Weekly Florida Keys Fishing Update from Capt. Dave Schugar and Sweet E'Nuf Charters
Posts Tagged ‘grouper fishing’
Friday, December 16th, 2011
I always thought I started fishing when I was six or so but a few years back my sisters put together 30 years of photos as a present for our folk’s 30th wedding anniversary. Amongst all the photos they found one of me in 1976 when I was two years old, fishing on the dock with my red Sterns lifejacket, sure did bring back some memories growing up on the Chesapeake Bay. Those days you could kick your kid out of the house, give him a bucket and fishing pole and let him go to the park or down the dock without someone calling child services on you. Ha, those days are over, but with all the crazies in the world now, I can see why they have made some of these rules for parents.
I moved to Florida in 1996 and attended Johnson & Whales University where I spent most of my spare time out on the head boats 5-7 days a week. I could never get enough fishing in. Most people were out drinking where I was addicted to my favorite activity on earth, Fishing. Going out on the head boats I got involved with a few different clicks of fisherman. I got to know all the captains and mates on the docks; they gave me special attention as they saw my love for fishing. I even got involved with a few commercial fishermen, they let me go fishing with them for free, and I thought it was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. Live baiting for kingfish at anchor or dropping with 4/0 senators for amberjacks, they were getting free labor and I was getting my addiction taken care of. Throughout the four years of Collage I became great friends with everyone on the dock. I finished up collage and started to work for Marriott as a banquet chef, in the processI lost the ability to go fishing. Working 60-70 hours a week I was jones’n to go fishing, but once a week just wasn’t enough. After a long look at my life I decided to quit being a chef and get into the fishing industry. I got a job on a charter boat at Haulover Marina where I used to get on the head boats at. My first job was on the oldest, beat up boat with six mounted chairs in the cockpit. The Shark was this leviathan’s name and the owner’s dad had built that boat in his backyard back in the ‘60s. I learned fishing from an old timer Capt. Roger Kohn, looking back , the ways we fish has not changed for 50 years and new ways are always being thought of. This was the beginning of my epic adventures on the open ocean. I have learned from some of the greatest captains in South Florida, from Capt. Bouncer Smith to Capt. Dennis Forgione in Miami to Capt. Roy Limback in Islamorada and Capt. Ted D’ Esposito, who was the one who really gave me my Florida Keys foundation. Since then I have been learning on the job trying new things and also sharing with my other captain friends, as we all tweak our techniques.
This past week I had a captain come down from the West Coast of Florida, I used to go withthis captain in Miami as a client back in my collage days. My buddy Kalvin and an old fishing buddy Bravid who used to fish the same boats up in Miami as I used too, came down here to do some bottom fishing. Now it was up to me to put them on some fish, no pressure, hahaha. We spent the early morning catching my favorite grouper bait, white grunts. It wasn’t long before we had 30 or so nice grunts. I then pulled my pinfish trap which was loaded will all sizes of pinfish. Now we were ready to take on the groupers. I started at one of my favorite grouper spots, which is a wreck in 104 feet of water. I had some really good anglers onboard so I figured we could get our limit pretty quickly. After ten minutes we had three hooked fish and only got one to the boat. We were using 80-130# test gear. We had hooked some really big ones and unfortunately they got in the rocks even with great anglers and stout gear. After breaking off another two fish the bite turned off, instead of going to another wreck I have learned to shift the boat and re-anchor on a different side of the wreck. When fish get spooked they usually will not go far, just in another quadrant of the wreck. Now that we have only moved 200 feet it wasn’t ten minutes before we had a double header, one turned out to be a goliath and the other got back to the wreck. Then we pulled the hooks on the goliath. It’s quite easy to tell when you get a goliath; its fight is strong, with slow tail kicks, unlike a black grouper that digs hard and fast. After losing 19 fish from them getting rocked up or eaten by sharks we left and went to a reef spot where we lost a few more blacks to sharks, but we did manage to get another one around 12 pounds.
