There’s an excellent assortment of fishing on the reef and wrecks right now.
In the 120- to 300-foot areas where the blue water butts up against the dirtier inshore water, those putting in the time are catching two or three sailfish per trip. This action seems to be better in the Upper Keys than the Middle and Lower Keys.
When the wind blows out of the south, there are pretty good amounts of dolphin up and down the Keys. Mixed in with the sailfish and dolphin are nice size wahoo in the 30- to 50-pound class. And, the action on blackfin tuna is still first-rate for fish in the 10- to 20-pound range.
A wide selection of baits are working for these species, including live pilchards, goggle eyes, small bluerunners, ballyhoo and cigar minnows.
Wreck fishing for mutton snapper is outstanding right now, with quite a few African pompano for the taking as well. Live pinfish, pilchards and ballyhoo are all working for these.
The deeper edges of the reef are prime for quality yellowtail snapper in the 15- to 18-inch size, with the occasional mutton showing in the slick.
There’s been a large quantity of really nice black grouper in this same area of the reef. But, please remember they must be released as grouper season is closed until May 1.
Hawk Channel and patch reef fishing
Fishing on the patches and in Hawk Channel remains reliable for lane and mangrove snappers, good size muttons, a sprinkling of keeper-size yellowtails, plenty of hogfish, some king and cero mackerel and loads of sharks. Shrimp on a jighead presented on the bottom will get you just about every one of these species.
The sharks in these areas are mostly blacktips, spinners and bulls. Large live bluerunners or filets of mackerel under a float work best. For the bulls, I recommend using larger tackle as some are as large as 400 to 500 pounds.
Mixed in with the bull sharks are cobia, so it’s a good idea to be ready with a large bucktail or live bait, such as pinfish, to attract their attention.
The mackerel bite in Florida Bay remains consistent. And, when the water temps are on the warm side, the mangrove and seatrout bite is pretty good. Again, shrimp is your bait of choice.
The week’s best
The SeaSquared boats spent the week fishing inshore at the Seven Mile Bridge, on the reef, in Hawk Channel and on the patches. Our anglers donned their jackets and caught all the snapper species – lane, yellowtail, mangrove and mutton – plus hogfish and porgy. The Phillips family, from Maryland, added a nice bunch of Spanish mackerel to their snappers.
February 10, 2016
Capt. Chris Johnson
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Capt. Chris Johnson specializes in offshore, gulf/bay, reef/wreck, sailfish, shark and tarpon fishing with SeaSquared Charters in Marathon. You can reach him at 305-743-5305, https://seasquaredcharters.com.user.s410.sureserver.com and http://Facebook.com/MarathonFishing.