Fish love the warm conditions as much as the anglers do!
We’re having a pretty warm winter here in Marathon, with not too many days requiring sweatshirts and socks as compared to the past two years.
This bodes well for February fishing, as the fish don’t like cold temps any more than the anglers do.
Variety in Hawk Channel
This time of year, it’s hard to beat the Hawk Channel areas for excellent fishing for a wide variety of species. Conditions are generally smoother than out on the reef edge, with seas never getting much bigger than two to three feet. And, the 25- to 40-foot Hawk Channel depths are just a couple of miles from shore.
Shrimp presented on the bottom in Hawk Channel will load the cooler with all manner of snapper – lane, yellowtail, mangrove and mutton. Various other food fish also respond to a shrimp offering, including the much sought-after Florida pompano, porgy and hogfish.
King mackerel season is here
And, if history holds true, the king mackerel will show up on the channel humps and coral heads. These fish aren’t called “kings” for no reason. The largest ones approach 40 pounds and more and the long, blistering runs they give make them an absolute blast to catch on 15-pound tackle.
Cero and Spanish too
Mixed with the kingfish are plenty of cero and Spanish mackerel. While all three of the Keys mackerel species are excellent fare for the smoker, the cero and Spanish are also quite delicious grilled or blackened when freshly caught.
When fishing the reef line in February, it pays to be prepared for anything. With the mild weather sticking around, the yellowtail bite should remain active. You’ll find king, cero and Spanish mackerel here as well. You may even run across a sailfish or two.
Fishing on the wrecks
On the wrecks, the mutton snapper bite well with most fish in the 10- to 12-pound class. But, the big game on the wrecks is amberjack fishing. The AJ’s average 20 to 40 pounds with some brutes coming in at 50-plus. These reef donkeys will put you to the test and you’ll really know if that gym membership is paying off.