It was almost noon by now, so I decided to start hitting the deeper wrecks for some muttons and amberjacks. First drop we had a double header amberjack and up in the front of the boat my buddy Kalvin and his bosses cousin were jigging diamond jigs and were catching genuine red snappers. This time of the year we have to release them. It’s astonishing how we get more regulations each year, even though we are catching more and more fish. You might think that if the stocks are increasing then we are over regulated. Just kind of makes sense to me. If we could get to a point where the stocks stay the same each year then I think the bureaucrats would shut us down completely. I have learned from biologists that are currently working on the grouper studies in the Gulf, and they say that each year is different because of the population of offspring that survived to grow up and become adults where then they have to run the gauntlet us fisherman put them through. So some years you will have better stocks than others. There is no way around that, but for the bureaucrats to not just look at landings, but talk to the fisherman, do interviews, and hire neutral parties to conduct non-bias studies.
After catching another grouper on the wrecks and more amberjacks than they wanted to catch we moved in close to the patches where I have been doing well on large mangrove snapper. It takes time sometimes to get the fish to gather behind the boat. Knowing your bottom you can figure out where the fish are going to hang out and where you can get them to come to you by chumming. When I fish the patches I like to fish on the sandy bottom on the up current, outside edge of the patch. I will also take a big circle with the chum bag around the patch to get the chum spread out. So when the current takes chum away from the boat, it starts out as a big cone, narrowing down to the back of your boat. This time of the year the patches are loaded with fish that are coming from deeper water looking for food (ballyhoo) which is piling up all over the reef. After cast netting a half of a five gallon bucket we rigged up our rods with jigs and knocker rigs and it wasn’t long before we started catching mangrove snappers. My Capt. buddy Kalvin and I used to fish 5-7 day a week together almost 12 years ago and it sure was nice getting to fish with him again. Bravid too, he was always good to fish every weekend or when his work allowed him to during the week. Getting to fish with old friends really makes fishing much more enjoyable, so catch up with an old friend, invite them out to go fishing and rekindle your old friendships and have a hoot, oh yeah don’t forget, catch some fish.
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.
Friday, December 3rd, 2010
As the leaves change color up north and people are decorating for the holidays, I am down here in the Keys getting my boat ready for all of you. The mad rush of people after the holidays is what I call the great start of our season. For those of you that haven’t booked yet, you better get on it, or you won’t get out on a charter boat. We will all be booked; so don’t miss out on the greatest part of your vacation.
The fishing has been pretty steady, between the sword fishing, sail fishing, grouper and snapper on the reef. This is a great time of year to fish, so many options to choose from. We can target the cobias and goliath grouper in the Gulf or fish the reef for yellowtail snapper, mangrove snapper, mutton snapper, grouper, and kingfish. Just outside the reef we will live baiting for sailfish, and catch some other species as well.
Just this past week I was reef fishing, and the yellowtails were biting good, it wasn’t long before we limited out and we changed our tactics to kingfish and we got a few ten pounders and one forty plus pound king too. My clients had a ball, and they ate well the whole week. One of the greatest ideas our restaurants had is to cook your catch. I don’t know when this started but the Keys have been doing it a long time. Bring in your fresh fish and have the restaurant cook it for you, it doesn’t get any fresher. Every restaurant will do this for you down here so take advantage of not having to cook it and then clean up after you’re stuffed from eating the freshest fish you can get.
I took out a family to the hump for some hot tuna action. It was so hot we hooked 50+ tunas but were only able to land a half dozen. We had a shark problem, which I have never seen it so bad. We had four or five sharks swimming around the boat at any given moment. We hooked tuna and fought them to the boat only to have the shark eat it before we can get it close enough to gaff it. After about 20 shark bite offs, I asked my clients if they wanted to do something else, but they said it was great to hook a fish fight it and then feed it to a shark. So we stayed and kept feeding the sharks. I always try to keep my clients happy and they were smile all around. We had fresh sushi at the dock when we got back and a few cocktails always end a great fishing trip. I look forward to fishing with them again.
