While our friends up north are scraping ice from their windshields, we’re scooping it into our tropical cocktails and shoveling it into coolers full of fish.
The waters off Marathon offer ample opportunities for a wide variety of fishing during February. With all our wintertime visitors firmly established plus the presence of our resident reef fish, there’s an abundance of species to fish for no matter the weather conditions.
Reef and wreck fishing
When the weather moderates between cold fronts, the reef action is typically quite good. You’ll want to carry an assortment of both live and dead baits this time of year.
There’s plenty of yellowtail snappers along with some nice mutton snappers in the chum slicks. Cut baits or fresh shrimp work best for the yellowtails, while the muttons prefer small, live baits, such as pilchards or pinfish.
Copious amounts of chum are essential to successful reef fishing. We supplement our frozen block chum with Yellowtail Up and ChumDrop from Aquatic Nutrition Sportfishing Chums. 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.
Time for kingfish
Kingfish are in the slicks as well, and they love nothing more than a well-presented pilchard. Use a small trace of wire with a #1 or #2 treble hook in the nose of a pilchard, and you should be hooked up in no time. The reef kings average 10 to 20 pounds now, with the occasional smoker over 30 making an appearance.
It pays to fly a kite while anchored on the reef to open yourself to the opportunity to catch sailfish, blackfin tuna, kingfish or even wahoo. We like to use a lively type of bait, like goggle eyes or small bluerunners, from the kite.
Hawk Channel and patch reef fishing
It's hard to beat the Hawk Channel and patch reef areas for excellent light-tackle fishing for all manner of fun-catching and good-eating fish. Conditions are generally smoother than out on the reef edge, with seas never getting much bigger than two to three feet.
And, with these 25- to 40-foot venues just a couple of miles from shore, your fishing time far eclipses your travel time. What you save in fuel you can spend on bait. Fish longer, catch more and have a ton of fun!
Your bait of choice is live or fresh dead shrimp. Present your bait directly on the bottom and you will load up 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.
Bridge and bay fishing
The bridges and nearshore Florida Bay produce loads of mangrove snapper, hogfish and porgy this time of year. A littler further out in the Bay, the Spanish mackerel bite is excellent. And, in the Gulf, you have cobia, big king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, snappers, Goliath grouper and tons of sharks.