Weekly Florida Keys Fishing Update from Capt. Dave Schugar and Sweet E'Nuf Charters
Archive for December, 2009
Monday, December 28th, 2009
MARATHON, Florida Keys — Flags flying from both sets of riggers is always a good sign. That’s right lots and lots of sailfish this week. I talked with a few buddies from up the road with multiple days of double digits. I was able to get out there and get 2-11 one day and 8-11 another day. I had a lot of miss-haps the first day but we got it together on the second day. Sometimes, clients who have never fished for sails before can be a little frustrating, but hey, if they have fun that’s the goal. You have to let the fish eat and sometimes letting the line fly off of the reel is the last thing inexperienced anglers will let happen. We lost a few fish this way and the others we had just came unglued after a while. All in all we had a great time and these people will never forget the constant action of sailfish action.
I had better luck late in the afternoon with the sailfish. It just might have been the fact that it wasn’t till the afternoon when we ended up ten miles down the road where we had all of our sailfish bites. The bite was absolutely off the chain from 12:00 to 4:00 out in front of Bahia Honda. 90 feet of water was the zone, if you ventured out past 100 feet I had no bites and if you got inside of 90 feet you got ate up by the mackerel. I had a great drift because I never put the engines in gear, I just pointed the boat down sea and turned on the autopilot and away we went for an eight-hour trip. I could have turned the engines off, but I like to have at least one running to keep up the juice to my batteries from the bait-well running. We caught a few kings while we were trolling, nothing huge but decent fish from 10-18 pounds.
The reef took a nosedive later this week but no worries it will return soon. Early in the week the yellowtails were hot along with a few grouper and plenty of cero mackerel if you wanted to catch them. Some muttons have being caught on the bottom and flat-lining while you’re anchored up. If your not getting any bites while you’re yellow tailing, try and drop down in leader to produce some muttons and shy bottom fish.
Looking to get out and catch a broadbill, then get out there while the bite is still hot. Many reports are coming in about how great the fishing has been for them. Picking the right weather is essential for success for sword fishing in the daytime. Many people are a little intimidated with this style of fishing, but it really isn’t that hard. Just get out there and do it. Big Time Bait and Tackle and Cudjoe Sales are very knowledgeable and are glad to get you set up with all the equipment and terminal tack required to fish for these tasty fish. While you’re out there the tunas have been biting at the humps, but watch out for the sharks, they have been bad on some of the days. Jigging and live baiting have been the only way to get the bigger fish, but if you troll, there are some smaller ones readily available to engulf one of your feathers or all of them.
Good luck and happy New Year. For those of you that want to learn or just want to catch fish please call soon, my calendar has been filling up fast for the next two months.
Monday, December 21st, 2009
MARATHON, Florida Keys — Happy holidays everyone. It is usually pretty quiet down here the week before Christmas and it seems that this year is following normal trends. With a fresh blanket of snow in the northeast we seem to be pretty cozy down here in paradise.
The sailfish action has been steady with 2-4 fish as a daily average. Most of the fish were found tucking up along the edge of the reef. Putting the time in with slow trolling live baits has produced some nice action with kings and dolphin while waiting to be attacked by wolf packs of sails. During the midday the bite has slowed down and I would recommend dropping down on wrecks and the edge of the reef for some mutton and grouper action until later in the day when the sails pick back up again. There have been some sprays from bait showers inside the reef from 20-40 feet of water and using your tower you will see if they are from mackerels or sails. There has been a great push of mackerels in the shallows.
The mackerel fishing has picked up considerably since last week. Hoards of Spanish and cero mackerel have been feasting on the abundant bait from inside of Hawks Channel out to the patches. Trolling spoons or medium size crank baits works really well to help locate a big school. Once you have located a big school you anchor up and chum. While you’re chumming you can use shrimp, which seems to be the best bait for them, small pilchards, chunks and strips to have fun with these guys on light tackle. You can even use your fly rod, which is pretty cool as the mackerel scream line off of your flimsy noodle of a rod. The current allotment is 15 per person, but you can’t freeze this fish, so only keep as many as your going to eat fresh or put in the smoker, because they do make some of the best smoked fish when done right. My buddy Chris Kilmas has probably the best smoke fish I have ever tried. I have been smoking fish for a long time and he blows past me with his smoked fish. He will be smoking some mackerel I gave him this past weekend, I can’t wait till it gets done.
This time of the year we get heavy north winds which tends to keep people from fishing. This isn’t always necessary if you knew about the great fishing we have in Hawks Channel and on the patches. You might have to move around a bit until you find a good spot when you do, man-o-man it can be some exciting fishing, never knowing what will swim by the boat next. Big sharks, cobia, grouper, kingfish, mackerel, all kinds of snappers, and some pretty big, use hawks channel as a super highway. Finding rock piles scattered through the channel the fish use these as feeding stations, kinda like our rest stops on the turnpike. You never want to fish on top of the rock pile but instead anchor along side of it. If you don’t produce anything after a half-hour move to another rock pile until you find one with fish on it. Sometimes the fish will come to you if you chum long enough.
