Fishing

Sails are arriving, the muttons are biting, too

Rob Innella from New Jersey got some assistance from his daughter Samantha with this hefty mutton snapper he caught with Capt. Jason Bell and SeaSquared Charters.
Rob Innella from New Jersey got some assistance from his daughter Samantha with this hefty mutton snapper he caught with Capt. Jason Bell and SeaSquared Charters. SeaSquared Charters

The winds have laid down for now, so anglers have been able to get out beyond the reef, where the fishing has been quite good.

The sailfish are beginning to show more frequently, as are the dolphin. The mahi are mostly schoolie-size fish, although some larger specimens have been spotted offshore by those heading to the humps in the Middle and Upper Keys waters.

And we’re seeing a fair number of wahoo. With the upcoming full moon, the wahoo should become quite active, so they’re definitely worth targeting.

Anglers fishing live baits for sailfish are encountering ’hoos, and they’re mostly good-size fish in the 20- to 50-pound category. To target wahoo specifically, you need to fish large, active live baits with a trace of wire, much the same as you’d fish for kingfish. However, your wire needs to be heavier than what you’d use for kings, such as No. 6 or No. 7.

You can also troll wahoo with heavily weighted jet heads, Ilanders or large billy baits rigged with a ballyhoo. They need to be weighted with a drail or fished off a downrigger for best results.

The sailfish have been eating pilchards readily, as well as cigar minnow and goggle eyes. And there are still plenty of king mackerel to be had. Again, use a small trace of wire to prevent bite-offs.

The wrecks are producing some mutton snappers as well as amberjacks and kings. Live pinfish, pilchards or ballyhoo are your best baits.

On the reef, the yellowtail snappers are starting to bite a bite more consistently, probably due to the warm temps we’ve had of late. No particular depth range out-produces any other. It varies day by day. And there’s been an uptick in the number of muttons we’ve seen on the reef.

The channel humps offer their usual variety of snappers, cero and Spanish mackerel, short groupers, jack crevalles and the like.

Finally, there’s plenty of shark action in the shallows around the bridges, primarily blacktips, spinners and bulls. Tons of fun on light spin tackle. And, there’s a good mangrove snapper bite at the bridges and out in the bay.

The week’s best

Snappers, mackerel, yellowjacks and more were on the menu for guests who fished on the SeaSquared boats last week. Lots of sharks provided catch-and-release fun fishing. Dave and Kim Bridges from Tampa added a sailfish release to their experience with Capt. Jason Bell.

Free seminar

Capt. Chris Johnson hosts a series of free fishing seminars at the Hyatt Place/Faro Blanco, mile marker 48, this season. The fourth in the monthly series takes place March 6 with the topic “Shallow Water Sharks.” It runs from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. and there will be nearly $1,000 in 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, http://SeaSquaredCharters.com and http://Facebook.com/MarathonFishing.

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