As the waters cool into the fall, we see a greater variety of species on our favorite fishing spots.
All along the reef, the yellowtail snapper bite is excellent. Impressive numbers of big fish over 20 pounds are in the 70- to 90-foot areas. And there are plenty of good-size fish in the 14- to 15-inch class in the shallower areas.
Mutton snappers are making an appearance in the slicks, but they've been tough to land. And grouper are beginning to show on the deeper edge of the reef, with some nice blacks being caught.
The yellowtails feed aggressively as the waters cool, so be sure to use copious amounts of chum to get and keep their attention. We take at least a case of chum with us on all reef trips. To supplement the block chum, we use dry chum products from Aquatic Nutrition. You can find them at your local tackle shop.
There's an abundance of toothy tax-takers in the areas with the bigger yellowtails. You're simply not going to get your fish past them, so move on to the 40- to 50-foot depths. Your yellowtails may be a bit smaller, but at least you won't sacrifice them to the sharks.
It's the same at the humps, with the sharks eating all but the smallest of the tunas hooked. These little guys can easily be reeled past the sharks.
When the sharks get to be too much of a nuisance, move on to the dolphin. As many know, dolphin fishing this time of year is sporadic. We can have two or three days of phenomenal fishing and then someone flips the switch and there's not a dolphin to be found. The key to look for is frigate birds working weed lines.
Anglers in Palm Beach and Miami are getting into the sailfish pretty well, so it shouldn't be too much longer until they're in our waters in real numbers.
Back inshore and in Florida Bay, there are loads of mangrove snappers for the taking. They're not ganging up in any one specific area, so no need to go far in search of a good bite on these tasty snappers, some of which are approaching five pounds. They're eating chunk baits and small, live pilchards.
The week's best
The SeaSquared boats had a real variety of trips last week, including limits of snappers on the reef, dolphin and tuna offshore, sharks and snappers in the bay, even some snorkeling for one group from Kansas.
Capt. Jeff Malone of Tarpon Time Charters out of Hawks Cay Resort put his anglers on permit in the gulf.
Capt. Kevin Wilson of Knee Deep Charters out of the Geiger Key Marina fished Jersey anglers Lisa and Kenny Clark and Kathy and Joe Jasiecki. Persistence and lots of chum paid off and they limited out on big yellowtail. Kenny also released a huge barracuda caught on a kite.
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.