As we settle into a much cooler weather pattern, memories of an 85-degree Christmas seem more distant than a mere three weeks. We're also dealing with persistent high winds.
Oceanside, the cooling water temps benefit our wintertime pelagic species such as sailfish, kingfish and cobia. With ever-increasing numbers of these prized species, fishing for them will improve markedly.
Most of the sailfishing right now is taking place in 150 to 200 feet of water, with pilchards, goggle eyes and small bluerunners providing the best action. Mixed in with the sails are plenty of king mackerel in the 10- to 15-pound range.
On the wrecks, there's some pretty good mutton snapper fishing when conditions allow. Nice-size amberjack in the 30- to 50-pound class are there, as well. Pilchards, pinfish and ballyhoo work best.
While you're drifting the wrecks for the bottom species, drop a bait halfway and you will quite often pick up bonus kingfish. Make sure you have a little bit of No. 5 wire to prevent break-offs.
The yellowtail snapper are still biting on the reef, although as the waters continue to cool, this bite may slow a bit. Where we normally use lots of chum to attract the snappers' interest, this time of year less is needed.
The patch reefs and channel humps are really coming to life with loads of lane, mangrove, mutton and yellowtail snapper, porgy, hogfish, cero and king mackerel and some cobia. Shrimp on a jighead produces the most action for the widest variety of species.
Cobia have a tendency to follow the snapper to the back of your boat. So it pays to be prepared with a live pinfish to throw right in its face. Often the cobia will gobble it right up. A chartreuse bucktail with a curly-tail grub will also elicit strikes from the cobia.
Temps in the bayside waters have dropped into the lower 60s, which slows the bite down considerably. It could take a week for things to stabilize. Or it could take a month. Until then, your best shot at consistent action is oceanside.
The week's best catches
The SeaSquared boats fished Hawk Channel and the patch reefs for the most part. Our anglers brought back nice catches of all the snapper species plus hogfish and porgy and released some grouper.
Lifetime fishing buddies Cody Shiver and George Gaston from Atlanta fished near Cape Sable with Capt. Chuck Brodzki. Using ultra-light spin tackle and 9-weight fly rods, these hardcore anglers caught eight tripletail and 16 Spanish mackerel.
Norm Riordan from Herscher, Ill., and George Mezinas from Metuchen, N.J., fished with Capt. Kevin Wilson of Knee Deep Charters out of the Geiger Key Marina. They chased down their limit of yellowtail snapper on the reef, including two flags measuring 24 and 25 inches.
Capt. Moe Mottice and his Lucky Fleet crew in Key West spent most of the week working the reef for kingfish, cero mackerel and big muttons, all caught trolling ballyhoo. When the wind went to the south, they were able to find a weed line in 600 feet of water that held nice dolphin (mahi mahi) and floating debris that produced a wahoo. They say the backcountry is still producing mangroves, sharks and barracudas.
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.