MARATHON, Florida Keys — This has been interesting fishing these past weeks! With the wind blowing from 15-25 knots, I have stayed close to shore. We fished the reef, which yielded nice yellowtail from 1-3 pounds and a few goliath groupers from 20-60 pounds. The current was slow but enough which allowed the chum to trickle down the reef. We also fished the thunderbolt and got mugged by sharks one day and the other day we were invaded by blue runners. Blue runners and small bonita have been swarming all month.
While fishing for grouper on my yellowtail spots we also got a few nassau groupers, which are protected and we released them unharmed to fight another day. When you got your yellowtail spot all chummed up it is always good to drop down some small baits like half of a ballyhoo or small pinfish for some great mangrove action.
Speaking of mangroves, the bite has been great at night. Don’t rush out there, because the bite hasn’t started ’til late. If you leave around 9:00PM you will be able to fish for a few hours to get your limit. Fishing out in Federal waters you are allowed to keep ten mangroves, but if you fish close to shore in state waters you may only keep five mangroves. Make sure you know where you are fishing so as to not accidentally go over your legal limit.
The bait has been abundant so you really don’t need to bring a lot out with you. Pilchards and gogs are swarming, and all you need to catch them is a few sabiki rigs or a cast net if you know how to throw one. I prefer to drift back large baits for the bigger mangroves. The small ones can peck at it until the big one comes and steals it from them. My rig is usually 40-pound leader with a small slip sinker like 1/16th –1/8th oz. I slowly drift back the bait until I get a taker and I feed the bait for about 6-10 feet before a set the hook. You don’t get every one, but if it is a big fish he will have that bait down his throat and you should hook almost all of them. You don’t need lots chum, just enough to keep the bait around the boat, which keeps the snappers there.
Towards the end of this week we fished for muttons and amberjacks. Since this is the last moon of the spawn we took advantage of it. We didn’t set the world on fire but we managed 3-6 muttons each day with lots of other action such as amberjacks, jack crevales, and kingfish. There has been an abundant amount of kingfish this week, which is a little unusual. We have kings all year round, but during the summer months they are few and far in between. We even got one that pushed 40 pounds but most of them are 10-15 pounds. They aren’t the best eating, but if you smoke them they are out of this world.
The dolphin picked up this past week, with fish from 6-30 pounds. I haven’t been out there, but my friends have shot out there a couple of times this week and have come back with some impressive catches. On Thursday, Big Time Bait and Tackle put on a tournament with Maui Jims Sunglass Co. I was one of the lucky individuals who took out one representative and writers from all of the major fishing magazines for a day of fishing. It was supposed to be a dolphin tournament, but since it was blowing 20-25 knots, we all weren’t going offshore…so they changed the rules to heaviest weighable fish.
I ended up winning with a 39-pound amberjack. It was just a friendly tournament, but the writer who caught the biggest fish won a trip to Hawaii. This whole trip was set up to let these writers experience the Maui Jim’s sunglasses. I got to try on a bunch of them and I am hooked. I really saw the difference between my Costa’s and the Maui Jims; I am a Maui Jim guy now. We also caught three large muttons around 18 pounds a piece.
Just to let everyone know, there is no oil down here and hotels are starting to drop their prices so come on down and enjoy the Keys like the rest of us are!