We need everyone to get involved and band together, because we need to get lobbyists to fight for our cause. There is a two-part amendment, which is going to be devastating to our economy if passed. ‘If approved, the closure will affect federal waters in the South Atlantic region from approximately 240 feet deep seaward and prohibit fishing for or possession of speckled hind, and warsaw grouper, as well as snowy grouper, blueline tilefish, yellowedge grouper, misty grouper, queen snapper, and silk snapper. The deepwater closure excludes golden tilefish, a species generally found over mud bottom and not likely to co-occur over the hard bottom habitat preferred by speckled hind and warsaw grouper. The closure is based on the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee’s recommendation that an Allowable Biological Catch of zero (0) landings be implemented for both speckled hind and warsaw grouper. Currently, fishermen are allowed to keep 1 fish per vessel per trip and sale is prohibited for these two species. The amendment will prohibit all fishing for, possession, and retaining speckled hind and warsaw grouper.’ They are doing this to protect the deep-water reefs not because of over fishing. This is an outrage because they have no idea that there is even a problem, it is just another elaborate scheme that the tree huggers and their lobbyists are trying to do to keep us from making a living from a great renewable resource. Please help us by joining together so we too can get a lobbyist to fight for us. Email me at email@example.com and join the fight.
Monday, December 14th, 2009
MARATHON, Florida Keys — Hogfish, it’s what’s for dinner. Hogfish has to be one of the best fish we have down here in the Keys and they are all over the place right now. I have been taking my friends out to the patches and we have been shooting our dinner. Hogfish have to be the easiest fish to shoot; they turn sideways to make it easier to shoot them when confronted. Not very smart for as fish go, but it sure is nice of them. You can find hogfish on reefs, and grass beds. I usually will find them on the outskirts of the patches. These fish can change colors in an instant to blend into the bottom. It is really neat to see these fish change colors and they really do blend in amazingly. Most of the hogfish you will find in shallow water, but if you dive in the deeper reefs they can be abundant out there too. I will usually find bigger ones out in the deeper water, some up to five pounds or better. I donated the fish to the Monkey for a fish fry this week. My buddy Bobby Butler made some fried hogfish poorboys that were out of this world. He took the fillets and marinated them for a couple of hours in Coco Lopez, which is sweetened, condensed coconut milk. Then he breaded them with rice krispies and put coleslaw on a sub roll and man it was amazing. Thanks Bobby.
The sailfish action was a little slow this week but there was some great wahoo fishing. High speed trolling has been working well from 150-250 feet of water. Most people were using drails and plastics, but I talked to one of my friends up the road a bit and they were having some great luck with live speedos. They caught lots of kingfish and five wahoo from 20-40 pounds. One of my friends caught a few wahoo this week using ballyhoo with cone lures in front. The sailfish action was slow but a couple of days they turned on pretty good in the shallows. Following the bait sprays was the key this week. Finding the frigates diving was also a good indication of some action too. Live bait has been pretty easy to come by right now. There are lots of cigars here in Marathon, which is unusual, and plenty of pilchards on the flats from 79th street up to Valhalla. The ballyhoo can be found just about everywhere, but if you want the green backs they are back in the bay and they are all over the place as well.
The reef is still on fire with yellowtail, jacks, kings, muttons and groupers. Anchoring up can be so much fun this time of year. You can do all sorts of fishing while you’re anchored up on your yellowtail spot. I like to yellowtail fish first and while we are catching yellowtails I put down a couple of bottom rods with one large bait for grouper and a small bait for muttons. After we have enough yellowtails I will switch over and king fish either from a kite or just flat lining from the back of the boat. Big kings will circle your yellowtails and putting one up in the kite off the side of the boat will usually yield some big smoker kings. Most people don’t like to eat kingfish, but I will tell you from my own personal experience, they make great smoked fish dip. Besides, they really are a great sport fish, which is usually overlooked because of their poor food quality. I have caught many kingfish over 50 pounds and they are like fighting a large wahoo. They will make blistering runs and my favorite part is when they strike the bait on the surface, either exploding on the bait or coming fifteen feet out of the water with the bait in their mouth. Wintertime fishing is one of my favorite times of the year because you just never know what you’re going to get. You could catch dolphin, sailfish, wahoo, tuna, white marlin, grouper, muttons, yellowtail and other assorted snappers. There are sharks, and barracudas, and numerous kinds of jacks, which will test your will and your tackle.
