Typical for March, the breeze is a factor with which we contend on a daily basis on the water.
On the days when the offshore fishing grounds can be reached safely and comfortably, there's a smattering of dolphin to be caught. Look for weed lines or frigate birds working the surface.
Yellowtail snappers are biting well in the 30- to 50-foot depths on the reef. And there are five- to 10-pound mutton snapper frequently showing in the slicks. Kingfish are plentiful, too.
The sailfish action has been on the slow side, but we anticipate the tempo to pick up toward the end of the month as the sails begin to migrate toward Mexico for the annual spawn.
The channel humps and patch reefs are producing a wide variety of edible species, including all the snappers, hogfish, porgy, Florida pompano, sheepshead and more. Hawk Channel and the nearshore patches are your best bet in these windy March conditions. And shrimp on a jighead is your ticket to success every time.
You'll also catch plenty of grouper of all sizes, but merely for bragging rights, as the season is closed until May 1. Be sure to release all shallow-water grouper unharmed.
We're beginning to see a few tarpon around the bridges. These are not the large migratory fish we have later in the spring but at 30 to 60 pounds, they're enough to get your juices flowing.
The bridges are also holding good-size mangrove snapper and plenty of sharks, primarily blacktips, spinners, bulls and even some lemons. SeaSquared Charters practices catch-and-release shark fishing, and we encourage all anglers to do the same.
Further out in Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, there's a good bite on cobia, mangrove snapper and still plenty of Spanish mackerel. Jacks and bluefish add to the fun on light tackle.
The week's best
The SeaSquared boats spent the week fishing the nearshore areas of Hawk Channel, the patch reefs, the Seven Mile Bridge and the bay. Our anglers brought back hefty catches of snappers, hogfish, porgy, Florida pompano, sheepshead and more. We released more legal-size grouper than we care to remember.
The Reinhardt family from Lafayette, N.Y., did some shark fishing on the SeaSquared. They landed and released 10 lemon sharks in four hours, including one that was longer than eight feet and estimated at 300 pounds.
Capt. Chuck Brodzki and his teammate, John Timura, fished with Capt. Mike Kozma in the Fish 'Til You Lose It One-Jig Backcountry Tournament last weekend in Islamorada. Timura made a magnificent cast, hookset and catch of a 13-pound snook that was lurking 10 feet back in a mangrove-laden hole. Despite big winds and poor visibility, Kozma led the duo to some excellent sight-casting opportunities using artificials in remote areas of Everglades National Park.
George and Bart Hiller from Long Island fished on the Blue Magic with Capt. Larry Bell and mate Alex Bell. They caught a bunch of mangroves plus a 40-pound kingfish.
Captain Moe's Lucky Fleet in Key West had great luck offshore in 700 feet fishing weed lines with dolphin jumping in the boat. Mixed in were wahoo and tuna. On the reefs, sailfish, kings, ceros, big yellowtails and barracuda were a hit with their anglers. The tarpon are everywhere in Key West Harbor and, with some dedication and lots of anchoring, you may manage to hook and land a couple. Here also the snapper and shark fishing was just fantastic, and they caught a few cobia and king mackerel.
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.