Weekly Florida Keys Fishing Update from Capt. Dave Schugar and Sweet E'Nuf Charters
Posts Tagged ‘Marathon fishing’
Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011
A recent tragedy in the Florida Keys has opted me to write this article this month. A family of seven tragically sinks their boat and their grandmother pays the ultimate price. Almost all accidents can be avoided; it’s the preparation and knowledge of the water that prevents accidents on the water from happening. Accidents may still happen when you do everything right, but having the right gear that’s accessible can save your life in a freak of nature from a storm or something unforeseen.
When preparing their boat for departure, many overlook the condition and the accessibility of their safety gear. People tend to never check pumps and systems until they need them, and in some cases it could cost you your life. I hope after reading this article you will become more aware of what kind of condition your boat is really in. I, like most others, love to go fishing and it don’t matter if it’s flat calm or 10 foot seas; we love the ocean and the glory of catching the big one. It is the owners or captains responsibility to do a once over of the entire boat before departure and ultimately his or hers duty as a captain to ensure the safety of the people on board.
Physical inspections of your safety gear is a must. Check the expiration dates on flares, make sure your fire extinguishers are charged, and check the condition of your life jackets…all simple things you can do every month to insure that when the time comes you are prepared.
Uncharged fire extinguishers can be given to your local fire department for disposal and new ones can be picked up at any good boating retailer. Fire extinguishers should be kept in accessible places and just because the Coast Guard mandates a certain kind and how many it is wise to have one extra or a bigger fire extinguishers than it is required.
Life jackets are always overlooked, stored away and never checked because you put them there yourself a long time ago. Take time to pull them out, inspect them for tears, mold or some sort of defect, check the lights to be sure they work and replace any that are questionable (not just the ones that are not working).
Many people have flares, but have never used them before. Take the time to learn how to use them properly. The coast guard offers a class once a year to explain and show boaters how to use flares and other important safty equipment. Keep the out-of-date flare with the good ones you never know when you might need to have extra flares. Everyone onboard needs to know how to use them properly. When practicing with the flares contact your Coast Guard Station and inform them that you will be firing off the white flare which is the only one you can practice with. You can also contact the Coast guard for courses on how to use the emergency signaling equipment; usually it will be the Coast Guard Auxiliary who will help you out.
Your boat systems can be the leading cause of why you need to use your emergency equipment. Before any trip out on the water you should always check your bilge pumps to ensure they are working properly. Most boats have a manual switch that activates your bilge pumps and is a good way of inspecting your pump, but it does not indicate if your float switch is working properly. As such, I would recommend that you go into your bilge and lift up on your bilge pump float switch to make sure that it activates the pump as well with the manual switch on your dashboard. Now that you are in your bilge, look for debris in your bilge that could impede the bilge pump or get caught inside of it where it could cause a failure of this pump down the road. This is also a good time to check all hose clamps on all hoses to make sure that none are rusted through. Replace any that are questionable. Any hoses below the water line should have two hose clamps, giving you a backup just in case one fails. Any cracked hoses are potential for failure so they should also be repaired before you take your boat out again. Also look for any wires that have been worn through by the natural vibrations of a boat in use. Exposed wires can become a fire hazard; fires are by far the worst emergency that you ever could encounter on a boat.
Understanding your boat could save your life. Every boat has its limits, set by the manufacturer and regulated by the Coast Guard either by weight capacity or the amount of people allowed on the vessel. Exceeding these limits can be catastrophic. Never overload your boat and never go out in weather that your boat can’t handle. Not all boats are created equal; some perform great in heavy seas where others flounder to stay afloat. Knowing your boats capabilities is incredibly important. Learning your boat’s sea capability will take time, in some cases years depending how many years you have been a boater or how often you are out on the water.
When tackling big seas, it takes all of your attention to be safe, knowing how to take the waves as they come can the most important lesson learned on a boat, as most boaters we have all gotten caught in a storm where seas were bigger than we would have liked. But knowing how to tackle big waves in an emergency situation will save you and your boat. There are plenty of boater safety and boat handling classes out there for you to learn how to operate a boat safely and successfully when the situation arises. Don’t take unnecessary risks, it’s not just your life you are endangering it could be your whole family. Play safe and be responsible, know your boat and what your limitations are. Be safe and enjoy the ocean as it is our pearl.
