Outdoors

Finally, nearly back to normal, and that means good fishing

Brothers Steven and Ken Surhoff from New Jersey show off two of the limit of kingfish they caught Monday on the SeaSquared.
Brothers Steven and Ken Surhoff from New Jersey show off two of the limit of kingfish they caught Monday on the SeaSquared.

If you were in town last week, you experienced winter, Florida Keys style, with low temps and high winds. We're happy to say it has come and -- despite Tuesday's daylong fog -- gone and we're now experiencing normal conditions for this time of year.

So if you've been itching to get offshore, go for it. Over the past couple of days, there have been some small- to mid-size wahoo plus plenty of dolphin, some approaching 20 pounds but the average size closer to 10. Trolling ballyhoo down weed lines has been the most successful tactic.

We've also had reports of a smattering of blackfin tuna at the humps. Trolling or live baiting is the ticket.

The yellowtail snapper bite has picked up on the reef, with lots of fish in the 13- to 15-inch range. The most active depths are 30 to 50 feet.

There has also been an abundance of king mackerel on the reef, with ceros mixed in on the reef line. Live pilchards or a shrimp-tipped jighead work best. If you're after the bigger kings, a bluerunner or even a legal-size yellowtail fished back behind your boat in your yellowtail slick should draw the attention of any smokers in your area.

An uptick in the sailfish action is happening, mostly from Islamorada to Key Largo, but these fish should spread throughout the Keys very soon.

Fishing on the patch reefs and channel humps remains consistent, with loads of lane, mangrove, mutton and yellowtail snapper providing the bulk of the action. And there are still good numbers of hogfish and porgy to spice the catches. Shrimp -- and plenty of it -- is your bait of choice.

As the bayside waters continue to warm, the mangrove activity will increase here as well as at the bridges. Spanish mackerel add to the bay catches.

We're seeing a fair amount of cobia, both on the Atlantic and gulf sides of the islands. And of course, way too many grouper available only for a photo op as the season is closed until May 1.

The week's best catches

After juggling trips around due to the weather, the SeaSquared boats got back out to fish the reef with our groups. We had good catches of all the snapper species plus hogfish and mackerel. One group got in on the kingfish bite and brought back its limit of fish up to 20 pounds.

Brothers David and Chris Fuqua, visiting from Glendive, Mont., fished a day with Capt. Chuck Brodzki, who took them far into the gulf to find warm water. They ended up filling the cooler with Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle and mangrove snapper.

Capt. Ariel Medero, of Big Game Sportfishing in Marathon, found dolphin offshore of Marathon on weed lines in 650 feet of water. He reports the reef and wrecks are re-populated after the cold front with all sorts of species, and the fishing has been great. On the bayside, the fishing has been a bit slow due to the cold water temps, but it won't take long to pick up again.

Captain Moe's Lucky Fleet in Key West spent time trolling the reef, catching lots of kings, ceros, snappers and a few throw-back keeper-size grouper. In the backcountry and patch reefs in Hawk Channel, the snapper and porgy fishing has been non-stop, with large hammerhead and blacktip sharks mixed in to ensure their anglers finish the day with sore arms.

Captain Moe's reports the tarpon have started to show up in front of the island, and his crew is teaching them how to eat in anticipation of catching a few very soon.

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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