Weekly Florida Keys Fishing Update from Capt. Dave Schugar and Sweet E'Nuf Charters
Posts Tagged ‘Dolphin’
Monday, February 13th, 2012
The beginning of spring is near, as the sailfish pour through Marathon on their way to their spawning grounds somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico. Many anglers and charter boat captains are about to embark on the best sail fishing of the season as March nearly approaches, the baits dangling from kites or slow trolled from our riggers and sailfish flags will be flying. March has historically been Marathons best month for sailfish, as they pour down the reef’s edge, there will be pods of fish crashing bait as they make their trip around the coastline of the Keys. While fishing for the sails you will encounter many different other species as well, kingfish, dolphin and blackfin tuna will also be some prize catches as you troll the edge of the reef.
During this run of sailfish, run-n-gun fishing will be highly effective. Find the bait showers and you will find the fish. Running in areas which are rich in bait is essential, so look for the bait and chase down the birds, as they will show you where the feeding sailfish are balling up the bait. Don’t restrict this style of fishing in the deep water; many times sailfish will cruise in the shallows where bait is more abundant. This method can be expensive, but it will be the most productive under the right conditions. Many of us soak baits in certain areas outside the reef. We generally look for the outcroppings of the reef that tend to cause eddies which in turn hold bait. Once I found a good area I will just hold the boat in that area, because with baits in the water you really can’t cover much ground, so I post up where I think the fish will pass through and wait. Sometimes when it’s slow, I will move in or out depending where there might be a color change or a trickle line of weeds. I am always thinking conditions, depth, and history. Well what I mean is first I look for conditions, like weeds, color change, birds, or bait busting. IF then no bites, I will remember where they were the past week and try in that area or depth. The more you fish the more you will see patterns which the fish exhibit, and the more you will catch.
Along with the great sail fishing we will have in March, our bottom fishing will be outstanding, large yellowtails, mutton snappers, American red snapper and of course groupers. We also get some other fish such as African pompano, yellow jacks, amberjacks, and cobia. I recommend that you buy a Squeak’s Pinfish Trap, it’s the best, you can get them from him direct if you call me or go to Big Time Bait and Tackle I know they have them there. Put out the trap the day before you are going fishing and you will have more pinfish than you will know what to do with. Pinfish are an essential bait here in marathon, it what we catch most of our mangrove snappers, muttons and jacks on. Pinfish are a very versatile bait; they can be used for dolphin or cobia which might be cruising on the surface this time of the year. They can be cut into small pieces and used for yellowtail or if they are small enough a large yellowtail will enjoy them on a small jig.
Charter fishing has been my life for the last decade, knowing I am not going to be rich, I am rich, the faces of the kids after they catch a fish is absolutely priceless, this profession which I embarked on 10 years ago has brought me together with some really great people, lots of my clients have become great friends. Over the years my clients have invited to their home to experience some of the fishing they have where they are from, and now I know why they love coming down here, most of the fish they catch are the size of our bait. Fishing is fishing, as long as you’re with good friends it really doesn’t matter what you catch. I enjoyed catching small rainbow trout on fly up in the mountains, to catching bass and crappie in a pond, as long as you’re with good friends good times are going to be had. So when you go fishing, remember this, bring a friend and have a blast.
Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011
I had some old friends I met last year — David and his two sons — out for a day of sailfishing. Well, it turned into a day of dolphin, which they didn’t mind. Sometimes you take what you can get. The ocean offers its bounty you don’t get to pick sometimes.
Earlier in the week we did ok with two doubles on one day, but ended up pulling the hooks on one of the sails on each of the doubles, so 2-4 for a half day. Not to shabby for a half day charter with my clients Tom Chambers on the Cara Mia.
There has been great dolphin fishing since May, which is a little unusual, but not unheard of. I kept them busy when we got into the dolphin by keeping up with the baits and getting them up into the riggers. At times we had triple headers on! The boys’ arms were a little tired but they managed to keep up with the fish. It was a little rough in the morning, but it laid down nicely by noon and was one of the most beautiful days this past month.
