Weekly Florida Keys Fishing Update from Capt. Dave Schugar and Sweet E'Nuf Charters
Posts Tagged ‘black grouper fishing’
Monday, May 2nd, 2011
Well May 1st was the opening day of the long waited grouper season. I was going to take a few friends out for a grouper digging party, but it got belayed due to a last minute charter. I was called by a returning client whose friend was entered in the Seven Mile Marina grouper tournament and their captain had come down with an illness which wouldn’t allow him to fish. My crew consisted of Dave, who owns a construction business down here, John and Gigi who owns DOT PALM, and one of their employees, Shawn, and his girlfriend. So at the last minute, we gathered all the necessary equipment and tackle and left the dock at 8:00am and headed out to get the best grouper bait there is, white grunts. Most people overlook these small pan fish whose notoriety was known for grits and grunts back in the day. They come equipped with a natural grouper call, when they become distressed.
After loading the live well with 30 or so grunts we headed out to a wreck and couldn’t get anchored due to the fact that we had a short anchor line and not enough chain on John’s boat. He said after this day he was going to get the enough chain and anchor line so this never happens again. Since we couldn’t get anchored there, we headed just inside the wreck on the edge of the reef and set up. It wasn’t 30 minutes before we had our first bite, and soon after that we had 14 and 16 pounder in the box. Two very nice black grouper, but not big enough to win the tournament. So we waited for the boat that was on the wreck to leave, and when he did, we anchored right into the structure to get hooked up. After a 10 minute wait, we had a big bite and missed it. But it came back, and we got a solid hook up and John fought the fish for 15 minutes before landing a 21 pound black grouper.
Still not satisfied with the size, we kept fishing. Shortly after that Shawn hooked a monster which we ended up losing when the line got caught on the dive ladder bracket. It was getting late but I knew there are some big ones still here so we waited for another bite and it wasn’t long…but about half way up it got eaten by a shark. Knowing that the sharks are here now, we weren’t going to get anymore to the boat so we left to hit our final spot.
It only took a few minutes at the new spot before we had another 12 pounder in the box. We got another big bite and fought this fish up but lost it due to unseen circumstances…another fish lost due to the bracket on the boat so it was getting late and the weather conditions were getting worse so we headed in and weighed the fish in. Knowing that it would be a miracle that we could hold first place, someone upstairs was looking out for us and it held, we took first place with a 21.7 pound black grouper. If we could have kept the big one on we would have been heroes, because that fish was well over 40 pounds. Since I have caught black upwards of 60 pounds, I’m guessing what we had on I would defiantly say it was 40+ pounder. You couldn’t have a fish story if the fish didn’t get away, but knowing that he is still down there I will be back to capture him on a later date.
Come on down, we got room still left in May, It will be my pleasure to show you a great time and catch some of these powerful bottom dwellers. Book your trip through the web site and act soon to ensure you can get a day of some of the best fishing in Florida.
Tuesday, February 8th, 2011
This pas week we had a group of business owners who are clients of Auto Profit Masters that came to the Keys for a class and relaxation. What a great group of people from kids to grandparents I was able to find fish for them to catch.
The first day I took out Alan and his son, who fished me a couple of years ago. We headed out to the hump for a day of tuna fishing. When we arrived at the hump we saw an oasis of tuna. Tuna busting the water all over the place, jumping out of the water, terrorizing the bait on the surface. We caught tuna on the first drift and watching the tuna eat right behind the boat still gets my blood flowing. There were a few boats out there and they seemed to gravitate to my stern, causing them to scare the fish behind our boat to go down. To get the big tunas to eat behind the boat can take 100-300 freebees. We can only hold so many baits, so when another boat ruins our drift that’s just one less tuna we can catch. So when you are out at the hump be courteous, don’t troll or run your boat behind anyone, go in front of them so you don’t ruin their fishing.
After getting mugged by the other boats we started to jig the tunas and we were hooked up, mostly smaller ones than we were catching on the live bait. I had a game plan of jigging for a while until some of the boats to leave so we could live bait again. We caught lots of tuna on the jigs, and later in the afternoon we caught a bunch of 20-30 pounders on the live bait. I also dropped a bait down 400 feet to target amberjacks. The hump has some of the largest concentration of amberjacks which we were able to catch one over 50 pounds. What a great trip father and son, having the time of their lives catching and laughing, just a great time had for all.
On the next day I had out Brian and Kobi from Alaska, John and another Alan. Since I fished all last week for snappers, we decided to go out and find some for these guys. I went to one of my patches, which has been smoking hot all last week. We caught some, but it was a little slower than I had liked. We caught mangroves, mackerel, and yellowtail. They were on the smaller side, but they still taste good. We also caught about 15-20 small groupers, just about all the shallow water spices. We caught black, red, grasby, and red hind groupers. Most of them were small blacks around 18 inches long, but a good fight on light tackle. After catching 30 or so snappers we headed to some wrecks for some bigger fish. It was really slow, but I kept hitting different wrecks until we found one that was producing. It was a little weird, we would get bites on all the wrecks, but then after loosing a few the wrecks would shut down. This happens usually when there are predators around, but I think we just lost them in the wreck, which happens when we fish close to them. Finally we found a wreck, which produced a mutton snapper, our target species, and some amberjacks and almaco jacks. We kept one to smoke; they are wonderful for smoked fish.
