Weekly Florida Keys Fishing Update from Capt. Dave Schugar and Sweet E'Nuf Charters
Archive for January, 2010
Monday, January 25th, 2010
MARATHON, Florida Keys — It is feeling more and more like the Keys with temperatures up in the 80’s, just where we like it. The warmer weather has warmed up the shallows, which can be essential for finding our bait for the day. Pilchards are showing back up and as well as the pinfish, so get out there and get your bait for some hot offshore fishing. The ocean side has bee red hot no matter which of the numerous species you like to target.
Sail fishing has been as hot as it can get from the showers in the shallows to the packs of sails tailing down sea off the edge of the reef. I haven’t been sail fishing this week but, from what I gathered from my friends and other charter captains, it is good out there, really good. Using live bait will generally always be better than trolling dead bait, but one of my friend got three sails on dead bait, along with some dolphin and blackfin tuna. There are many different ways to fish for sails down here, so pick the best way you know how and go get some. When the wind blows you shouldn’t let it get you down, you can always anchor up on the reef.
The reef has been producing some quality yellowtails from 45-60 feet of water. While your fishing for your yellowtails, put out a kite with a blue runner or a yellowtail for a chance of a smoker king or wahoo. When your chumming and you have a big school of fish behind your boat, there will be some other predatory fish lurking back there for an easy meal. If your chum is going the same direction as the wind, add a couple of big split shots your kite. This will allow your kite to veer to one side or the other. You don’t want your kite bait back in your yellowtail school for two reasons. The first reason is that it might scare your school of yellowtail, and by placing it amongst all the other fish it may get lost amongst the school of yellowtails. So if you get your kite to skirt to the outside of the school it will be an easy target by the predators. Most predators will attack a bait that gets separated from its school first. I also would recommend that you make your kite go to the side closer to the deeper water. When we have North winds you may not even need any split shots if the current is strong enough. Try out this method, it really works. If you never have used a kite and feel intimidated with it, hire me to run your boat for the day, I will teach you how to work the kite and many other methods, which all of us captains use down here.
Wreck fishing has been really good; many different species are being caught in the deeper water. Amberjacks seem to be on all the wrecks, but if you are persistent you might get yourself some nice muttons that have been in the 10-18 pound range. Groupers have been biting well, but unfortunately we will have to release all of them due to the new grouper regulations. The bait has been easier to catch as the warm water returns to the shallows.
Deep dropping is on fire, from snowy grouper to queen snappers. Some tilefish are being caught and of course the barrels have been biting as well. I like to use cut bait and squid when I am deep dropping, it gives them a choice, even fish like a choice. Swords are biting but if you are as unlucky like we were this last trip you can fight a sword for a couple hours only to have a shark eat it before you can get it in. I swear that it was a jumbo because he fought really hard the whole time, and usually when they fight hard on the bottom, it’s a big one. Large swordfish do one of two things when you hook one. They will fight hard and stay down for many hours or fire up to surface faster than you can reel in the line. We had numerous bites and hook ups, but the fish were just coming unglued on this trip. Well I guess that’s why they call it fishing and not catching. The more frustrating thing was that my friend Capt Will Wagner fishing right next to me landed two fish. My mother told me there would be days like this.
Have a great week, and catch some fish!
Monday, January 18th, 2010
MARATHON, Florida Keys — The mercury is climbing up and so are all the anglers. My phone has been ringing off the hook since the weather broke. Massive fish kills all over South Florida. Any fish that didn’t make it to deep water died from the temperature change. The water temperature got down to 53 degrees from 70 degrees. There is a temporary closure on most of the inshore species such as snook, tarpon, and bonefish, this means that you can’t take, possess or take out of the water. From what I was told, the Everglades got wiped out to the point, which the scientists think that all most every fish that didn’t leave died due to the cold temperatures. There was a weed line in Hawks Channel a couple of days ago, but no weeds, it was composed of all the dead fish and it stretched as far as I could see. The Keys fishing charters are dependent on our resources and if people find out that there aren’t any fish left it could detrimental on our small economy down here. The inshore species have definitely taken a hit but they will return. Just about every year I hear about the red tide up the west coast of Florida and once it clears the fish return, so don’t worry everyone the shallow water fishing will return.
