreal, limited out on mangrove snapper and Spanish mackerel in the gulf.
Moe's Custom Charters in Key West spent much of the week catching kingfish on deep trolls in 120 feet of water. Moe reports the tuna bite is outstanding at sunset near the west end of the bar. The patch reefs and Hawk Channel are holding lots of snapper, mackerel and throw-back grouper. And don't forget shark fishing for great angling fun.
Capt. Chris Johnson specializes in offshore, gulf/bay, reef/wreck, sailfish, shark and tarpon fishing with SeaSquared Charters in Marathon. You can reach him at 743-5305, http://SeaSquaredCharters.com and http://Facebook.com/MarathonFishing.