Marathon Florida Keys Weekly Fishing Report, Captain Chris Johnson, SeaSquared Charters, February 9, 2011
If you’ve been in town the past several days, you’ve enjoyed some great weather. By all predictions, there’s plenty more to come along with ample fishing options to enjoy.
Sailfishing has fallen into its typical February lull. A fish here or there, but no double-digit catches. It’s always worth a try, but if you’re not producing in a couple of hours, move on to something more exciting.
Such as king mackerel fishing. The kingfish bite is red hot anywhere from the 120-foot depths into Hawk Channel. Most of the kings are in the 15-pound class, but there are some smokers over 30 pounds making an appearance. Cero mackerel and some very hefty Spanish mackerel are in the same areas.
Dolphin, wahoo and cobia
The offshore bite is on for dolphin as well as mid-size wahoo in the 30-pound category. The highlight on the color change is the cobia action. I have had reports of cobia ranging from 30 to 50 pounds from Long Key to Big Pine Key.
To get the cobia to bite, most guys are throwing bucktails or large live baits such as grunts, pinfish or large pilchards. Where there’s one, there’s most likely to be many, so it pays to throw numerous lures or baits in the same direction. You’ll be rewarded with multiple hookups.
Amberjack have taken control of the wrecks. They are top notch for exciting, rod bending, knockdown, drag-out battles. Not to mention quality fare for the smoker.
The yellowtail snapper bite on the reef is sporadic. While some areas report excellent catches, venues with a bay influence are lacking. In those spots, however, the mangrove and mutton snapper are making up for the less than enthusiastic yellowtail.
Most of the mangroves average 16 inches or so, and the muttons are coming in at about 22 inches. Perfect fillets for the fryer.
There has been an impressive hogfish bite of late, with live shrimp being the bait of choice. Anglers on many of my trips last week caught hogs, including and 18-incher that weighed three and a half pounds. A fish certainly worthy of a Florida Keys fish tale.
Seven Mile Bridge
If you don’t happen to have numbers for spots in Hawk Channel, head to the Seven Mile Bridge where the mangrove snapper bite is on fire for fish in the 14- to 16-inch group. The bridge is highly underrated, yet right now you can fill a limit of fine eating snapper in no time at all. Keep in mind, the limit for mangrove snapper is five fish per angler.
In the bay, the Spanish mackerel bite is not as aggressive as it has been, but still worth the effort. The mangrove snapper action is improving with each passing warm day. There are a bunch of new mangrove snapper regulations in effect, and I recommend you check them out at MyFWC.com.
The week’s best catches
The Hull family from Michigan returned to fish with me on the SeaSquared. We started their day on the patch reefs and caught snapper, porgy and hogfish. The afternoon was spent targeting sharks for catch and release. Among many on our lines was an 8-foot nurse that dad Nathan valiantly fought and successfully brought to the boat.
Amy and Dan from Chicago, Frank Tansley from the Jersey Shore and Jim Sollecito from Syracuse and Marathon enjoyed a half day of fishing at the Seven Mile Bridge and brought home their limit of 15- to 16-inch mangrove snapper. We enjoyed the feast cooked at Castaway Restaurant in Marathon.
Perpetual fishing buddies Wayne Williams and Darrell Culjan from Illinois spent a day fishing in Hawk Channel and were rewarded with six hogfish along with lane and yellowtail snapper. They released a bunch of keeper size grouper.
I took repeat clients Ray and Beverly Wall and their guests Ray and Sandy Colombo, all from the Baltimore area, to the reef edge and Hawk Channel. In just a half day they put together a great catch of sheepshead, porgy, lane snapper and four hogfish, including one 18-inch porker that weighed 3.5 pounds.