Weekly Florida Keys Fishing Update from Capt. Dave Schugar and Sweet E'Nuf Charters
Archive for August, 2009
Monday, August 24th, 2009
MARATHON, Florida Keys — Scattered showers has seemed to drive off some of the people off the water, but I have been getting out sporadically. The fishing offshore has been up and down with the dolphin. I have heard some people getting some fish in the weeds in about 600 feet. I sure haven’t seen too much though. The tuna have been biting well all week at the hump. One day the jigs work well, the other day only live bait works. You can always get a few small ones on the troll west of the hump itself.
There has been plenty of AJ action on the hump with some of the fish pushing 80 pounds. We caught a few and then my clients wanted to do something less physical. So we went deep dropping. The snowys are biting ok, but nothing over 20 pounds. The barrel fish bite is like clock work. I think they are one of the best tasting fish that you can get offshore. The trick is to get the small ones, ones that are less than 20 pounds, but for my friends, and me that is a challenge.
My Buddy John Foster has forgot about the way he used to fish, which has gotten him more and bigger dolphin, but he remembered catching more wahoo, and marlin before he started to run and gun. So he planned to blind troll this week and got himself a nice wahoo out off the continental shelf. Hey John, sometimes it is better to just do what comes natural.
The wrecks off of Marathon have been producing some nice muttons and amberjacks mostly, with an occasional African pompano or cobia. Yeah, cobia, it is a little unusual for this time of the year but there have been a few around. The kingfish have been really good in the mornings with deep baits either trolled or drifted, live or dead, it doesn’t seem to matter. I like to use live gogs on a dropper loop rig. They just can’t resist.
If you are unfamiliar with a dropper loop rig I will tell you. I prefer to use a light conventional reel, with at least 40-pound test. I use 50-pound braid, but you don’t have to use braid but it seems to not scope out as much. I attach a 30 foot wind-on leader of 60 pound mono which I tie a dropper loop just after my connection to the braid. I will use a swivel to attach my wire leader, which is #7 wire with a lead hook and a trailer. The lead hook is a 6/0 Mustad ultra point live bait hook and a #1 triple strength treble three inches away. I find that if you try to make your trailer too long you end up foul hooking most of your fish, which can lead to hooks pulling. I place my bait in the water and feed it back until I get to the dropper loop and attach one pound of lead with a snap swivel for easy disconnection. I will try to keep one down about 50 feet and the other all the way at the bottom. Of course I will run some live baits up on the surface. Once you hook a fish you will stop at the dropper loop and because you fish is still 30 feet away you can take off the weight and the fish wont get spooked by the boat and run. Once you get the lead off you will be able to wind the fish strait to the boat. If you have down riggers, well, then you don’t need this rig.
The reef fishing is awesome right now with plenty of yellowtails, mangroves and a few other off the wall species. Day or night the fishing is great, but if your going to fish at night the bite is late, so need to rush out there. There are plenty of gogs, and pilchards on the reef at night so bring some sabikis and a cast net.
Good luck and I will see you out there. If you were wondering about the free cruise to the Caribbean, you have to charter me out to receive the entry form. One lucky couple will get a nice getaway.
Monday, August 17th, 2009
MARATHON, Florida Keys — This time of year the dolphin should still be out there in great numbers, but it seems that this year the fish were here but just not as many as last year. For the most part this week the offshore bite was a bit slow with a few fish being caught in the 600-700 feet of water, which is about 12 miles to 18 miles. But as the week went on when the winds picked up there were 6-10 feet seas in 300 feet where I was told from a captain friend of mine who caught a nice catch of gaffers and some schoolies. Almost all the dolphin have been found under birds and large pieces of debris. You need to look for five birds or less, any more birds and you will most likely find skippies or bonitas.
