Hit the Reef! Florida Keys Weekly Fishing Report – July 7, 2010

Florida Keys Weekly Fishing Report – July 7, 2010 – At risk of sounding redundant, fishing the reef remains the main game.  All species of snapper are plentiful, and you have your choice of fishing day or night.

Yellowtail and mutton snapper are the prime players in daylight hours on the main reef edge.

During the day, copious amounts of chum are a necessity to hold the attention of the yellowtail that are feeding ravenously on the reef.  Mixing oats with your chum, as well as using glass minnows, will help.  Just about any form of cut bait fished on light line with small hooks will do the trick.

At night, the reef is alive with thousands of spawning mangrove snapper.

The mangroves are so aggressive that heavy amounts of chum typically are not needed.  The best tactic is to anchor up just before dark and establish your chum slick.  Most likely, pilchards will show up in your slick.  Sabiki as many as you can and you’ll have plenty of live bait to throw at the mangroves.

Chunk baits, such as ballyhoo, threadfin herring or sardines, will also serve you well.  The cover of darkness allows you to get away with the heavier tackle and larger hooks needed to land these snapper brutes.  I usually use 20-pound spinning tackle with 30-pound fluorocarbon leaders and 2/0 or 4/0 live bait hooks.

Lane snapper on the patch reefs.

On the patch reefs, there is quite a bit of daylight activity with spawning lane snapper plus mangroves and yellowtails.  Mixed in are black, gag and red grouper as well as profuse numbers of cero mackerel.

Use the same techniques as you would for yellowtailing on the reef with one exception.  The mangroves seem unable to resist a small 2-inch live pinfish on a 3/8 or ¼ ounce Hank Brown HookUp Lures jig head.

The mutton snapper bite is picking up tempo on the wrecks and rubble piles.  There are also loads of amberjack and jack crevalle to give you a good workout.  You’ll want to use live baits, such as threadfin herring, cigar minnows or ballyhoo.

Dolphin offshore.

Dolphin fishing offshore continues to produce lots and lots of short fish.  Be diligent with your measuring and remember that dolphin must measure 20 inches to the fork to be legal.  We’ve had a bit of a blow out of the east/southeast that should stir the slammers for good weekend fishing.

Mangrove snapper in the bay.

The inshore wrecks and banks on the bayside are holding good numbers of mangrove snapper.  Small live pinfish attract the largest mangroves, with chunks of ballyhoo or pinfish also working well.

Lobster mini season July 28 and 29.

With lobster mini season coming up in a couple of weeks, it’s a good idea to check the condition of your gear before the tourists arrive and wipe out the local supplies of masks, fins, snorkels, nets and such.  There’s nothing worse than jumping in the water on July 28 with no tickle to your stick!

The week with SeaSquared Charters.

With my boat out of the water one day for maintenance, I fished my charter with the Castronovo family from Geneva IL with Capt. Jeff Shelar of Catch-em-All Charters.  We stopped on a spot in the bay to catch mangrove and lane snapper before heading to the shark hunting grounds.  Teenagers Ryan, Tommy and Lauren caught and released 9 lemon sharks with 17-year-old Lauren landing the largest, a 6.5-footer.

One more shark trip and 3 reef trips rounded out the week on the SeaSquared. 

The Martin boys (9 and 11) from Jupiter FL caught and released 3 lemon and 2 nurse sharks, including a monster 7-foot nurse.  The reef trips produced yellowtail, mangrove and mutton snapper, black and gag grouper, cero mackerel and rock hind.  The prize goes to repeat customer Teri Jordan for the largest yellowtail of the year on the SeaSquared – a very hefty 26-incher.

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