Florida Keys Weekly Fishing Report – June 23, 2010

The snapper fishing on the reef remains a hot commodity. 

Saturday’s full moon should initiate the first snapper spawn of the summer season.  Not all the fish will be spawning at the same time.  So, fear not, there will still be plenty there for you on Sunday!

During the past week, anglers were finding the yellowtail snapper anywhere from 30 to 90 feet.  Smaller than average fish are in the shallows, while the flags are hanging in the 70- to 90-foot depths.

The usual assortment of cut baits, as well as silversides and glass minnows, will tempt all sizes of yellowtail on light tackle.

Of great importance to successful yellowtail fishing right now is the use of copious amounts of chum.  If you head out for a half day of fishing with just one or two blocks, you’ll be having hamburgers for dinner. 

Currently, there are many people targeting yellowtail, and the fish have become accustomed to having multiple slicks to choose from.  Charter captains are dumping 50 to 80 pounds of chum in the water during a half-day trip just to hold the fish at their boat.  As we like to say, “He with the most chum wins.”

A fair number of mutton snapper are mixed with the yellowtail. 

Nice size fish up to 16 pounds are appearing in slicks.   You’ll want to use beefier tackle than your yellowtail equipment to catch these pink giants.  Half a ballyhoo or a whole sardine drifted in the slick usually entices bites.

There are big mangrove snapper on the reef as well. 

Use the same tackle and baits as for the muttons and you’ll have a snapper smorgasbord.  At this time of year, if you want to catch your limit of jumbo mangrove snapper, try fishing for them at night.

Most charter captains like to leave the dock about an hour before sunset to get set up and their slicks established so they’re ready for the action when it becomes fully dark. 

The mangroves congregate directly behind the boat very close to the surface.  You’ll be able to use the heavier tackle and bigger hooks required to land these snaggle tooth snappers, some of which approach 6 to 8 pounds.

On some nights, the mangroves are completely indiscriminant and you can catch them on just about anything, such as cut baits and chunks of ballyhoo.  However, the big fish-getter is small, 2- to 3-inch, pinfish or pilchards free-lined back in the slick.  If the pilchards show up in your slick, snag a few on a Sabiki rig.

Mutton snapper and amberjack on the wrecks. 

On the deeper wrecks and rough bottom patches, there are plenty of mutton snapper, with the average fish in the 12- to 14-pound range.  Cigar minnows and threadfin herring are the bait of choice.  You can also stop on a patch reef on your way out to catch the ballyhoo that are showing in the yellowtail slicks.  Muttons find it nearly impossible to resist a live ‘hoo struggling on the bottom.

Amberjack are hanging on the same wrecks, especially the higher profile ones, along with the artificial reefs.  If you’d like to test yourself against the mighty AJ, just about any large live bait will work.  If you have the stamina, butterfly jigging will also trigger a bite.

Dolphin fishing is improving. 

I’m happy to report there’s been an up tick in the dolphin fishing with more legal size schoolies and gaffers making their way back to the dock.  The occasional slammer is making an appearance as well.

The smaller fish are being caught 20 to 25 miles from shore, whereas the bigger fish are still pretty far out.  This week’s strong east winds can change all that and bring the big ones in to areas more accessible to the average angler.

If you find a floater, first take advantage of the dolphin it attracts.  Then, troll a deep-running plug in search of wahoo.  Be sure to use a length of wire to avoid being cut-off.

Summer fun with catch-and-release shark fishing in the bay. 

On the grass flats in the bay, catch-and-release shark fishing with 20-pound tackle in clear, shallow 4-foot depths is always an exhilarating experience.  However, the action heats up with the increasing summer water temperatures. 

It is common to have a half dozen or more 6-foot sharks swarming around the boat at any given time.  The larger the crowd, the more aggressive the behavior.  Once one takes a bait, the angler is treated to a 200-yard run and a couple of jumps before muscling the beast to the boat to be released to fight another day.

The week’s catches with SeaSquared Charters.
Summer family fun fishing continued on the SeaSquared  last week, with trips to the reef everyday and lots of tasty fillets showing up for cook-your-catch at restaurants throughout Marathon.

The Scott clan, from Altamonte Springs FL, caught a bunch of yellowtail snapper, with mom Teresa taking top honors with a nice 25-incher.  The extended Peters family, from Punta Gorda FL, also found a 25-inch ‘tail among their snapper catch.  They added 2 keeper cobia up to 15 pounds and a 20-pound black grouper caught by 14-year-old Cody Peterson.  The Thompson family, from the Pittsburgh area, continued the yellowtail experience with fish up to 23 inches plus a big mangrove snapper and an 18-pound black grouper.

Pat and Mary Grace Murphy, from Melbourne FL, returned with another group of friends for a second day of fishing on the SeaSquared.  The sharks took a majority of their yellowtails, but they did manage a few keepers plus an 18-pound cobia.

Gail Rozzell, from Rockport TX, treated her friend, Anthony D’Amore, to a SeaSquared shark fishing adventure for his 70th birthday.  His son, Kris, and buddy, Capt. Bob Kidwell, went along for the fun.  The guys went 7 for 13 on lemon sharks up to 7 feet.  All were released unharmed.

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