On the third day I took out some of the staff from Auto Profit Masters, Will, Andy, Jake and Chad. It was a rough day to go to the hump but the bite was better out there then on the reef and wrecks. So we roughed it to the hump, a long trek out there but well worth it. We were the only ones out there and we caught tuna after tuna. The bite was as good or better than a couple days prior. The fish were all over 10 pounds, and some up to 20 pounds. Live bait wasn’t working very well, so we jigged most of them. Even in the rough water, these guys stuck it out and caught a tremendous amount of tuna. We didn’t keep them all, but enough for them to split up to take home. We had a close encounter with a hammerhead shark where I grabbed him by his dorsal fin. That’s how close he was to us, trying to eat our tuna we were able to get some good photos, and I got the silly notion to grab a hold of a green hammerhead shark. Once he noticed I had a hold of him he got upset and took off at a blistering speed. When we got back to the dock I had cut up some of the tuna for some fresh sashimi while my clients waited for their fish to be cleaned, another benefit of keeping my boat behind a restaurant that serves sushi.
On the fourth day I took out one of the Owners of Auto Profit Masters and his family. Since they had to do class that afternoon we were scheduled for a half-day charter, which would mean that we weren’t going back to the hump. So we hit the wrecks and caught amberjacks and almaco jacks. It was as good as it gets, double headers AJ’s take a while to get in, averaging a 30 minute fight we had enough time to catch eight 30-pound jacks. Smiles all around, the brute strength of these fish is tremendous. From catching walleye to 30 pound Jacks, there is just no comparison. Up in Colorado they fish for walleye and they were telling me it is like catching a plastic bag, they weren’t used to fish that fought back, so all in all they were extremely satisfied with there big fish experience.
Monday, May 10th, 2010
MARATHON, Florida Keys — Dolphin, dolphin, and more dolphin. It still isn’t a full-blown dolphin bite, but there are days which you can be proud of. It seems to be good one day and slow the next. I fished every day this week, but only one day was devoted to dolphin, and it was a little slow on that day. There were some fish caught around 12-15 miles from the beach, with a few big fish in the 30-50 pound range. I even heard of someone getting a 70 pounder…now that is a fish of a lifetime. Most of what I had seen and heard, schoolies have been scattered just about anywhere. Any day now we will see lots of large fish pouring through somewhere, I hope it is tomorrow.
While you’re out offshore, you might as well drop a few times for some snowys and other bottom fish. The bite has been great, but I wouldn’t know personally…I have been stuck on the reef catching my share of the yellowtails and groupers. The spots I have been fishing range from 75-98 feet of water. Finding a good big yellowtail spot isn’t hard to do right now…it’s their time to do the wild thing so they are very aggressive and hungry. I have been fishing this one spot where three bull sharks have taken up residence and occasionally a hammerhead or a tiger shark will show up to get their fill of these yellow delights.
The grouper bite has been great ever since it opened back up on May 1st. Hitting the wrecks and fishing the reef has produced a bunch of nice black groupers from 15-30 pounds. I have landed many goliaths from 30-150 pounds this week. We hooked many fish that I didn’t even slow down. I use a simple leader rig with 80-pound main line with 100-pound leader. Even with the drag locked down, I still can’t stop some of the fish before they get into the structure. I am thinking about going up in test, there are some slobby groupers out there. I am still looking to beat my 63-pound black grouper I got a few years back…one of these days, I can feel it! To fish for these dinosaurs, I like to use large yellowtails, up to 2 pounds, and grunts bigger than your hand. Even small-but-legal grouper can eat either of these baits; they have a voracious appetite and a mouth to match.
The swordfish bite was red hot, from what I heard from the boys. Summer time isn’t the best time to get a lunker, but there are lots of them out there. Even though you still might get lucky and get a 500 pounder, most of the big fish are on their way back up to the North, where they’ll be harvested by long liners up off of New York and Boston. Strip baits still seem to be the best baits along with squid. When you use squid you can sometimes end up with an oilfish, escolar, or even a pompfret. You just never know what you’re going to get when you drop a bait down 2,000 feet.
Good luck, and make sure you got all of your paper work onboard. Law Enforcement has been out in full force, especially if you are diving…those dive flags seem to attract them. Make sure you are abiding by all the new laws, or it could cost you.
Sunday, April 11th, 2010
MARATHON, Florida Keys — Spring is here, thank God. It seems that our cold days are in our past. The water temperature has been warming and soon we will be in full swing with lots of dolphin. The Gulf Stream has moved in and out this week, this has caused the shallower water to warm as well as the heat from the sun too. Keep you eyes and ears open because it isn’t going to be long before the dolphin come pouring through.