I had a shot to go sword fishing this week too, it was stormy and rough but we ventured out there anyways. We had many bites, just couldn’t get them to swallow the bait. We finally got one to eat and we caught him after a short battle. It was too small to keep so we took some quick photos and released him back to grow up. We had a few more bites after we release the small fish but never hooked up again. It can be difficult to get these predators to eat the bait sometimes. But when they do, hold on you will be in for a battle.
I would like to wish everyone a happy and safe holiday season, may this coming year be better than the last, and come on down forget your troubles and lets go fishing.
Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010
Wintertime fishing is here, so get ready for some bent rods. The Florida Keys have so much to offer this time of the year. Fishing offshore you can expect to catch swordfish, dolphin, wahoo and blackfin tuna. As for the reef, yellowtails, muttons, groupers, cobia and kingfish will be the target for most anglers. Fishing for such an assortment of species it would be wise to bring many different kinds of baits and tackle. One of the greatest attributes of the Florida Keys is that our fishing areas overlap in which you can fish for multiple species at the same time.
The biggest draw to the Florida Keys is our world-renowned sailfish. Catching ten sailfish in a day can be easy on the right day. When we get the north winds the bait gets piled up on the edges of the reef and become targets of the hungry sailfish. Watching hundreds to thousands of ballyhoo jumping for their life as sailfish chase them for their morning snack always gets my blood flowing. Getting positioned to attack these bait sprays can be tough, but if you have a tower it makes it easier, find the bait showers, which will get you in the area. Once you are in the area look for the sailfish themselves as they chase and ball up the bait. Once you have a target, position the boat up wind so that your angler will have an easy throw to the sailfish. I prefer to belly-hook the baits so I can jerk them and cause them to swim down.
Make sure every bait you pitch out is healthy and lively. If you have pilchards for bait, I like to scoop ten to twenty of them over the side to get the sails eating, and when you pitch yours out it becomes an easy transaction. Sometimes the sailfish want only ballyhoo and I will hook them through their tail for a quick pitch bait or wrap the bill with wire keeping the hook exposed.
Last years sailfish season was out of this world, and I expect the same for this season. Since we release all of our sailfish, they are capable to spawn and continually increasing their population. One of my favorites is a quad, four sails hooked up and going in different directions. There is nothing more fun than watching a sailfish dance across the water as line screams from the reel. Sailfish are such an incredible animal, beautiful and magnificent, king of the Florida Straits.
While fishing the reef we tend to anchor up and chum. I prefer to use one bag with two blocks in the bag. The action of the two blocks of chum rubbing together creates a heavy flow. Some people prefer to have two separate bags with one block in each, which is fine, but what I have found if you want a heavy flow of chum you need two blocks in a bag at a time. Yellowtails have voracious appetite, and will become balled up on the surface for easy pickings. To help keep these fish up on top, you must have oats; yes regular rolled oats that you eat for breakfast. Thaw a block of chum overnight in a five gallon bucket, then mix with water and oats. Keep scooping this mixture in the water you will see the difference.
While chumming on the reef I love to drop down the heavy rods for grouper and muttons. I will always drop the heaviest rig first, that’s usually when the biggest one hits. I am rigging my 50 wide with 80-pound braid on a heavy, but flexible custom standup rod. Using 100-pound leader to Mustad #9174 8/0-9/0 and enough lead to hold the bottom. Don’t forget to sharpen your hooks, unless they are the laser sharpened hooks. I can recall one day out fishing when I had gotten lazy and didn’t sharpen one of my hooks and I missed three bites in a row, and as soon as I sharpened the hook, we had resumed catching again. Your guess is as good as mine, but I believe it really helps your hookup ratio. Fishing the reef with this combo will take good form and muscle. Back when I was learning from my mentor, he called this style of fishing stop-um or pop-um fishing. Grouper roam a few feet from holes, rusty metal, and ledges, so it is in your best interest to get him coming up. You can catch plenty of grouper on lighter tackle, but you are almost guaranteed to loose the big one. The biggest grouper I have ever caught on rod and reel is 450 pounds. That was a challenge with the rig I use, but eventually I got him coming to the surface. Goliath grouper are the largest but pound for pound the black grouper is king. I have gotten nice blacks up to 60 pounds, and without heavy tackle, I would never have seen fish so big.