Tomorrow is looking good as well, as we go bottom fishing for some muttons and amberjacks.
Tuesday, September 6th, 2011
The Florida Keys are a wonderful place year round, as kids go back to school the Keys slow down, but not the fishing.
This is a remarkable time to fish down here, as the winds are calm with scattered showers around, nice warm weather for fishing and diving. Another great reason to come is it is much cheaper to be here, as we leave our tourist season behind, all the hotels and motels drop their rates to try and compete with the loss of tourists. So not only is the fishing good, but it costs cheaper to come and play. It may be hard for some to come as your kids are working hard in school, but for those who have no kids or your kids are grown or in college, this is an amazing time for you.
Hate waiting in lines for dinner, or at the grocer? Or too many people on your fishing spot? Well, this is the time for you. Coming this time of the year you need to watch the weather, but if you can time it right, and as long as there isn’t a hurricane bearing down on us, the Florida Keys at this time of year can be amazing.
The hurricane season has so much to offer fisherman, from snappers to groupers on the reef, to dolphin, wahoo, and tuna offshore. Fishing for muttons, amberjacks, and cubera snappers on the wrecks, and deep-dropping for fish such as barrels, and rosefish in 600-1000 feet of water. As we speak, the ban on the deep-drop fish is being over turned, so we will be able to fish for snowys, tiles and queen snapper, too. During the fall, the Keys have so much to offer, as we don’t want to forget about diving for lobsters and spearfishing for hogfish, snappers and groupers.
With the water temperature around the mid 80s, there is no better time to enjoy your time down here in the Keys. Who knows? After a class on how to handle lionfish, you may want to take a stab of spearfishing these invasive species that seem to be over running the reef. There are lionfish derbies which you might want to get in on for cash and prizes as well.
In October, I will be targeting dolphin as they return from the northern waters as they cool. This dolphin season has been great — plenty of fish on most days — but in October, the small fish will have grown to ten pounds on their journey up the east coast of the United States, and they will follow the warm water back down here to the Keys and the Caribbean to winter in the cold months. Dolphin can travel 1000 miles in a week, so it doesn’t take them long to come back when the waters up north start to turn cold. I really enjoy the October dolphin run; it’s usually close in from 5-15 miles from the beach. And all through the winter while we live bait for the sailfish we catch dolphin as a by-catch.
I will also be looking for some great wahoo action during this time as well, fishing weed lines and floating debris can be very effective this time of the year as well. If you want to catch wahoo, finding good water in 200-400 feet of water is a must…tthese toothy critters love fast moving baits and using large natural baits work well too. Catching large dolphin will be my primary target, but a wahoo will always round out a day especially when they are over 30 pounds, which they are in October.
All of the reef will be back to normal…no more spawning fish. They have all finished this now, so our normal groupings of yellowtail will be schooling around the ledges and the edge of the reef. As the water cools a bit, you will start seeing that the trend will be shallower water as these fish move up into the shallower reefs. As the water cools, the groupers will also start moving back up the reef as they will start to gather for their spawn around the first of December. Fish will gather were the food is present, so when cruising up and down the reef, take note where the schools of yellowtail are, as this will be a beacon for these grouper who are feeding on them.
If you ever had a fish tank, there was always the boss of the group. On the reef, it’s the big black grouper or goliath. They will have the prime spot to ambush their food, usually near large coral heads, holes in the reef, or cracks in the reef. The reef is not the same throughout the Keys; it changes from area to area. The edge may be in 70 feet or 90 feet in other areas, but as long as there are holes and large relief areas you will find the groupers stalking the smaller fish. They are not picky, but it best to have an assortment of bait…it can’t hurt, anyway. If anything, when fishing for black groupers, white grunts — the bigger the better, in most cases — are key, because they come with their own grouper call. If you ever caught a grunt you know what I mean; when they get distressed, they grunt, and as a result this calls in the groupers.
