MARATHON, Florida Keys — Happy holidays everyone. It is usually pretty quiet down here the week before Christmas and it seems that this year is following normal trends. With a fresh blanket of snow in the northeast we seem to be pretty cozy down here in paradise.
The sailfish action has been steady with 2-4 fish as a daily average. Most of the fish were found tucking up along the edge of the reef. Putting the time in with slow trolling live baits has produced some nice action with kings and dolphin while waiting to be attacked by wolf packs of sails. During the midday the bite has slowed down and I would recommend dropping down on wrecks and the edge of the reef for some mutton and grouper action until later in the day when the sails pick back up again. There have been some sprays from bait showers inside the reef from 20-40 feet of water and using your tower you will see if they are from mackerels or sails. There has been a great push of mackerels in the shallows.
The mackerel fishing has picked up considerably since last week. Hoards of Spanish and cero mackerel have been feasting on the abundant bait from inside of Hawks Channel out to the patches. Trolling spoons or medium size crank baits works really well to help locate a big school. Once you have located a big school you anchor up and chum. While you’re chumming you can use shrimp, which seems to be the best bait for them, small pilchards, chunks and strips to have fun with these guys on light tackle. You can even use your fly rod, which is pretty cool as the mackerel scream line off of your flimsy noodle of a rod. The current allotment is 15 per person, but you can’t freeze this fish, so only keep as many as your going to eat fresh or put in the smoker, because they do make some of the best smoked fish when done right. My buddy Chris Kilmas has probably the best smoke fish I have ever tried. I have been smoking fish for a long time and he blows past me with his smoked fish. He will be smoking some mackerel I gave him this past weekend, I can’t wait till it gets done.
This time of the year we get heavy north winds which tends to keep people from fishing. This isn’t always necessary if you knew about the great fishing we have in Hawks Channel and on the patches. You might have to move around a bit until you find a good spot when you do, man-o-man it can be some exciting fishing, never knowing what will swim by the boat next. Big sharks, cobia, grouper, kingfish, mackerel, all kinds of snappers, and some pretty big, use hawks channel as a super highway. Finding rock piles scattered through the channel the fish use these as feeding stations, kinda like our rest stops on the turnpike. You never want to fish on top of the rock pile but instead anchor along side of it. If you don’t produce anything after a half-hour move to another rock pile until you find one with fish on it. Sometimes the fish will come to you if you chum long enough.
We need everyone to get involved and band together, because we need to get lobbyists to fight for our cause. There is a two-part amendment, which is going to be devastating to our economy if passed. ‘If approved, the closure will affect federal waters in the South Atlantic region from approximately 240 feet deep seaward and prohibit fishing for or possession of speckled hind, and warsaw grouper, as well as snowy grouper, blueline tilefish, yellowedge grouper, misty grouper, queen snapper, and silk snapper. The deepwater closure excludes golden tilefish, a species generally found over mud bottom and not likely to co-occur over the hard bottom habitat preferred by speckled hind and warsaw grouper. The closure is based on the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee’s recommendation that an Allowable Biological Catch of zero (0) landings be implemented for both speckled hind and warsaw grouper. Currently, fishermen are allowed to keep 1 fish per vessel per trip and sale is prohibited for these two species. The amendment will prohibit all fishing for, possession, and retaining speckled hind and warsaw grouper.’ They are doing this to protect the deep-water reefs not because of over fishing. This is an outrage because they have no idea that there is even a problem, it is just another elaborate scheme that the tree huggers and their lobbyists are trying to do to keep us from making a living from a great renewable resource. Please help us by joining together so we too can get a lobbyist to fight for us. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and join the fight.