Stop wishing and start fishing in Marathon Florida Keys!
December fishing in Marathon is like a giant Christmas package wrapped in glittery paper and topped with a red bow. You wait for it all year. You unwrap it with great anticipation. You don’t know precisely what will be inside, but you know it will be awesome!
While we always see scattered sailfish during November, the season really gets going in December. Most sails are taken spraying ballyhoo on the reef, but you may also encounter them just off the deep edge of the reef where they are looking for wayward ballyhoo.
Dolphin and tuna
Also interested in a ballyhoo treat are blackfin tuna and dolphin. The tuna tend to stay in the 120- to 150-foot depths, while the dolphin can be found spraying ballyhoo in 20 feet of water or off the edge of the reef with the sailfish.
As you can see, it’s all about live ballyhoo for bait this time of year. Pilchards, cigar minnows and goggle eyes might work if you can’t get ballyhoo. But, ballyhoo is the primary target of the sailfish, tuna and dolphin.
The best way to catch ballyhoo is to hair-hook them individually, as these baits produce superior results to those caught in a cast net. Although, cast-netted ‘hoos are better than no ‘hoos at all.
Snapper and grouper
You’ll find loads of red, black and gag grouper on all the reef areas from the deep edge to the patches in 20 feet to Hawk Channel. And, just about any live bait will work. We like grunts, pinfish, and smallish bluerunners or, when fishing on the reef edge, a just legal yellowtail (over 12 inches).
Snapper fishing in December is as simple as it can be. Just go to your favorite spot and catch them. Yellowtails, muttons and mangroves all feed aggressively this time of year. Because of this, you need to use copious amounts of chum. In addition to frozen block chum, we use Yellowtail Up and Chum Drop 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 AquaticNutrition.com
If it’s the holidays, it must be time for smoked fish!
The reef offers plenty of action for cero and king mackerel. The ceros prefer smaller pilchards and live ballyhoo, while the kings will take any size pilchards, cigar minnows or bluerunners. Any time we’re fishing the reef edge, we keep one bait out in the hopes of attracting these predators. They’re fun to catch and make a nice bonus to your day of fishing with the smoker as their destiny.
And remember, we will smoke your fish for you, package it and mail it back home for you to enjoy with family and friends. We will even include our world-famous recipe for Smoked Fish Spread!
Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico
In the shallow, eight- to ten-foot, depths in Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, the main players are mangrove snapper and Spanish mackerel. Find any grassy area, anchor up, get the chum going and wait for their arrival. Chunks of pinfish or ballyhoo or shrimp work well for the snappers. For the Spanish mackerel, we like to mix it up with lures and shrimp-tipped jig heads fished quickly through the chum slick. Be sure to have a trace of # wire in front to prevent bite-offs.
Deeper Gulf fishing
Further out in the Gulf, there are good numbers of gag grouper, cobia, large kingfish plus mangroves and some yellowtails. And, if it’s something big you’re looking for, try catching Goliath grouper and the ever-present sharks that follow the schools of mackerel.
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!SeaSquared Charters Marathon Florida Keys 305-743-5305
Capt. Chris Johnson is a member of the Yamaha National Fishing Team and specializes in offshore, gulf/bay, reef/wreck, sailfish, shark and tarpon fishing with SeaSquared Charters in Marathon Florida Keys. You can reach him at 305-743-5305, https://seasquaredcharters.com and http://Facebook.com/MarathonFishing.