The reef, Hawk Channel are the go-to spots

The Pasterz family from the Chicago area caught blackfins and kingfish on the ‘Kelly’s Green’ with Capt. Kevin Goodwin.
The Pasterz family from the Chicago area caught blackfins and kingfish on the ‘Kelly’s Green’ with Capt. Kevin Goodwin. SeaSquared Charters

It looks like we’re going to have one of those winters with cold fronts coming every seven to 10 days. In this sort of weather pattern, where you fish and what you fish for just need to roll with the flow day by day.

Last weekend’s front dropped the temps on the reef to the 75-degree mark, and the water in Florida Bay got as low as 58 degrees. Such drastic changes in temperatures influence our fisheries.

Currently, the reef and Hawk Channel are where the best action is. The yellowtail bite on the reef has slowed a bit, with the 50- to 60-foot areas being most active for smaller fish in the 12- to 14-inch class. However, there are pockets of bigger fish chewing out on the deeper edge of the reef.

There have been plenty of mackerel mixed in with the yellowtails, including big ceros, some kings and even a few Spanish. Mutton snappers and amberjacks are chewing on the wrecks.

As the weather settles down this week, we should start to see better sailfishing and plenty of kingfish, as both species enjoy cooler water temps.

The cooler water has the fishing in Hawk Channel fired up. There are plenty of snapper of all kinds — lanes, yellowtails, mangroves, some keeper muttons — plus porgies and lots of throw-back hogfish and groupers.

Shrimp and small live pilchards have been the ticket in Hawk Channel. Although the fish are more apt to eat shrimp than pilchards right now in these cool conditions.

As mentioned, Florida Bay got quite chilly, but toward the end of the week and before the next front arrives, the mackerel bite should be very good. Shrimp is your top bait, although a small live pilchard is also hard to beat. Mangroves are mixed in with the Spanish mackerel, and shrimp is definitely your bait of choice for those.

The week’s best

The hardy souls who fished on the SeaSquared boats in some chilly weather were rewarded with all the snapper and mackerel varieties plus blackfin tunas, yellowjacks, sharks, a surprise permit and throw-back hogfish, amberjacks and groupers.

Sean, John and Charlie from New York City braved bumpy seas and a still north breeze to fish with Capt. Kevin Wilson and Knee Deep Charters out of the Geiger Key Marina. They caught 21 yellowtails, including several flags, and released a huge bull shark.

Fishing seminars

Capt. Chris Johnson hosts a series of free fishing seminars at the Hyatt Place/Faro Blanco, mile marker 48 bayside, this season. The third in the monthly series takes place Feb. 6 with the topic “Yellowtailing 101.” It runs from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. and there will be prizes and giveaways.

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, and