The humps have slowed down, with mainly small tunas even with live bait. I was out there and we went through 300 pilchards and only got a few small tuna around 6-8 pounds. It was tough because of people not being courteous or just not knowing the ethics of a good fisherman. Basically what was happening was on every drift we had one of three other boats out there trolling right through our chum slick and so close one time actually sucked up one of our lines. We feed him all 300 yards of our braid to teach that jerk a lesson. Hopefully he got home, but I hope his seal on lower unit got breached. It was so frustrating that every time we sent up here comes one of these trollers right up the stern of my boat. There was a reason why these guys kept trolling up our slick, we had pilchards jumping out of the water and five frigates diving and tunas busting all behind the boat. We finally got fed up and left; it was the gross negligence of a fisherman with no concern about his fellow fisherman. I do believe that at least one of those guys just didn’t know what he was doing, but the other two were just blatantly disregarding any common sense.
Deep dropping has saved my offshore trips lately. It has been really great conditions for deep dropping. The snowys have been biting; as a matter of fact I just found a new spot, which is holding an enormous amount of snowy groupers. I found a ledge, which stretches about two miles and after catching two snowys we left. I will keep working the rest of that ledge when I have the right charter. I went to one of my usual spots where I get snowys, barrel fish, and tilefish. This time we only got barrel fish, but we got one that would have shattered the world record. It weighed 30 pounds, which is also the biggest one I have ever seen. I believe the record is 17 pounds and normally we get barrels weighing in at 15-25 pounds, I should try for the record one of these days. I still haven’t found any queens yet this year on my usual spots. I have a few spots where I catch queens but the Government has shut down two of the three spots where I catch queens, but I will find other spots where queens gather. We get queen snapper for about four months during the year on a regular basis.
The nighttime reef action has slowed down; the majorities of the fish have spawned already and are moving back where they came from. The snappers on the reef are still biting but not like they have been. It is still worth going nighttime snapper fishing, but your going to have to work a little harder that’s all. During the daytime the muttons have started biting a little better, it was tough year for us in Marathon on the muttons, but they are scattered along the outer part of the reef and on some of the wrecks, the smaller the wreck the better. The yellowtails are chewing and the size has started to get bigger. As we get closer to the Fall the yellowtails will be getting bigger, well it’s not that the fish are getting bigger it’s the fact that big fish will travel up and down the reef looking for food sources. It is very important to feed your yellowtails. People like to lean out the chum, but you really want to push as much chum as your pocket will allow you. The more chum the healthier and the faster your yellowtail will be. The wrecks have been loaded with amberjacks, and the kings are starting to show up in full force. Take advantage of the good kingfish bite, and you can release them if you have no use for them. I like to make sure I have a good de-hooker so not to harm the fish and to retrieve the hook.
Good luck guys. Oh yeah by the way, from this point on I will be giving away a chance to win a cruise for two to the Caribbean for a week. Every client from now on needs to ask for the application form. Thanks for reading my report and don’t forget about how great the bite will be in October. I only have 14 days left; sometimes November can be great too.
Monday, August 10th, 2009
MARATHON, Florida Keys — With the opening of the lobster season Marathon has been very busy. A lot of people mixing it up with diving and fishing, this is what the Keys is all about. I haven’t been diving for lobsters yet, but I will soon because the season is starting to wind down and with this pause in business I will have the time to get a few bugs for dinner. I have noticed a few people not following the rules of safety and this is one of the reasons why people are dying while lobstering. When divers get to far away from their boat they become a statistic, which can be avoided by staying closer to the boat, or have someone on the boat keeping up with the diver.
The offshore bite was hit or miss at the beginning of the week with mainly small catches of decent size dolphin. As the week progressed the dolphin bite got red hot with some schoolie action and larger dolphin being caught in abundance. Most of the big dolphin have been averaging 20 pounds with some up to 40 pounds. The tuna bite has been consistently good with some really big ones in the 20-35 pound class. Most of the dolphin action has been from the 600-foot line out to the 650’s, which is 12-17 miles from shore.
