November is a time of feasting. While turkey may be the tradition for many, anglers in Marathon and the Middle Florida Keys gobble up a bounty of pelagic species.
Marathon and the Florida Keys Monthly Fishing Forecast – Capt. Chris Johnson, SeaSquared Charters – November 2010
With water temperatures dipping below the 80-degree mark, mass migrations of all variety of baitfish pour down both the Atlantic and Gulf sides of the Islands of Marathon. Hot on their heels are the pelagic species that feed on them.
The most commonly targeted of the pelagics are sailfish, cobia and king mackerel. Not to be forgotten, there are plentiful numbers of dolphin and wahoo in the Atlantic waters and Spanish mackerel are abundant in the Gulf and Bay.
When fishing Oceanside, look for bait sprays or frigate birds low on the water. Navigate to the area, and typically you’ll quickly see which predator is attacking the hapless baitfish. Most often, it’s a sailfish or dolphin creating the panic.
Use your 20-pound spinning gear with 40- to 60-pound fluorocarbon leaders and circle hooks for greatest results. The most productive tactic is to match the hatch the best you can with the live bait you’re throwing at the pelagics. A good all-around choice is live ballyhoo, but pilchards work equally well.
If luck is with you, you will encounter cobia swimming along the surface. Often mistaken for small sharks, these sleek and powerful pelagic fish are very strong and a thrill to catch. Moreover, they rate among the highest for food quality.
Live baiting and trolling both work equally well for catching the king mackerel. If trolling is your chosen method, I recommend a #3 ½ Drone spoon rigged on a planer. If you have downriggers, use them to keep your baits in the 30- to 40-foot depths.
The reef and wrecks
On the wrecks in the same depths, there are good numbers of mutton snapper, amberjack and jack crevalle taking advantage of the plethora of food. Again, live ballyhoo and pilchards are top notch, but the trusty pinfish will also serve you well.
On the reef, the yellowtail snapper bite remains consistent and is rich with flag size fish. There is also a respectable grouper bite on the bottom. While you’re anchored up on the reef, it pays to keep a couple of live baits on the surface with a short trace of wire to attract any passing pelagic species. Good baits are pilchards, ballyhoo, small blue runners and speedos.
The patch reefs come alive during November with a diversity of fish working their way down the beaches of the Middle Florida Keys. Shrimp, pilchards and ballyhoo all are good baits to use for the vast assortment of good-eating fish you’ll find on the patches.
Gulf and bay
In the Gulf and Bay, cobia and king mackerel are passing through on their way south for the winter. Additionally, Spanish mackerel traditionally make a strong showing in the Florida Bay waters near Marathon.
The Spanish mackerel will eat a wide variety of small bucktails, such as the Tsunami glass minnow in the 3/8 ounce size, retrieved quickly through your chum slick. Be sure to include a small trace of wire to prevent bite-offs. If there’s too much grass floating in the area you’re fishing, free lining baits such as shrimp or chunks of ballyhoo will work well.
Cobia, mangrove snapper and gag grouper should all be cooperating nicely on the Gulf wrecks. The king mackerel will also begin making a showing in the same areas. Live pinfish, pilchards and shrimp are your baits of choice, and cut baits will work for the snappers.
While you’re visiting or fishing in Marathon and the Middle Florida Keys, we invite you to check out Capt. Spider’s Casting for Charity Contest. Held on alternate Tuesdays at Salty’s Waterfront Grill in the 7 Mile Marina, the event tests your casting skills while raising money for local non-profit organizations.
Until next time … tight lines!
Capt. Chris Johnson, SeaSquared Charters, Marathon Florida Keys, 305.743.5305, FishingReportsFloridaKeys.com