While anchored up chumming go fly a kite. Kite fishing can be added to your day quite easily. When you’re yellowtaling you don’t want live bait flat lines, they will scare the schools of yellowtail snapper. So, using a kite you can take these baits and place them just out side of the yellowtail school, naturally making it a target for other predatory species. If you want to catch a big kingfish, wahoo, sailfish, or even cobia, I like to use speedo’s, goggle-eye’s, large pilchards or herring. If you cant catch those, a blue runner or 12” or better yellowtail will work for bait. Remember you are creating a feeding frenzy and causing a lot of commotion. Naturally, predators will circle as they look for an easy meal. By using the Kite you are keeping the lines out of the water and you will still be able to yellowtail fish and drop to the bottom for groupers and muttons.
Always remember to only keep what you can use and release everything unharmed, so we can keep this great fishery abundant as it is today. Please don’t forget to support our troops who keep our freedom safe so we can enjoy ishing on our open oceans.
Saturday, September 4th, 2010
MARATHON, Florida Keys — As kids get back to school, the Keys have seen a lack of tourists. September, October and November can mean a really cheep vacation for those of you who have been eying a trip to the Keys but staying away because of the cost.
Everyone needs some vacation time and it doesn’t get any more relaxing than here in the Keys. Most of us that live here take our vacations at this time…in fact, you’ll see some local businesses close down for a month or so while those owners take their vacation!
People ask me all the time, “where do you go on vacation, Capt. Dave?” It is really kind of funny, I tell them…it’s not far, and my couch has always treated me right. But, serious now, I visit my some of my clients in Colorado, Michigan, Boston, etc. My business is quite unique, I get to take people fishing which tends to be the highlight of their vacation. Fishing with people creates a bond which I can’t describe, but it can be strong. I get to meet all walks of life and to see the diversity of my clients really make me proud to be an American.
The lack of charters hasn’t kept me from fishing. My friends have been coming down and catching yellowtail snapper, cubera snappers, mutton, and true reds. I have been able to put my friends on some tuna, and grouper, too. This time of the year the water starts to cool off and some fish move out as others move in. The snapper bite on the reef has been great. We are getting close to a fall run of dolphin, which I can’t wait for. They are usually decent fish…not too many schoolies, mostly fish from 10-20 pounds.
I have been fishing on the deep reefs from 75-90 feet of water, and I’ve been catching big mangroves from 4-5 pounds if the sharks don’t eat them. The yellowtails have been ranging from 1-3 pounds. I have been fishing some new areas and getting yellowtail everywhere. I have been using a leader rig for the mangroves and flat lining for the yellowtails. Since the current has let up I have been using no weight for the yellowtail.
Every day is different: sometimes the fish will be close and sometimes far, but they are always there. I have had to use large amounts of chum, but the payout is worth it. Since the skippies have been thick, I have been using them a lot on the bottom and flat lining. Tuna is exceptional bait, and I always keep plenty in the freezer.
There have been some talks about some sailfish being caught, but I haven’t fished for them because my clients and friends would rather catch something they can eat. I believe that right now the reef has been the best area to fish as well as the hump for the tunas. As the weather changes up north, the swordfish will be pouring through, too. Talk about a lot of good eating meat! Swordfish happens to be one of my favorites.
Monday, May 3rd, 2010
MARATHON, Florida Keys — Grouper season is officially open; get them while they are still congregating on the reef! I wasn’t booked on May first when the season opened, but my buddy Capt. Blaine Lemm and I went out to get our take. We didn’t leave the dock until 2:00 in the afternoon, but we had some great late afternoon action. Instead of weeding through the small ones we targeted large grouper with half pound to one-pound baits. We ended up hooking nine fish and only getting one 30 pounder to the boat. We got a few heads, before we were able to get a whole one to the boat. In the process we each caught a goliath grouper in excess of a hundred pounds.
