December Fishing Forecast

There’s shopping to do and cookies to bake and houses to decorate. But you don’t want to miss some of the best fishing the Keys have to offer!
We are extremely happy to report that our weather so far this fall has been the closest to seasonal normal we’ve seen in a couple of years. And, the fish are responding predictably.
The sailfish showed up early this year on Labor Day weekend. Fishing for them has been consistently good ever since, and we expect it to remain so for December.
Ballyhoo is the prime food source for the sailfish this time of year. Major amounts of this baitfish have been pushing out from the bayside into the Atlantic, which should hold the sailfish in and around the reef for quite some time.
Mornings and evenings are the best times to target spraying sails, or all day long in cloudy conditions. Our usual midday tactic during December is to gather a bunch of live ballyhoo and put a spread out anywhere from 100 to 120 feet of water, as this is the area where the sailfish hang when not actively pursuing the ballyhoo up in the shallows in 20 to 30 feet. They will often attack a wayward ‘hoo that has wandered too far offshore.
Mixed in with the sailfish, we find dolphin, blackfin tuna, wahoo and king mackerel. Not a bad bycatch when you’re sport fishing!
For the wahoo and kings, we like to fish a deep bait about half way off the bottom or wherever the thermocline might be located. Pilchards and cigar minnows are best for this method.
On the Atlantic wrecks, there should be copious amounts of mutton snapper, amberjack, kingfish and wahoo. Live baits are key, including ballyhoo, pilchards, pinfish and small blue runners.
Up on the reef, the shallower patches tend to hold the most fish this time of year, again due to the presence of the ballyhoo. You’ll find plenty of yellowtail, mangrove and mutton snapper, black, red and gag grouper all occupying the same areas.
All but the yellowtails will eat a variety of live baits, such as pilchards, pinfish and ballyhoo. The ‘tails prefer cut baits or shrimp.
The snappers feed aggressively this time of year. Because of this, you need to use copious amounts of chum. We supplement our frozen block chum with Yellowtail Up and ChumDrop from Aquatic Nutrition. These innovative dry chum kits are just what Dr. Snapper ordered and have dramatically improved our snapper catches. Ask your local bait shop or visit them online at
You can also expect to find hogfish and large porgy in these zones. Shrimp is crucial for these tasty critters. Cero mackerel and mid-size kings fill out the offerings in these regions. Live ballyhoo, pilchards or small blue runners do the trick for these toothy fish.
Out in Florida Bay and around the bridges, we have good action on mangrove snapper. Small live pilchards and pinfish are your best choices as well as shrimp.
In the expansive grassy areas eight to ten miles out in the bay is where we also find massive amounts of Spanish mackerel. Shrimp on a jighead, small shiny spoons, small bucktails or live pilchards work best. Make sure you have a small, six- to eight-inch, trace of wire to prevent bite-offs.
In the Gulf of Mexico, we expect good fishing on the wrecks for cobia, gag grouper, Goliath grouper, sharks and mangrove snapper.
On behalf of the entire SeaSquared crew, we thank you for reading our articles and wish you a joyous holiday season filled with family, friends and – of course – plenty of fishing! May all your wishes come true!
Capt. Chris Johnson
Marathon Florida Keys

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