The kingfish and cobia save the day offshore, while the bite in the backcountry depends on the water temps.
It was a generally slow week offshore for sailfish. Those who put in the time found fish, just not in big numbers. Live baits like ballyhoo and goggle eyes have been the bait of choice for sails with a few bonus species caught like blackfin tuna, and kingfish.
This week it was the kingfish and cobia bite that was the hot ticket offshore, with kingfish caught up to 30 pounds and cobia up to 40 pounds. Most boats fished the reef edge from 115-150 feet ,while others concentrated on their double-top secret wrecks and deeper ledges.
Captain Jon Reynolds and his crew aboard the Drop Back out of Post Card Marina at Holiday Isle in Islamorada had several banner days catching kingfish and cobias 10-30 pounds on live cigar minnows off the edge.
Those fishing the bottom with live baits have been catching numbers of mutton snapper 5 to 15 pounds mixed in with a few amberjack and groupers.
Yellowtail snapper fishing has been solid, with lots of tails caught in 80 to 120 feet while chumming heavily.
The shallow patch reefs continue to be a source of rod bending fun for anglers of every experience level and are a great option during those windy days. This week saw lots of snappers (lane, mangrove, yellowtail, and mutton) caught on the patches by those fishing live shrimp, along with hogfish, grouper, porgy and assorted reef fish.
If you plan on fishing the patches, plan on bringing a current copy of the fishing regulations as you generally catch several odd species that are not commonly known.
The backcountry has been good and bad depending on the day you choose to fish and what you choose to fish for. During the coldest days following a front, forget the early start because the bite has been very slow with the best action taking place during the afternoon -- or a few days after the front passes, when the wind lies down and water temperatures begin to rise.
During the colder days, fishing live or dead shrimp on the bottom has produced good numbers of black drum, sheepshead, redfish, snook, mangrove snapper and the unavoidable saltwater catfish. Gulp tipped jigs with “new penny” or “molting” colored shrimp has been a great option when the bait runs out.
Deep in the Everglades during the warmer days, the snook bite has been fantastic around the mouths of creeks and shorelines with good structure. Live pilchards have been the best bait to have, but live shrimp hooked through the head and worked along the bottom has been a close second.
Mackerel fishing in the Gulf has been pretty consistent, with fish averaging 2 to 4 pounds and larger ones caught every day. Live shrimp either fished whole or tipped on jigs with a light wire leader has been the way to go.
During the days when the macks become leader shy, try fishing whole live shrimp with a 30-pound fluorocarbon leader to a long shank Mustad #92611-NI 3/0 hook. You might get cut off, but you will get more hits.
Mixed in with the macks have been mangrove snappers, jacks and the occasional curious cobia. This past week there were several reports from boats fishing the Gulf finding increasing amounts of tripletails hanging around the trap buoys.
When out there, have a pitch rod ready for a live shrimp just in case you come across one of these ugly, tasty fish.
The Florida Keys Chapter of the CCA will be holding its annual banquet and live auction this coming Feb. 18 at the Elks Lodge in Tavernier. Beginning at 6 p.m., there will be a two-hour open bar before a fantastic steak dinner provided by the Texas Cattle Company.
Tickets are only $85 per person and will not be sold at the door. Last year they sold out and this year will be similar. Don’t miss this chance to attend this great event. For more questions or to purchase tickets contact Matt Behm (516) 644-2788 or Dianne Harbaugh (305) 522-4868. See you there!
Those of you who know me, know that to me, fishing is more than just a game, it is a way of life. So fish hard and fish often!