Outdoors

It's kings for the day

Jeff Dupre shows this nice tuna he caught off Crocker Reef in Islamorada while drifting live ballyhoo in 140 feet of water. He says the tuna came 4 feet clear out of the water when it took the bait.
Jeff Dupre shows this nice tuna he caught off Crocker Reef in Islamorada while drifting live ballyhoo in 140 feet of water. He says the tuna came 4 feet clear out of the water when it took the bait.

It's that time of year when we deal with the unpredictability of cold fronts. Makes me wish I were a TV meteorologist who gets paid regardless of the accuracy of his predictions.

The cold front that came through last weekend is lingering as the week wears on, so only time will tell what its effects will be on the fishing. So let's break it down this way:

Off the reef edge, sailfish and kingfish should be energized. This bodes well for the Stock Island Marina Village King Mackerel Tournament, which takes place Jan. 30 to Feb. 1 in Key West.

The kings we've been catching range anywhere from little snakes to fish upwards of 30 to 40 pounds. The bigger the bait, the bigger the fish. Live bluerunners get the attention of the largest fish, while pilchards, ballyhoo or even shrimp on a jighead work for all sizes.

Prior to the weekend, there had been a decent dolphin bite off the edge of the reef, but the front may slow that down. And what has been a consistent yellowtail snapper bite on the reef may also be affected.

However, our old faithful inshore venues -- the patch reefs and Hawk Channel -- should remain reliable for all of the snapper species, hogfish and porgy plus Spanish, cero and king mackerel. Shrimp on a jighead, live pilchards or ballyhoo are your go-to baits.

In Florida Bay, the grass banks and wrecks have all been producing well for mangrove snapper, Spanish mackerel and sea trout. Pilchards, chunk baits and shrimp all work well.

Further out in the Gulf, the action on king mackerel and cobia has been heating up. When conditions settle down after this front, this fishing should be quite active.

The week's best catches

The SeaSquared boats did a couple of trips to the reef edge where our anglers caught kingfish before coming inshore for snappers, hogfish and porgy.  Two groups chose catch-and-release shark fishing and they landed 18 and 10 sharks respectively, including blacktip, bull, lemon and blacknose. And a trip to the bay netted a limit of mangrove snappers plus 30 Spanish mackerel.

Two Florida Keys Community College students, Jordan Teigman and Aubrey Hoffman, caught a boatload of mackerel, ladyfish, sharks and a large puffer fish in the backcountry waters off Long Key with Capt. Chuck Brodzki. And Dan Calderone of Las Vegas boated two cobia in the 20-pound class along with a wheelbarrow full of bluefish and mackerel using his 9-weight fly rod in the deep Gulf off Sandy Key.

Capt. Ariel Medero, of Big Game Sportfishing at The Hammocks in Marathon, reports there have been plenty of tuna on the Marathon humps, but the fish are on the smaller side. And the seaweed offshore has produced a few schoolie dolphin.

The yellowtail bite anywhere from 25 to 80 feet has been active as long as the conditions are right. Mangroves, mackerel and a few muttons are there, as well. Medero caught nice cobia on the bayside prior to the cold front and looks forward to getting out there again when the water warms back up.

Captain Moe's Lucky Fleet in Key West spent the week in the North Channel, on the patch reefs and in Hawk Channel using cut baits and plenty of chum to keep their anglers busy with yellowtails, mangroves, porgy and throw-back groupers. When the sharks showed up, they changed tactics, tied on some wire and hung on for a fun fight.

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 305-743-5305, http://SeaSquaredCharters.com and http://Facebook.com/MarathonFishing.

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