Sailfish, mackerel & great bottom fishing – Florida Keys Weekly Fishing Update – 11/17/2010

With a cold front scheduled to arrive this weekend, the sailfish should start partying again. 


Marathon & Florida Keys Weekly Fishing Update – November 17, 2010


The sails have been spraying ballyhoo from Islamorada to Looe Key.  Catches have ranged from three to 10 a day with many more sightings, usually double the number caught.  This is typical as the fish are often satiated from the abundance of readily available ballyhoo. 

There have also been decent numbers of dolphin mixed with the sailfish on the reef edge.  Most are in the 15-pound class with the occasional slammer over 20 pounds. 

Live ballyhoo is the bait of choice for the sailfish and dolphin.  Look for showering ballyhoo or diving frigate birds, motor to the spot, pitch your baits and hang on.

King mackerel 

King mackerel are showing in great quantity on the reef line and in Hawk Channel.  They are aggressively attacking any live bait – pilchards and ballyhoo – even pinfish will work in a pinch.


If you’re interested in catching some big smoker kings, I suggest using live blue runners.  These baitfish are thick in the Hawk Channel area, and the kingfish can’t resist them.

Yellowtail snapper 

The yellowtail snapper fishing on the reef has been spotty.  Anglers in some areas have been experiencing good conditions and good fishing, while those in other areas have encountered the opposite. 

When fishing your favorite yellowtail spots, be sure to look around and find the fish before you put your chum out.  Yellowtails have a tendency to move from shallow to deep on a daily basis.  Copious amounts of chum and the usual assortment of baits – filleted ballyhoo, shrimp, and small chunks of sardines – will do the trick.

Mangrove and mutton snapper 

On the patches in the Middle Keys, there remains an excellent mangrove snapper bite, with lots of fish approaching the 5-pound mark.  Mixed with the mangroves are good numbers of fair size mutton snapper, many averaging 4 to 8 pounds.

These snapper are taking live pilchards and live ballyhoo fished back in the chum slick.  Small pinfish will also work. 

Hawk Channel  

Fish the patch reefs in Hawk Channel and you never know what you’ll bring up.  This area has come alive with all variety of snapper and grouper as well as Spanish, cero and king mackerel and hogfish.

I recommend taking shrimp as well as pilchards or pinfish.  Use a 3/8 to ½ ounce jig head, present your baits on or near the bottom and get ready for some good rod bending.

Bay and Gulf 

In the bay waters, the mangrove snapper bite is still very good and the Spanish mackerel action is getting better.  Further out in the Gulf, there is plenty of gag grouper plus cobia, Spanish mackerel, bluefish and jack crevalle.

This weekend’s front should bring with it another wave of mackerel.  The kings should show up in good numbers, as they tend to follow the blues and Spanish macks south to warmer waters.

SeaSquared Charters has been fishing in Hawk Channel and on the patch reefs.

Howard Preston, Jerry and Dan Witkowski, fishing friends from the Minneapolis area, caught three red grouper to about 7 pounds, four nice mutton snapper with the largest at 10 pounds, two delicious hogfish, a couple of nice size mangrove snapper and a flag yellowtail.  We threw back many keeper size fish in favor of the largest specimens.


Father and son anglers, Andy and Doug Vissicchio, caught lane snapper, a bunch of mangroves to 17 inches and a 7-pound red grouper.  They also boated four mutton snapper, including a hefty 10-pounder that Andy caught on a 12-pound rod.  They rounded out their catch with a 15-pound king mackerel that’s headed for the smoker.

David Barr and his fishing partners, Dora Potash and Bassi Kristmanns, had great success with 10 large mangrove snapper to 19 inches, five muttons to about eight pounds, six yellowtails in the 15-inch range and five Spanish mackerel whose destiny is smoked fish dip.

Until next time … tight lines!

Captain Chris Johnson, SeaSquared Charters, Marathon Florida Keys, 305-743-5305

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