It’s truly a Thanksgiving bounty on our Atlantic reef and wreck areas this week.
Do you enjoy catching and eating mutton snapper? Who doesn’t! The mutton bite on the wrecks in 100 to 250 feet of water is on fire. Most are quality fish in the 15- to 18-pound class, and the small ones average a very respectable 10 to 12 pounds. Live baits, such as pinfish and pilchards, are the go-to for the muttons, but a whole, butterflied frozen ballyhoo will also arouse some interest.
There are amberjacks in the same areas, although the season is closed so you can’t keep them. Good-size yellowjacks, 10- to 20-pounders, are on the wrecks, as well. If you’re not familiar with yellowjacks, they make a high-quality meal.
Good numbers of king mackerel and sailfish are also around the wrecks. And if you have clean, blue water, you may also catch tuna and dolphin (mahi).
To target the kings and sails, first stuff your live well with pilchards. Drift over the wrecks, throw a couple of nets full of pilchards over the side and watch for the surface action as the kings push the bait right up to the top. Quite often you’ll be rewarded with a bonus sailfish.
On the top half of the reef in 30 to 60 feet of water, the yellowtail snapper action remains very good. Most fish are in the 14- to 18-inch grouping. As the waters continue to cool, we’re seeing better grouper fishing here, too.
Copious amounts of chum are required and, as always, we supplement our frozen blocks with YellowtailUp from Aquatic Nutrition. The yellowtails take shrimp and small pieces of cut bait. The groupers eat larger live baits, such as pinfish, grunts and ballyhoo.
Good numbers of king and cero mackerel are showing up in the slicks. And if you fish a medium-size rod with a small live bait on a jig head, you’ll have plenty of action with mutton and mangrove snappers.
Hawk Channel is starting to provide its usual assortment of everything imaginable, including lane, mangrove and yellowtail snappers, porgies, cero and Spanish mackerel, red grouper and even the occasional keeper black grouper. Live shrimp and pilchards are the way to go here.
Florida Bay is loaded with nice mangroves, and we should start to see a heavy influx of Spanish mackerel soon.
We had great snapper and grouper action on the reef and wrecks this week for the guests on the SeaSquared boats. Double-digit numbers of muttons coming back to the dock were not unusual. Yellowjacks and sailfish spiced the catches.
Free fishing seminars
I’ll host a series of free fishing seminars at the Hyatt Place/Faro Blanco resort in Marathon this season. The monthly series kicks off Dec. 6 with the topic “Reef Top to Bottom.” It runs from 6:30 to 8:30 pm and there will be prizes and giveaways. The resort is at 1996 Overseas Highway bayside.
From all of us at SeaSquared, we hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with family, friends, food and fishing.
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.