If it wasn’t tied down last week in the Florida Keys, it probably blew away. As if to trump herself, Mother Nature layered on a dip in temperature to the screeching winds.
Marathon & Florida Keys Weekly Fishing Update – Captain Chris Johnson, SeaSquared Charters – November 10, 2010
Good Florida Keys fishing comes to those who wait!
Now that our first cool front of the season has come and gone, it’s time to take a look at what good will come from it.
Primarily, this change in the weather will really spur the sailfish bite. As we’ve been reporting for the last couple of weeks, there is an abundance of baitfish for the sailfish to eat, but we have not yet seen many sails.
Now, with the cooling water temperatures to our north, the sailfish should be piling down to the Keys. The primary bait currently is ballyhoo. Having a live well full of these beaked prey will serve you well in achieving double-digit catches of the mighty sailfish.
You will find most of these fish in areas where there is a color change or current break, typically from the reef line out to 250 feet. Pitch out a live ballyhoo, cigar minnow or pilchard and you’ll be holding fast for a good fight with tasty rewards.
On the bottom around the wrecks and rough bottom patches, the mutton snapper bite should continue to be strong. There will also be aggressive jack crevalle, some approaching 20 to 25 pounds. The muttons are excellent eating and the jack crevalle are excellent fighting.
There are decent numbers of amberjack in the same areas as well as on the reef where the ballyhoo have attracted them to the shallower depths to reap the harvest.
Yellowtail, mangrove and mutton snapper
On the reef itself, yellowtail, mangrove and mutton snapper continue to bite very well. The larger flag ‘tails and muttons are coming from the deeper edge of the reef, with the 70- to 100- foot depths being most productive for big fish.
Copious amounts of chum help attract the heftiest of the yellowtail, and they’re hitting filleted pieces of ballyhoo as well as live pilchards. The trick is to throw a scoop of small pilchards into your slick, get the flags up and popping on or near the surface, pitch your hooked bait into the melee and hang on.
This tactic has been working well to attract the muttons as well as some very large cero mackerel and good size kingfish. It also pays to have a live ballyhoo or large live pilchard on a line or on a kite off to the side of the boat and slick to draw any curious sailfish or dolphin.
Huge variety of fish on the patch reefs
Angling on the patch reefs is about to explode as thousands of fish pour out of the Gulf of Mexico and Florida Bay to flee to the warmer Atlantic waters.
One of the first escapees is the delicious hogfish. Present a shrimp bait on the bottom and you’ll dine like a king. This time of year, the patches offer up a bounty of keeper size yellowtail and mangrove snapper, red, black and gag grouper plus cero, Spanish and king mackerel.
Options for the Gulf
As conditions clear up and temperatures stabilize on the Gulf side of the islands following the cool front, fishing for mangrove snapper on the inshore wrecks and around the grass banks will produce specimens in the 16- to 18-inch range.
You will also notice an uptick in the numbers and assertiveness of the Spanish and cero mackerel in Gulf waters. The lower water temperatures always stimulate the aggressive feeding nature of the mackerel varieties, and the passing of the cool front will accelerate the process.
Lots of chum and either live shrimp, pilchards or small pinfish will do the trick for both the snapper and the mackerel.
Further out in the Gulf, cobia and gag grouper should begin biting well as more and more of these fish migrate into warmer southern climes. Mixed in will be large king mackerel as well as an assortment of other fish, such a jack crevalle, Spanish mackerel and mangrove snapper. Live baits, such as pinfish or pilchards, work well for all of these species.