MARATHON, Florida Keys — Brrrrrrrrrr, it’s starting to get cold, but the fishing is hot. The only type of fishing which is slow has been the dolphin. The sail fishing has been great, with lots of opportunities to get those beautiful acrobats of the winter. Heading out we witnessed many showers of ballyhoo being chased by mackerel and sailfish. Hundreds and sometimes thousands of baits exiting the water in a mystical ballet of life and death. Frigates birds dropping out of the sky usually is a sure sign of activity, which this time of the year usually means sailfish or dolphin. Since there are not too many dolphin around most likely all the frigates that I have seen are sailfish.
Whichever method of fishing you prefer has been productive this week. I talked to my buddy John Foster and he got sails and wahoo trolling dead baits along and outside the reef’s edge. But to get the numbers live baiting has been the key. Most bait will work but the bigger pilchards, threadfin, and ballyhoo seem to be the best baits. Yeah, nothing really has changed about the baits we use down here, but sometimes we do better on some days with certain baits. When fishing the sprays it is better to use baits, which will move franticly after it has be tossed toward a spray. Cigar minnows, pilchards, and threadfins are perfect for this tactic. If you are new at this or you don’t feel like running all over the place I recommend to use ballyhoo and slow troll from 130-160 feet. This seems to be the best area still. I did get a few fish in 100 feet, but most of the fish I caught trolling was in these depths which I stated above.
The snapper fishing is still awesome, and you don’t even need to go further than patches. This time of the year you will find that your deeper spots will not do as well as they did during the long summer months. If you come into a situation where your fish have moved off of your deeper spots, try finding your fish just up on top of the reef inside your original numbers. These fish are moving in closer this time of the year and you may not think of reef fish to be migratory, but they are, they will move a considerable distance because of food and temperature. I did very well this week with big mangroves and yellowtails on the patches, it seems with the clients that I had it was the best thing going for six people on a boat that wants lots of action. Fishing families is one of my favorite things to do because I can still remember long a go when my father used to take me fishing on charters. I also think that teaching kids to fish is also ensuring our future and showing kids what a beautiful place the ocean is.
If cobia is your game, we got a really nice one inside the reef, and it also seems that they are starting to show up on the rays in the 20-40 foot sandy patches from Tennessee Reef up to Caloosa Cove. If you are going the other direction, look for the rays from the west end of the 7-Mile Bridge to Bahia Honda Bridge. These patches seem to hold rays holding cobia. What you’re looking for are patches with plenty of sand around them. The gulf and bay are slap full of cobia if you don’t mind the run. I found some cobia only12 miles out from shore and the schools are getting bigger.
Good luck and be courteous to your fellow fisherman out there.