On another note the offshore fishing has been on fire. The reef, and beyond have plenty of fish to bide your time until the shallows heal. The sailfish bite went off this week with many captains getting double digits or at least catching a few. The bite has been better up to the east from Tennessee to the west end of Long Key bridge and east of Sombrero light about two miles. Lots of spraying fish, so those of you with towers take advantage of it, but the rest of us the slow trolling with ballyhoo has been deadly as well. Big kings and wahoo have also been good, so when live baiting use four to six inches of #5 wire in front of your hook. Don’t worry about the sailfish seeing it, they won’t. I use an Albright knot from my leader to the wire but if you don’t know how just use a 50-pound swivel. There has been a few big blackfin tuna and one yellowfin tuna from what I heard from a friend. My friend Jay who runs the Sea Scape hotel got himself a nice yellowfin while trolling the edge so you just never what might pop up. This is why fishing can be so much fun, you just never know what’s going to bite. Put some live bait and you can’t go wrong.
I have been wreck fishing this week in between the eight footers, which can get dicey when you’re backing up into the sea, but we pulled off nice loads of muttons and amberjacks. I found that most of our mutton bites came from split-tailed ballyhoo laid on the bottom where as the AJ’s just wouldn’t leave the live bait alone. Bait was really tough to get, even the pinfish were hard to get. Any spot shallower than 25 feet of water was barren and even out deep the bait was still scarce. We were able to get enough bait for the day after about 2 hours of hunting. When this happens I stay out longer to keep the smiles on my clients faces. Working for all the different Captains and boat owners over the years got me thinking. They always got upset with me when I came in late, so now that I own my own boat, I stay out, as long I want.
Good luck everyone and play safe.
Monday, January 11th, 2010
MARATHON, Florida Keys — With all the bad weather we had to pick the right days to get out this week. I did manage to get out and find some quality fish. When the wind blows or it’s just too cold to go fishing you can use this time wisely and go over all your safety equipment. Having the operational emergency equipment is important no matter who you are. Even if you never need them, always check your fire extinguishers to make sure they are fully charged and check out your first aid kit to make sure that everything is good and not moldy. We have a problem with mold down here from the humidity and even if you never opened it could be ruined. Most of you already know that your flares have an expiration date so check them and if they are expired keep them onboard and get some new ones. Even though they are expired it couldn’t hurt to have a few extra. They might be out-dated but they will most likely work.
We went sail fishing in the beginning of the week and it wasn’t great but we did catch two fish. Fishing for sails can be a waiting game sometimes and if you are impatient you can miss out, but sometimes making a move can also turn your day around. Sometimes it can be a coin toss, but what I look for is an outcropped piece of reef when I set up for sails. The bait holds up on the shallow patches and will get pushed out by the tide and wind, game fish such as sailfish will gather in these areas. So look on your chart for areas with really shallow water near the drop off. Before you set up, look around, ask yourself a few questions such as; is there any bait around, is there a color change in the area, and is there a temperature change in the area. If you can say yes to at least one of these questions, fish the area and see what happens.
Before the weather broke on Friday I mutton fished two days in all this wind and we caught some choice fish. We didn’t set the world on fire but we were able to put a nice catch of muttons together with numerous amberjacks. I was able to keep my clients with bent rods and smiles on their faces. Live bait was also the key. I like to drop a live pinfish or grunt and a split-tailed ballyhoo to keep them honest. You just never know what they will eat but when they choose one of the two I will drop the same bait on both rods next time. But in this case the live bait was working while the dead bait just didn’t seem to get noticed. Most of the muttons were from 12-15 pounds and the amberjacks were from 20-30 pounds with a few small ones around 10 pounds. The AJ’s were biting on every wreck, but the 140-180 foot wrecks is where we caught the muttons. We also caught some muttons on live bottom in 140-165 feet too.
