Marathon Florida Keys Weekly Fishing Report – March 16, 2011 – Snapper ruling the reef right now

Marathon Florida Keys Weekly Fishing Report, Capt. Chris Johnson, SeaSquared Charters, March 16, 2011

Yellowtail snapper

The yellowtail snapper are swarming in the warm reef waters in numbers as great as the spring breakers on Smathers Beach in Key West.

The bite has been excellent in all venues.  Lots of flag ‘tails are coming from the 60- to 80-foot depths, while the shallower 40-foot depths are delivering up tasty 14- and 15-inchers.  As always, there are plenty of legal size fish on the patches.  The yellowtail are responding to cut ballyhoo or fresh bonito.

Mangrove snapper

Mixed with the yellowtail are some very hefty mangrove snapper.  The mangroves are biting smaller live baits, such as pilchards, pinfish or shrimp presented near the bottom.


Offshore, the dolphin bite remains productive anywhere from 400 to 600 feet of water.  Most fish caught now are schoolies with some good size gaffers on occasion.  Expect this fishing to improve as we get into April with lots of large fish beginning to show.


The sailfish action has been spotty in the Middle and Lower Keys.  However, folks I’ve talked to in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale report double-digit catches almost daily.  Those fish should be making their way through the Florida Straits anytime.  When they do, expect superb action.

Mutton snapper

There has been some mutton snapper action on the deeper wrecks, and the amberjack bite remains first-rate.

Bay and gulf

In the bay and gulf, there are loads of keeper size mangrove snapper plus cero and Spanish mackerel.  Bluefish are hanging on the wrecks and banks, while the deeper gulf wrecks are holding fair numbers of cobia.

The week’s best catches

Steve Compton, from Cumming GA, and Carl Caira, from Swampscott MA, spent Saturday fishing the reef with me on the SeaSquared.  They released a 25-inch black and a 30-inch gag grouper and boxed their limit of 2- to 6-pound mangrove snapper, some lane and a couple of yellowtail.  Two 50-pound amberjack topped off the day.

On their second outing, Compton and Caira were generous enough to share their charter with Ryan Henze, from Galena IL, and Jason Reilly, from New Richmond WI, who were scheduled to go out last week but the wind kept us at the dock.  The crew caught 31 snapper, including flag yellowtails and 3- to 6-pound mangroves.

It was first-time ocean fishing on the SeaSquared for two separate groups from Minnesota. 

Larry Schultz, his boys Justin and Connor, Joe Zwiers, his son Jared, and Dan Halbur fished the reef and caught 39 snapper, including 18- to 22-inch yellowtails and 5- to 6-pound mangroves.

I took the Peitz family, from Waconia MN, to the bay where they caught mangrove and yellowtail snapper, bluefish and cero mackerel.  They enjoyed their catch cooked at Porky’s Bayside BBQ.

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