Marathon Florida Keys Weekly Fishing Report, Capt. Chris Johnson, SeaSquared Charters, March 2, 2011
If you’ve been yearning for a tasty yellowtail dinner, your wait is over.
The warmer water temperatures have kicked the yellowtail snapper fishing into high gear. There have been reports of yellowtail caught in 25 feet of water on the patch reefs out to almost 90 feet of water.
The size of the yellowtails depends on the depth of the water. The patch reef ‘tails range in size from sub-legal to about 14 inches. This fishing is by far the easiest and great family fun.
As you move into the 50-foot depths, the average size increases to 14- to 16-inch fish, with the deepest fish being the largest. The flag yellowtail are pushing six pounds – that’s a giant yellowtail snapper.
Mangrove and mutton snapper
There has also been a sprinkling of mangrove and mutton snapper taken in the same areas. The scenario holds true with the deeper you go, the bigger the fish.
There is some exciting news in the Middle Keys as the ballyhoo have reappeared on the reef edge, which has spurred some sailfish activity. As the numbers of ballyhoo increase, we will see more sailfish caught and released everyday.
Good numbers of king, cero and Spanish mackerel are hanging on and around the patches and off the edge of the reef. The largest kings are found off the deeper wrecks and rough bottom areas in over 100 feet of water.
Most Captains I’ve talked with are entertaining their clients by catching the kingfish on 12-pound test, which makes for some heart-stopping runs. Live baits, such as pilchards, ballyhoo and small blue runners, are working well but no mackerel can resist a shrimp tipped jighead.
The blackfin tuna are out at the hump, but they’ve been finicky lately. They’re not the peewee footballs, but nice 20-pounders, so it’s worth the effort.
Bay and gulf fishing
I’ve had reports of cobia showing up in mangrove snapper chum slicks. This fishery will heat up through the month of March.
The week’s best catches
The SeaSquared spent the week fishing in Hawk Channel, on the patch reefs and at the reef edge. Groups from Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio all dined at local restaurants on the hogfish and porgy, mangrove, mutton and yellowtail snapper they caught. Countless large kingfish and Spanish mackerel are warming up in my smoker. The highlight was 11-year-old Chloe from NJ, who caught a pretty yellowtail snapper on her first fishing trip ever.
Marty and RoseAnne McCaffrey, Marylou and John Goodman from Punta Gorda FL
Mike Hanafee from Norwalk CT
Linda and Jeff Sutton from Boone NC, Mike Hanafee from Norwalk CT, Fred Felice from Toms River NJ
Heinz Hegmann from Newtown Square PA and Bob Hammerle from Sayville NY
The Brown family from Westfield NJ
Jeff and Linda Sutton from Boone NC, Bill Drenning from Eastpointe MI
Mark and Dana Hedin, Jamie and Joel Smith from Wisconsin
Tom and Marsha Phillips from Dublin OH