Come on down, and plan a hurricane season fishing excursion! I promise you won’t regret it if you watch the weather and fish. If I am busy, I can always hook you up with some of the other great captains we have down here, so no worries. The only thing you have to worry about is the cooler space that you will need to bring home these excellent tasting fish.
If you haven’t signed up for my E-Book this is an excellent time to do it, it is located on the front page of my website. The E-Book is a great light read and in the process of signing up for it enters you into the data base where you can be informed about specials and new updates with my business.
Thursday, July 28th, 2011
Hi everyone, sorry for the lack of reports, but I have been fishing every day and doing doubles and crushing the dolphin. Fishing in the Keys has been great offshore, and on certain days the reef fishing for yellowtails has been good too. The muttons are sporadically biting on the deeper wrecks from 160 to 180 feet of water.
The fishing I want to inform you all about is the dolphin bite, because it has been great. Even with a lack of 30-50 pounders, we have been filling the coolers with 10-15 pounders and of course our masses of schoolies. The fish are on the move, so you won’t whack 20-30 fish out of a school…they just won’t hang around the boat. I have been getting a couple here and there pretty much most of the day. A slow pick of some quality-sized fish. Fishing them on 15-20 pound spin tackle, my clients have had a ball this past month. All the fish have been under birds, moving towards the east and not more than seven birds…any more than that and it has been skipjack tuna. It was a little rough this week, but it didn’t seem to bother the fishing. We just got a little wet.
If you’re looking to do some bottom fishing, the night-time mangrove bite will be good once this moon gets a little smaller. The night-time bite seems best during the new moon and a week on either side of it. Mangrove snappers bite best on the darkest of nights, so plan that when you head out to fish for them. The grouper action has slowed down a bit during the daytime, but we have been getting a few good sized black grouper from 15-30 pounds.
Have a great weekend, and don’t forget to sign up for my E-Book and get a chance to be informed about some upcoming specials this September and October.
Sunday, April 3rd, 2011
Hi everyone, sorry for the lack of posts, but it wasn’t for the fact that I wasn’t fishing, but I haven’t had any days off for 30 days. It has been very busy down here. The wreck fishing has been very good with plenty of mutton snappers up to 25 pounds, but most around 10-18 pounds. The amberjacks have been spawning and the bite has been off the chain. One day we caught 30 almaco and amberjacks in 4 hours. That was insane; every drop got hit as soon as it hit the bottom. We also did very well during the full moon, and that cycle is coming again, the week of the full moon should be incredible for the muttons. I am looking to get plenty of them this spawn.
Dolphins have been sporadic, but our tuna fishing is really good in the mornings and afternoons. Most of the fish are around 10-15 pounds, nice eaters. I have gotten a few in the 20’s but only a few. Each time we went tuna fishing we caught more than my clients knew what to do with. But no worries, my friends filled in to take the leftovers. I expect the dolphin to show up any day now, so stay posted, I will let you know when they arrive in full force. Since we caught so many 25+ pounders last year, I believe the ones we didn’t catch will be close to 50 pounds this year. I expect to catch plenty of 40+ fish this year so be prepared to do some battling.
For those of you who aren’t aware of the deep drop closure, we can no longer target queen snapper, tilefish or snowy grouper, but we can still hit the barrel fish and the rose fish, so I plan on attacking those spots while we are out there dolphin fishing. If you haven’t had a chance to eat any barrel fish you are missing out, it is exquisite. We are trying to get this closure over turned, but it is slow and tedious, but all of us fisherman, including my clients are writing their Congressman and telling them this is an unfair closure and is wrong.
The yellowtail bit really well this week, but with such a large shark presence we were not able to get the big ones to the boat before they got eaten. We were hooking 3-5 pound yellowtails and they fight hard, and it isn’t easy to get them to the boat even without the shark presence. As they gear up to spawn the bite should only get better.
Keep in touch drop me a line every once in a while and let me know who everything is going. Take care and keep fighting the closures that NOAA has been dropping in our lap this year.