Way out has been a virtually barren except for some sword fishing off the shelf and lots of big tuna at the humps. The tunas have been thick but so are the sharks. You just never know when the sharks will be bad, but most days this time of the year they seem to swarm the humps and the reefs. We dove the other day and the first three spots had a big bull shark swimming on them. We only stayed in those areas for a short time, because they bull sharks were starting to investigate us, so not to tempt fate we moved. The jigs and live bait were the only way to get the big tunas to bite. If you trolled you only caught bait size tunas. Fishing further in front of the hump can help keep the sharks from getting your tuna, but you really are at their mercy.
Good luck, it looks like the rain missed us this week, and I looking forward to the next front, hopefully it will spark up the sailfish bite.
Monday, December 7th, 2009
MARATHON, Florida Keys — Rain, rain, go away, come back some other day. Our lawns have been taken care of this week with all the rain we have been having. It has made it very soggy out on the water. Even with all the rain it hasn’t seemed to effected the fishing though.
Sailfish have been pouring down the reef with some pretty good dolphin action too. This really has been the first time I have seen any dolphin in quite some time now. We got a pair of slammers earlier in the week. We found the dolphin right on the color change where there happened to be a really nice rip. You could hear the difference as the Gulf Stream was rushing by. The change was anything but subtle. The color change plus the weed line and the rip all were telling me there were fish there. The inside edge was the cleaner of the two and that’s where we found the dolphin in 150 feet of water. There were some schoolies mixed in as well. There has been plenty of sailfish action most of the days. Only a couple of days this week were the sails hard to come by. Slow trolling was pretty productive for me, but flying the kite might have been tough with all the rain, but I am sure someone was, somewhere. The depths where most of the fish were located at were from 130 feet to 165 feet. The boats with towers did well in with the sails, sight fishing in 20 to 40 feet of water. The cobias are picking up on the ocean side as well. If you have a tower, I would start looking for the rays around noon while sun is high. The overcast conditions, makes it a little more challenging to spot those rays.
The yellow tailing is really good right now with most of the fish from 1-2 pounds. I haven’t hit some of my deeper spots, which have bigger fish because the bite has been so good from the 65-40 foot area. You will find, as the water gets colder, the concentrations of fish in the shallower water will be the ticket. I didn’t hit the patches this week but I was told by many different captains that the bite had turned off. I am sure they are biting somewhere; you just might have to look around a bit. We have been hitting the patches hard so maybe we caught them all, ha-ha, not a chance. Most likely they have turned off because they were feeding at night on the full moon. When we get a full moon the light, which is generated out there is just dumbfounding. It really lights it up and many times you don’t even have to turn on the overhead florescent. Using shrimp on the patches can greatly increase you hogfish catch. I like drifting in the shallows where there isn’t as much rock but mixed with grass patches. I generally use a small jig witch you can drag on the bottom. I like to drag it a bit then I let it stay on the bottom by letting out a little line as we drift slowly. Now this technique can only be done when the wind isn’t honking.
When the wind was down, many boats went out for swords, catching lots. A few 200+ pounders and a bunch of 100-150 pounders were caught this week during the small window we had. I am itching to get a swordfish charter; I just can’t wait to get out there. Well, when I venture out that far it is deep drop time too. I got the itch for some snowys and tiles. It seems like forever since I dropped for them. I really miss my plate full of some deepwater fried fish.
I hope they don’t shut our entire deep dropping down. They are talking about shutting all bottom fishing down from 270 feet of water and out. Say goodbye to all of the deep dropping and all of those tasty critters. If they do that, the tackle shops are going to be stuck with thousands of dollars of merchandise, which will become useless. They wont be able to sell any more electric reels and all the tackle that goes with it. I don’t know if the Government really understands the severity of our problems when they completely shut down a type of fishing. A total shut down is what they are scheming behind closed doors with the tree hugging lobbyists. These people are absolutely off their rocker.
A few months back we went to a meeting about how they want to shut down permit fishing so that you cannot even target the species. And this is a fish where 99% of the fish caught are released unharmed back to fight another day. They openly admit that their data is wrong and incomplete. They showed us a graph, which was showing landings and one year they had 600,000 pounds landed. Right next to the number there was a symbol. This symbol stated, ‘this number was generated by one fisherman landing one permit.’ So they took the liberty to multiply this one mans catch by 100,000 to come up with a number so that they could show this 600,000 pound number, in order to have a reason to shut down the fishery. This is the same thing the scientist, have been doing with the global warming controversy. I believe that there needs to be some sort of system to keep the scientist honest. It seems that they don’t mind fudging the data as long as the grant money keeps flowing in. Now, that I got that off of my chest, have a great week out there, it’s going to be rainy, but you might as well make the most of it while we still can.