I have been all over the pace this week. I fished the deep, the shallow and all the places in between. In the beginning of the week we went out for tunas at the hump and did very well. Most of the tunas were perfect size, not too small to eat and not too big where the meat gets really red. I prefer the 10-20 pounders…they have pinkish meat and I believe it is the best tasting. We filled the cooler with all the tuna my clients could eat and then we took a short ride to the west to fish for queen snapper. We caught tilefish, and queen snappers — good size to them as well. The fish have been averaging 12 pounds, but we have been getting a few close to 20 pounds.
The next charter this past week was a guide trip. A guide trip is when I jump on my clients boat and I give hands on training of the rigs, bait, and the area. If anyone is interested in this please give me a call…I would love to help you out! My client Dave wanted to learn about the reef so we went yellow tailing. It took a while for the yellowtails to pop up, but once they did we caught a few before they got spooked off buy the numerous kings and mackerel…or maybe it was the current (or lack of). We tried every trick in the book and they still wouldn’t bite. So I move to another spot out in 88 feet of water.
We marked a nice school, but I hadn’t been in this spot for quite some time now, so who knew that we would get into some great mangrove action? Most of them were 3-4 pounds, but none smaller than 2 pounds. After the bite died off, we switched to a jig, and whipped-jigged kings and mackerel on 8-pound test line. What a blast that was! All throughout the day we were catching grouper on the bottom with a small 1’4 oz jig tipped with a small pinfish. We were targeting muttons, but only caught groupers and mangroves. We probably caught 20 groupers (gags, reds, and blacks) and half of them were keepers, which we released unharmed to get a little bigger. I can’t wait till the grouper season opens, it’s killing me to release such quality fish, but the law is the law.
My next charter was another guide trip and we did our tuna thing for while when we finally caught some small ones, which we bridled up on two Tiagra 50 wides with 80-pound test. My client wanted to troll live tuna around the hump, so we did. We didn’t get any strikes but the anticipation of what might eat our baits really got our blood flowing. One of these days we will get a big marlin or maybe a mako. While we trolled around trying to get the smaller tunas we picked up one dolphin, which was a bonus. After a few hours with no strikes we went deep dropping and we caught a 60-pound wreckfish, rosefish, and a barrelfish. Unfortunately we were unable to keep the wreckfish due to its “no take” status. They are commercially taken but recreational anglers are not allowed to posses this fish.
On Sunday we headed out o look for yellowfin tuna, but we couldn’t find any. It was a desert out there, no dolphin and no yellowfins. We did manage to catch a sailfish on a squid spreader bar. We looked all over for birds but to no avail. I was using an open array radar to search for the birds, but we only found a few and they were just flying.
Good luck and keep it safe.
Monday, November 16th, 2009
MARATHON, Florida Keys — It sure is good to be writing for the Weekly Fisherman again. This paper has been loved by all; it is back, thank you Elizabeth and Jessica.
The sailfish bite is hot now. Earlier in the week the bite was good, but not as good as it is now. We just went 5 for 8 on Wednesday, and caught a few each day earlier in the week. There has been some bait showers along the edge of the reef and up inside of 40 feet of water. I found packs of sails in 130-165 feet of water. I mainly have been slow trolling ballyhoo since there aren’t too many birds giving up the sailfish’s locations. I prefer to troll with four baits and sometime with one down for muttons and kings. Using enough weight to keep close to the bottom. If the current is too strong I will keep the down rod about 60 feet down for some king action. Using large blue runners or speedos, you can get some really big ones. You can also get lucky sometimes and catch a nice wahoo.
The reef has been red hot with plenty of yellowtail to be had. The really big yellowtails have been chewing, but the sharks have been just down right scary. I watched two sharks bite each other as they were fighting over a yellowtail. While your fishing on the reef the cero mackerel are showing up good as well. I have been doing a lot of diving lately and I have been seeing plenty of black grouper. I see as many as 10 small ones from 20 inches or so. It’s really tough to get an exact size on them while your down but I never shoot them unless they look really big. This free diving is a hoot, I just started and I am addicted. On the patches I have been shooting some hogfish and mangroves, and an occasional large grouper. So if your looking to have some fun on rough days, the patches have been loaded with fish. With the temps dropping the fish are on the move, and they have been moving to the reef and inside as well.
The sword fishing from what I hear has been good, with some really exceptional catches. I head today that there was a 500+ pounder caught on the Key Colony dock by one of the private boats. Don’t quote me; it’s just what I heard. The guys up the road who have been doing a lot of swording tell me there have been lots of action, but most of the fish from 100-150 pounds. The deep dropping has been a little slow, but the barrel fish are always biting it seems. The queen snapper never showed up this year. I only heard of the a few caught on different occasions. My buddy John Foster destroyed them over in the Bahamas but he only went over there once.
Just for you guys who fish the bay the cobia have been biting and showing up in small schools. We limited out the other day and also got our share of some nice mangroves too. The mackerel have showed up, but they are not really thick yet. If you work hard you can limit out with them too. Just remember to only take fish which you can use; let’s not waste our resources. Have a great week and I will see you out there.