If you’re heading offshore, the dolphin aren’t thick by any means…but if you put your time in you can make a pretty good day of it. Most of the fish have been from 12 miles out to the edge of the continental shelf. Almost all the fish have been under birds, with a few exceptions of some extraordinary floaters. My buddy John Foster found a boat with two motors floating, but half sunk with a school of wahoo on it. The only problem was that the wahoos weren’t the top predator in this little floating ecosystem. They were only able to get three whole 20 pounders and four halves. There must have been a shark or two lingering around. The tuna bite picked back up after its short break. Using live bait seems to be the key now…the tunas are not hitting the jigs as well as they have been, but you still are able to get a few. Using live bait, the tunas were averaging 20-25 pounds with your occasional smaller ones too.
The deep dropping has been phenomenal! From snowys to queen snappers, to tiles and barrelfish, the current has been perfect for this fishing. We need some current, but too much or you can’t hold bottom. Right now, its perfect with a knot and half drift slightly northeast. A few people that I have talked with tell me that that the deep dropping has been as good as it gets. With the new laws you need to be careful of what you catch because you can only have three groupers on the boat now. This would include tilefish in your aggregate limits. So that would mean two snowys and only tilefish, but we can live with a decrease bag limit. From what I heard coming down the coconut telegraph, they intend to shut it all down…so get what you can while it is still legal.
The reef is on fire! The yellow brick road has formed behind many boats, and many people are reporting the start of a great yellowtail season. We do catch yellowtails all year round, but it really is in the summer when the yellowtails school in great numbers. Since they’re competing for the food, they become very aggressive and easier to catch. We caught a few this week in the 5-pound range, which is an absolute monster when it comes to yellowtail. There have been a few muttons around, but now that grouper is in season, we have been concentrating on them instead. Remember, elephants eat peanuts…but to weed out small fish you must use larger baits.
Good luck and I will see you out there!
Monday, April 26th, 2010
MARATHON, Florida Keys — Wow, what a beautiful week we had out on the water. The weather was almost perfect the entire week. We still didn’t find many dolphin but while were searching we came across an unusual floater.
We found half of a large swordfish floating, with a mako shark circling. The swordfish was cut in half, with it’s cobolt blue color still intact. I cut a chunk off of the swordfish and tried to bait up the mako but he wasn’t interested. I guess after eating 100 pounds of swordfish he was full. I t would be just a matter of time before he got hungry again, and I was hoping it would be soon. I tried to remove the swordfish from the water but the mako just left when we did that. So I tied the swordfish to the boat and dumped it back in the water.
It took only a few minutes for the mako to come back. I kept the chunk of bait right behind the carcass, and we just watched this magnificent shark swim around the boat for over a half an hour. The shark kept swimming circles around the boat and with every minute passing I got more and more frustrated. I finally took off the bait and pulled in the swordfish. I took the hook and stuck in the meat of the carcass where the mako had bitten him in half. I proceeded to let the swordfish out on a dock line.
After ten minutes the mako came up to investigate his prize. Shortly after that he took a bite out of the swordfish and it was so amazing to see how effortlessly he cut through it. I noticed that my line was moving away from the swordfish and I set the hook. I stuck him good, thumbing the drag and repetitively set the hook until the fish thrashed a bit. He didn’t go anywhere; he just swam around the boat like there was nothing wrong. Knowing what a mako is capable off I powered the boat away from the fish and then he realized that there was something wrong and he sounded peeling 400 feet of line in seconds. We fought the fish for about an hour when he finally came up for some jumps and shortly after that we lost him. He must have gotten wrapped up in the leader and it parted in the middle of a forty-foot leader. Even though we didn’t land him it was an epic adventure.
The dolphins haven’t shown up yet, but there are a few fish out there. I have found some schoolies in close and a few scattered big fish anywhere from 12-30 miles offshore. The tunas have slowed down at the hump, but if you get there early or stay out late you can manage a decent catch. Trolling around really has been a waste of time; if you run and gun you will find more fish under the birds.
