It's a buyer's market on the reef this week, with all venues producing well for a variety of species.
In the 100- to 200-foot areas at the edge of the reef, there's an abundance of wahoo and blackfin tuna, with scattered dolphin mixed in. There's been a pick of some sailfish, with the bite hit or miss on any given day. Around the deeper wrecks as well as right on the reef line, there are lots of kingfish.
Ballyhoo, pilchards or goggle eyes are the baits of choice for all of this fishing.
On the main reef, the 30- to 50-foot depths are most consistent for yellowtail and mutton snapper along with king and cero mackerel.
The patch reefs offer a mixed bag of mangrove, yellowtail and mutton snapper plus kings and ceros. And Hawk Channel is loaded with all the snappers in addition to hogfish and porgy. Shrimp is your go-to bait for all but the mackerel, which prefer pilchards.
At the bridges, there's a very good mangrove bite, with lots of sharks for added excitement. There are more mangroves in the bay along with Spanish mackerel to load the cooler. Further out in the Gulf, the cobia bite is heating up.
The week's best catches
The SeaSquared boats continued to take advantage of the excellent nearshore fishing for all manner of good-eating fish. Our anglers caught lots of large hogfish and porgy, all the snapper varieties, some mackerel and yellowjack along with quite the showing of interesting reef fish to be admired and returned.
Capt. Ariel Medero, of Big Game Sportfishing at the Hammocks in Marathon, reports trolling at the hump produced plenty of football-size tuna with a couple of bigger ones in the mix, and there have been a few scattered dolphin on the weed lines offshore. Kingfish are taking over the wrecks, with plenty of fish between 10 and 15 pounds. Amberjacks and muttons are there, too.
In the Gulf, the cobia bite has been heating up, with a sampling of fish in the 30-pound range. Mackerel, mangroves and sharks add to the bite.
Capt. Kevin Wilson of Knee Deep Charters at the Geiger Key Marina reports outstanding fishing for flag yellowtails on the reef, with his anglers making short work of limit catches. On one outing, friends Billy and Madeline Fornaro from Whippany, N.J., Jimmy Snowden from Key West and Luc Andreo from Cape Canaveral limited out by 10 am.
Moe's Custom Charters in Key West spent much of the week trolling ballyhoo and catching kingfish in all sizes from eight to 35 pounds. When limits were caught, they moved to the blue water to try for dolphin and wahoo or to the reef to troll for muttons, yellowtails and throwback groupers. Using cut bait, live bait and plenty of chum on the patches, his anglers were busy catching snappers and mackerel and releasing groupers and sharks.
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.