Marathon Florida Keys Weekly Fishing Update – Feb 16, 2011

Marathon Florida Keys Weekly Fishing Update, Capt. Chris Johnson, SeaSquared Charters, February 16, 2011


From all reports, the sailfishing has been off and on throughout the Keys with most of the action occurring at Tennessee Light up through Islamorada and Key Largo.

Congratulations to Capt. Scott Leon and his team aboard The Edge on their win in the Hawks Cay Sailfish Open Tournament last weekend.  Kudos to all the anglers who weathered conditions from flat calm on Friday to rough on Saturday.  The event attracted 170 anglers aboard 28 boats.  Releases totaled 143 sailfish.


The most reliable pelagic action continues to be the kingfish.  These mighty mackerel are being taken anywhere from Hawk Channel on out to the deeper wrecks in 200 feet of water.

Anglers fishing the shallower areas and out to the reef edge are having success anchoring and live chumming with pilchards to draw the most strikes from the kings.  Drifting and bucktailing in depths from 100 feet and out has been producing good catches as well.


Near the bottom on the wrecks, there is still a good amberjack bite.  The AJs are taking just about any large live offering, such as blue runners or grunts.  Large live pinfish will also work well.

Mutton snapper 

There are also some respectable size mutton snapper patrolling around the wrecks and artificial reefs.  Live pilchards or smallish pinfish will do the trick.


It pays to keep a 20-pound spinning rod handy as cobia have been caught following a hooked amberjack or mutton to the surface.  Throwing a live grunt or live pinfish should result in a tasty cobia on your hook.

Snapper on the reef 

The shallow reef venues are yielding the most consistent snapper catches.  Yellowtail, mangrove and mutton are your target species. 

There are plenty of “throw back” grouper taking the baits intended for the snapper.  Be patient.  Just a couple more months and we’ll all be enjoying a fresh grouper dinner.


Kingfish as well as Spanish and cero mackerel are present on and around the patch reefs and channel humps.  Live baits and bucktails are getting the job done nicely.  The humps in Hawk Channel are holding a bounty of panfish, including hogfish, porgy and all variety of snapper.   

Mangrove snapper and more in the bay and gulf 

The mangrove snapper bite remains good in the bay and gulf waters.  There are many mangroves in the 14- to 16-inch range, and they are responding to all variety of live and cut bait.

Mixed in are loads of Spanish mackerel, bluefish and hard-fighting jack crevalle to keep everyone entertained between snapper bites.  There are also good numbers of sharks moving up shallower, with bulls, blacktips and lemons the most prevalent.

The week’s best catches

Three-year-old Emma Perry from New Jersey caught her first fish with me on the SeaSquared.  Her dad Jay set the hook and little Emma reeled in the mangrove snapper on her own Toy Story rod. 


Rich Peterson from Waukee IA and Eric Westergard from Jupiter FL spent a day with me catching their limit of mangrove snapper, a bunch of nice porgy and some bonus hogfish.  They enjoyed their catch cooked at Porky’s Bayside BBQ.


It was a mack attack on another outing on the SeaSquared.  Frank Tansley from Beachwood NJ, Jim Sollecito from Syracuse NY and Marathon and Ed Zinn from Rochester NY did battle with the mighty mackerel and came back to the dock with a mess of Spanish and a 15-pound king – all headed for the smoker.

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