The deep dropping was awesome this week. We found lots of snowys, a few queen snappers, tilefish, rosefish, and barrelfish. One of the spots we limited out on snowys on the first drop. We dropped two rods and got a double and a single. You are only allowed to have one snowy per person, so don’t do another drop in the same place because you are liable to catch another one. Usually we only catch one or two snowys in one spot but they seem to be on every spot I drop on. We had to stop deep dropping so we didn’t go over our limit. I do have spots where snowys won’t be. We went out to 1,100 feet of water and got some rosefish, and a barrelfish. This is the time of the year where I do very well catching snowys.
If the reef is more your style, it has been great. We caught lots of yellowtail and groupers. I found that the bite is starting to turn on in the deep water. You will find larger yellowtails in 75-100 feet of water. Using oats and lots of chum you can get the big boys up in the water column, where your odds of landing the big ones increase. We did get a few large mangroves on one spot; most of them were from 2-4 pounds, which is decent. I was fishing in 88 feet of water with a jig tipped with a small pinfish. This is also how we caught all those grouper. If you are looking to gear up for this weeks fishing stop in at Big Time Bait and Tackle, it’s where I go to get everything I need.
Once this wind lets down, get offshore and drop while you still can. And don’t forget to check all of your safety equipment…you never know when you might need it.
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.
Sunday, April 4th, 2010
MARATHON, Florida Keys — What an enjoyable week compared to the frigid winter we have had! I have been booked all week and there is a lot of fish to be had almost everywhere out there.
Thanks to the East wind, the sails were piling down the pipeline and boats with upper stations had a ball sight fishing for those acrobatic speedsters. Even though they were being finicky, there were many sailfish to be had. With the ballyhoo hard to find, the choice of bait here in Marathon has been pilchards, which really is a better bait for sight fishing. I like to hook the bait in the belly to force the pilchard down which usually entices the sailfish to strike.
There has been an incredible color edge off of Marathon all week with lots of sailfish action on it. The bite had been better the further West you went. Some boats fished all the way down to American shoals (what a hike!), but in order to put up big numbers of fish that’s where you needed to be. Along with the sails, cobia and dolphin are also being caught along that edge.
The deeper edge further offshore that had the dolphin last week dried right up as if it was never there. I would keep looking for dolphin just beyond the color change and out as far as 400 feet just in case there is another push of fish this week.
The wrecks have been hit hard for the past few weeks and the fishing pressure has made a definite impact on the bite, which was out of this world. The wrecks are still producing amberjacks, muttons, and beautiful grouper, which we have been releasing. I caught a small genuine red snapper, which is not common in these parts except for a few deeper wrecks during certain times of the year.
The bait of choice on the mutton snapper bite has been live pinfish and any small grunts, which I was able to catch. The tomtates, my favorite bait has been hard to come by, but pinfish seem to be doing the job just fine.
Kingfish have been on most of the deeper wrecks from 130-200 feet of water. I was mainly catching them with deep-trolled ballyhoo. I heard that the reef also had kingfish prowling behind the yellowtails. When fishing for yellow tails, the kings will be hanging back waiting for the right time to strike.
The hump has been red hot. The tunas have been biting better in the afternoon verses the morning, but that may be due to the full moon we have had and the tunas must be feasting on the squid all night long. Jigging for the tunas has resulted in more and bigger fish, but when it becomes overcast the larger tunas will hit the trolled baits too.
The live baiter out there have been harassed by all the boat traffic out there, so if you see a boat using live bait, give him some room and respect that he can’t catch his fish when boats come barreling up behind them. While we were out offshore we did a little deep dropping and yielded some quality queen snappers. Most of the queens were up in the 12-18 pound class, which is some quality fish. Snowys and tilefish are abundant right now too in the 800-700 foot range.
I had a charter which took me out in the bay. I normally don’t fish out here but when the weather gets rough and my clients can’t take the big seas we head out there for some action packed fishing. They wanted to catch some goliaths and the bay didn’t let us down. We caught a couple in the 30 pound class and two big ones one was about 100 pounds and the other had to 350 pounds if it wasn’t 400 pounds. Most of the mackerel have left the bay but we did manage to get a dozen or so.