Finally we got a break from the wind on Friday, so we went offshore to do some tuna fishing, deep dropping, and sword fishing. The tuna bite was hot, but the fish were only a few pounds. I kept a few for bait and we went to my queen spot down to the west and the bite was on. We dropped five times and caught fish every drop. We ended up with two queens around fifteen pounds and two around ten pounds. We also dragged up a big amberjack, which we released unharmed to fight again. Four big queens were enough and the day was getting late so we headed further west to drop for swords. We had a really long first drift and no bite so we started to bring up the bait when all of a sudden we got a bite a couple hundred feet off the bottom. We stopped the retrieval of the bait and slowly dropped the bait down so to put slack in the leader and it was just enough to allow the sword to eat the bait. Hooked up, we ended up landing a 100 pounder, not a big one but it was getting late so we bagged the fish and headed home. What a cooler, four jumbo queens, and a decent sword to boot.
Good luck this week and wear layers to keep warm.
Monday, January 4th, 2010
MARATHON, Florida Keys — Brrrrrrr, it is just down right cold outside. Global warming, what? Fishing this week was a bit off for the weather we have been having, but it might be caused by the Gulf Stream being so far offshore. Most of the week the Gulf Stream has been around 20-26 miles offshore which puts a big gap between it and the edge of the reef. The green water, which has had little to no current, has pushed all the way out to the beginning edge of the continental shelf. There has been bait all the way out to the blue water, but as soon as you enter the blue water the water temperature jumps up from 74 degrees to 77.5 degrees.
Sail fishing has suffered as did most of the offshore species, but I did find a couple fish each day while fishing in tight to the edge of the reef. The grass has made it hard to troll, but trying to find fish in the shallows is really tough because of the milky water conditions. We found some nice big kings while slow trolling for sails with a deep bait. The ballyhoo are hoarding around the shallow banks on the Oceanside. Catching plenty of bait has not been the problem. I have talked to many captains this week and it seems to be a consensus, the sail fishing is slow, and it won’t get better unless the current comes back.
I ventured out to the deep water this week once to deep drop some, and we did very well with the groceries. We got plenty of queen snappers, barrels, and got one snowy grouper. The tunas at the hump are abundant and small, but if you get way out in front of the hump and drop your jig down 90 seconds you have a better chance of getting a larger tuna from 10-20 pounds. Once you get closer to the hump the small tunas are to ferocious to even get a jig far enough down to where the bigger fish might be. The bait of choice for the queen snapper was tuna, but the barrels only eat squid. When dropping down for snowy grouper use big baits and squid to entice these numerous and tasty fish to bite. There is talk about the closure of these deepwater species, but they have no real data, if they talked to us charter fisherman and the commercial fisherman they would see that there is no need to shut down all of the fishing in the deep reefs from 300-out. They shut down a 25 square mile last year and we all had no problems with that, but I guess it wasn’t enough for them because now they are threatening to shut all the deep water off so that no one can use this resource which is not in any danger of being over fished. They shut the commercial fishing of snowy groupers to 150 pounds. These guys which fish for these fish have no problem catching there limit, and didn’t have a problem catching their limit when they could catch 600 pounds. Something is very fishy, no fishery is safe, someone is behind in ruining the Florida Keys and they are hurting us with all this talk about shutting down all fishing down here. Make limits, we will abide by them; don’t shut down a fishery especially when you don’t have the data. I recommend that everyone join the RFA; this is an organization, which is fighting for our fishing rights while preserving the fish we are so eager to catch and eat.
If the seas got you down, don’t let it. You don’t have to go far to have some fun and catch plenty of fish. This past week the mackerel and snappers have been everywhere just inside of hawks channel and you can make a whole day of catching. Putting a large bait on the bottom while your chumming in this area can produce great results from goliaths to sharks. Remember hawks channel is like a super highway for fish, it is like those guys trying to sell flowers at the off ramps, use the bumps and lumps like the flower sellers to catch your fish.
Good luck and be safe.