When the breeze kicks up a bit, as it has been lately, head to the bayside of the islands where there are plenty of hidey spots that offer up great fishing.
Florida Keys Weekly Fishing Update – Captain Chris Johnson, SeaSquared Charters – September 22, 2010
We have been finding quality size mangrove snapper everywhere from the bridges out to the wrecks 10 to 12 miles from shore. Mixed with the mangroves are some decent size yellowtail snapper and a plethora of pan fish such as porgies and hogfish.
It’s hard to beat fresh shrimp to entice the snappers in the bay. I like to fish the shrimp on a knocker rig with a #1 to a 1/0 circle hook. Remember, circle hooks are mandatory when fishing natural baits for snapper and grouper in the bay and gulf venues.
I typically take along some ballyhoo and pinfish as well as the shrimp. Both can be used as chunk baits presented on or near the bottom. A small, 1- to 2-inch long live pinfish will attract the largest of the mangrove snapper and perhaps even a surprise mutton snapper.
Mackerel, jack crevalle and grouper
Much like fishing for snappers on the reef, you should be prepared for just about anything to show in your chum slick. Mackerel and jack crevalle are prevalent in the bay, and you may come across a keeper grouper.
It’s a good idea to have a rod rigged and ready with a small trace of wire in case the cero and Spanish mackerel invade the slick. These fish are a blast to catch on light equipment. I like the same gear I use for snapper fishing.
Here again, small live pinfish will do the trick, but the mackerel will take a free-lined chunk bait drifted back in the slick just as quickly.
Jack crevalle hang in the same areas as the mackerel and will take a wide variety of baits and lures. Bucktails and small swimming plugs as well as surface chuggers all provide for some exciting action. My preference is 20-pound spinning tackle for the larger specimens, but a 12-pound outfit makes for great fun on fish weighing less than 8 pounds or so.
Shallow water angling for sharks
Another excellent option on a breezy day is shallow water angling for sharks. There are plentiful numbers of lemon and blacktip sharks prowling the grassy flats and banks located throughout the Middle and Lower Keys.
To get the most action from these toothy game fish, use 20-pound spin tackle. Most any bait will work to attract the interest of the sharks, such as filleted pieces of jack crevalle, ladyfish or butterflied blue runners.
In catch-and-release sport fishing for sharks, I recommend using circle hooks so as not to cause harm to the fish. You can remove the hook from the shark’s mouth with a dehooking tool, which is mandatory to have on your boat on both the Atlantic and bayside. Mash down the barb of the circle hook for ease of removal with the dehooking tool. If you prefer, simply cut the hook off at the leader and it will dislodge itself from the shark’s mouth in very little time.
The week with SeaSquared Charters
The SeaSquared fished the bay venues targeting mangrove snapper last week.
The Roberts group from Jacksonville caught mangrove snapper from 12 to 18 inches on a couple of bay wrecks 10 miles from my dock at the 7 Mile Marina. They also released Goliath grouper and nurse sharks.
It was more of the same for Marianne Canero and her friends, Martin Calero and Kristen Halle, visiting from Miami and Uruguay. They caught a nice bunch of mangrove snapper up to 16 inches.
Until next week … Tight Lines!
Capt. Chris Johnson, SeaSquared Charters, Marathon Florida Keys, 305-743-5305