The bluefish on the other hand have been ransacking our baits in packs of 20-50 fish strong. It is pretty cool to se 20 or so fish following the one you have hooked. When this happens I like to throw some cut chunks right behind the hooked fish to get them really fired up before I pitch a spoon or a jig with a ballyhoo on it to get multiple hookups. We had out a shark bait for most of the day but we only had a couple of small ones short strike the bait.
Have a great week and I will see you out there. For those of you who haven’t signed the petition please sign it, we need everyone in on this one. Lets take back our rights to fish here come sign this petition!
Monday, March 29th, 2010
MARATHON, Florida — Tailing conditions have arrived and the sailfish are on the move. As many as 25 to 50 sailfish coming down sea in packs of 5 to 20 fish at a time, what a sight. If you’re looking to put some numbers up, this week was the week to do it. Unfortunately I was not sail fishing, my clients wanted food so I missed out on the great sail fishing. This has been the trend and having a tower sure makes it easy to find the fish, but the sails have been finicky, turning on baits but not eating from what I have been hearing. If you’re looking to try this for the first time, look for an edge from the reef line out to 200 feet and head to the west. Just keep heading west the hot spots have been from Big Pine Key to Sandy Key Light. Ballyhoo has been tough to get, but the pilchards are thick, so get in the skinny water and bait shouldn’t be a problem.
If sailfish isn’t your thing the dolphin have showed up in great numbers just not any size to them though. I have heard of a few gaffer size fish but for the most part the fish are running small from 28 inches to 15 inches. Lots of throwback dolphin being caught, and lots of fun to be had. We had caught over 50-60 fish with only 20 keepers one day and 15 keepers the next. The fish have been out on a current edge just inside of 500 feet of water. The water temperatures hare cool for them but it hasn’t seemed to influence their appetite. The fish are moving in small packs and the most fish we hooked at a time was 10 fish, but we never moved far before we hooked up more. It appears that the fish are loaded up on the edge, with most of them on the inside edge of the slower moving water. Their isn’t much of a color change but you will have no problem seeing the edge of the current, the rip sticks out like a sore thumb. I would recommend using the smallest ballyhoo as possible and any small feathers or chuggers. The fish are small so use smaller baits to help your hookup ratio.
The reef fishing is still kind of slow, but if you put your time in you can manage a good catch of snappers and there are plenty of groupers too. I had out one of the scientists that is currently doing the grouper research in the Gulf and he was telling me that they have been working hard to get the research done so they can make a decision on the grouper closer. He was telling me that the groupers have a 20% mortality when they are released. The way they figure this out is to catch a bunch of groupers and then put them back down in the water in a cage. Then they come back at different intervals to check how many groupers have died. The research still points to the decline of the gag groupers in the gulf but the red population is fine. Hopefully they will open the season on time, but I have serious doubts.
Way offshore the hump has been steady, with plenty of tunas and amberjacks. Live bait and jigging are the best methods for getting bigger fish and if you happen to get out there on an overcast day the bite has been even better. My favorite colors for the jigs are chartreuse and pink; I don’t own any other colors. Well that’s, a lie, I have some purple ones but I haven’t used them in quite some time now. The 5-7 oz. Stick jigs work the best. You don’t have to buy shimano but if you want to spend more money for the same results then go for it. I generally start my drift just before the rise on the hump, which is like 700 feet of water, and this usually gives me an idea where they are holding up that day. Sometimes I will head out to 800 feet of water, which is pretty far away from the hump and drop down really deep to get the bigger ones. If you try this on top of the hump your chances of hooking an amberjack on light tackle is sure to happen.
Deep dropping has been good for the brave fisherman who have been heading out to the 650’s and beyond. I did really well early this week and got a few snowys, tiles, rosefish, and barrels too. The queen snapper season is over for the most part, but there are a few stragglers left behind.
Good luck this week and keep safe.