Deep dropping has been hit or miss, but really the current has kept me from dropping. When the current exceeds 3 kts I will try it, but usually it is too fast and you have to venture in closer to try and get out of the main current. The optimal current for deep dropping is from 1-2 kts; you still need some current to cover the ground. Sword fishing was a little slow lately, but last week there was some great catches and some great stories of the one that got away. The daytime sword fishing has been where the best bite is. The nighttime bite was slow and plenty of sharks to keep things interesting.
The nighttime snapper bite slowed down recently due to the full moon, but as the moon gets smaller the bite should increase. I have been averaging 2-5 pound mangroves and really small yellowtails. During the daytime the yellowtails have been great and decent fish from 1-3 pounds. I have been doing much better on the reef further to the west, somewhere around the Bahia Honda area. I haven’t heard about the mutton bite around town, but I have been tearing up the amberjacks, kingfish, and got an African pompano. Wreck fishing has been hot, but the sharks have been eating their share. I don’t see things changing much out on the wrecks, except for maybe some muttons catches to rise a bit.
PS: Greg, Chris, and Robert, you guys rock I had such a great time fishing with you guys, can’t wait to get those photos and hope to see you guys real soon.
Monday, August 3rd, 2009
MARATHON, Florida Keys — The rainy season has come with higher winds, which seems to have stirred up the dolphin bite. Most of the week the dolphin were not present except for a few sightings on debris. Towards the end of the week the winds have picked up to 15-20 kts and those willing to brave the eight-foot seas have prevailed. Unfortunately, I was not booked when the dolphin bite turned on but heard of some great catches. This time of the year most of us are wanting to go fishing, we just have to find some clients, and in this day and age people are hurting financially so clients have been hard to come by. The dolphin were found pouring through in 800-900 feet of water. Some of the guys got double digits slammers and some gaffers. The wahoo are still out there under weed lines and around large pieces of debris. So if you want big dolphin head on out, hold on it is going to be wild ride.
The muttons have been biting a bit, still a little slow for the moon phase and the time of the year. Marathon has a great mutton fishery but it is usually a month behind the rest of the Keys. I don’t know why, but it seems to be later spawn than the rest of the Keys. While you are mutton fishing you can catch numerous other species such as African Pompano, AJ’s, groupers, Yellow Jacks, Red Snapper, Mangrove Snapper, and even gigantic Yellow tail. The sharks have troubled a lot of us here in Marathon, but not to badly around the other islands. There is no depletion of sharks here in Marathon. As a matter of fact they do save some charters when people want to catch big fish. When the sharks are bad, I will fish for them, but when people want some good eating I will usually head further to the west out in front of Big Pine for some great mutton action.
The yellowtail is still swarming, with varying conditions. Using a bridle for your anchor line can help you catch more yellowtails. Setting up right for free lining for yellowtail can make a world of difference. When the yellowtails start to get finicky, I will limit the amount of lines in the water. Sometimes the yellowtail will dictate on how many lines they will tolerate while they are feeding. These fish can make you pull your hair out sometimes as they eat your chum and when you drift your line back it like Moses parting the Red Sea as your line parts the yellowtail. When this happens you will have to use lighter leader, longer leaders, and less lines in the water. Sometimes, when they are finicky like this, you can use really small baits, just big enough to stay on the tip of the hook. So small that if you try to push the bait passed the barb it will fall off. When yellowtail gets full they will still eat itty-bitty pieces of chum.
Nighttime reef fishing doesn’t get any better. Well, actually it will, as the moon gets smaller. These fish love the darkness as they feed ravenously on the bait found on the reef during the summertime. You can go almost anywhere from 25-45 feet of water and catch your limit. Try to fish away from anyone else. The worst thing you can do is fish next to someone who has already started a chum slick. My suggestion would be to find some good bottom with some fish on it a least a mile away from anyone. Now some nights it is tough to get away from people but the further away from the next fisherman the better because all the fish near your chum slick will be drawn to your boat. If you are close to another boat the fish will be split between the boats.
Good Luck, I will See You Out There!!