With the winds come the sailfish.
The prevailing easterly winds create the tailing conditions that sailfish anglers wait for all year. Tailing refers to the action of sailfish cruising down the face of waves, sometimes with their tails sticking out of the water. These are not conditions for the faint of heart, as the swell tends to be four to six feet to generate the correct environment for the sailfish to surf the waves in search of bait fish.
Multiple sailfish landings have taken place over the past week to 10 days, with some boats coming back with double-digit flags flying. (Charter boats fly sailfish flags to indicate successful releases.) The best baits are pilchards, small mullet and goggle eyes.
Alternately from searching for tailing sailfish, you can set up your typical live bait spread and fish for them using that method. As a bonus, there have been some cobia and early-season dolphin mixed in with the sailfish.
Fishing for yellowtail snappers on the reef has been hit and miss. Once we get to the backside of this full moon, they should be feeding with greater regularity.
The good news is the large, flag-size yellowtails are here in good numbers. Most are taken on the deeper edge of the reef in 70 to 110 feet of water. Be sure to have copious amounts of frozen block chum plus a mixture of oats and YellowTail Up from Aquatic Nutrition to get the ’tails interested in eating.
There are also plenty of keeper-size fish up shallower in 30 to 50 feet of water, with some nice mangrove snappers mixed in. To target the mangroves and occasional mutton snapper, fish small, live baits, such as pinfish and pilchards, down near the bottom on a jig head. You’ll most likely catch lots of groupers, as well. Remember, just a couple more weeks until we can keep them, as the season opens on May 1.
Around the bridges, the tarpon bite has become a bit spotty, due to the lowered water temps courtesy of last week’s cold front. As the water warms again, the tarpon will not only become more active, but the population should increase.
For those interested in wrangling with large fish on light tackle, there are assorted sharks around, primarily blacktips, spinners and bulls, with a few lemons in the mixture.
Finally — and thank goodness with the wind of late — there’s good mangrove snapper fishing in the calm Florida Bay waters around the banks and near-shore wrecks. Shrimp or chunk baits, such as ballyhoo and pinfish, work best.
The week’s best
The SeaSquared boats took full advantage of the tailing conditions last week to put many guests on the sailfish bite, with multiple fish landed successfully and even more pulling the hooks. Our family groups fished near-shore for mangroves, yellowtails, seatrout, mackerel and more. And, on our reef trips, our anglers caught flag yellowtails, bonita and kingfish. You can see our daily catch reports on Facebook.com/MarathonFishing.
Capt. Chris Johnson specializes in offshore, gulf/bay, reef/wreck, sailfish, shark and tarpon fishing with SeaSquared Charters, docked at Faro Blanco Resort and Yacht Club in Marathon. You can reach him at (305) 743-5305, http://SeaSquaredCharters.com and http://Facebook.com/MarathonFishing.