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.
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.
Wednesday, April 20th, 2011
Busy busy. Wow, can’t seem to get a break to write my reports. Sorry guys, I know a lot of you can’t get enough fishing and this is one of your fixes.
I have been dolphin fishing a lot. It has been ok, not great yet, but any week now though the big fish ought to start pouring through. Mostly what I have been catching are schoolies, and some gaffers. I haven’t seen many big schools, but we have been getting a few dozen decent fish, nothing we had to measure and plenty of filets for my clients. We have been tuna fishing too, having a ball jigging and even getting a few big ones in the 20 pound range. Unfortunately the bite isn’t all day, but after a good morning bite, we ended up finding a few schools of dolphin to round out the day.
On the reef it has been hot and cold. The big yellowtails have shown up in full force, but the sharks tend to eat half of what we hook. Some of the tails are in the 3-5 pound range, which is huge, because a normal yellowtail is about one to two pounds. If you have ever caught a five pound yellowtail, you know that’s a big fight. It is amazing how such a small fish fights so hard. Once they get big like this they tend to be hard to catch, but as the spawn is nearing they are starting to eat up the chum bag behind the boat. We have been catching lots of grouper, so I can’t wait to May first when we can keep them.
The permits have been biting really well at a few wrecks, and we smoked them one day catching 14 of them. The next day we caught five. We basically sight fish for them…we just wait till we see them and then cast a crab on a jig and whamo! You’re on. Most of the fish are from 10-15 pounds, but we did manage to catch one over twenty.
If you are waiting to book your trip for May, don’t wait too long, I am almost completely booked up, but I still have some room in June.
Thursday, March 10th, 2011
This week the dolphin showed up while were fishing the Leon Shell Tournament that gives money to Hospice, a very worthy cause. The sailfish have been slow but we were able to pull out fourth place. But the real story is about the little green fellers, dolphin season is officially open. All day long we were attacked by 6-10 pound dolphin, I only wish we weren’t in a tournament, otherwise we could have filled the cooler. Most of the fish were from 110 to 140 feet of water. Most of the day they attacked our live baits like a pack of piranhas.
After the tournament I took out a great family who had never been to the Keys before. Since the dolphin have been around we started with the troll and caught seven nice fish, mostly 10 pounders, but the bite slowed down as the day went on so we switched gears and hit the wrecks. The first drop we hooked a monster, I figured it was an amberjack, but when it came up, I was pleasantly surprised when it was a 20-pound mutton. On the very next drop we had a double header, but lost one shortly after it bit. To my surprise, another 20-pound mutton, we hit the jackpot. Jumbo muttons chewing for some first timers, I couldn’t have planned it any better.
The next drop we got another monster, but this time it was a 50 pound amberjack. Fishing with spinners amberjacks are a grand battle, long strong runs and dogging my clients the whole way up. They are truly a great Sport fish of the Florida Keys. These clients were having so much fun, as was I, when we pulled up another 20-pound mutton. After losing a huge fish we couldn’t stop, most likely a big black grouper we looked at the time and boy; the time flew by, only time for one more drop. Another double header, this time two amberjacks, one 35 pounds and another 50 pounder. What a wonderful day for a family’s first visit to the Keys, memories they will never forget.
The next day I had a sad day, a burial at sea, they always get me choked up, and I never even met the old timer. His last wish was to go fishing one last time and then have his ashes spread into the ocean. It was rough and his family was in good spirits, as we headed out to find some dolphin. It wasn’t long before we had the first fish on, maybe three minutes. It was a nice ten pound dolphin which had a hard time eating a trolled ballyhoo. I had to drop back three times, to finally get him hooked up. Shortly after that we caught another one and then it was like they were never there. I headed out to find some grass, but there was none, so I headed back in where we caught the other two fish along the color edge. We finally got another hit and it turned out to be a nice kingfish. It was rough and some of my clients were getting sick so we decided to head to coffins patch to do the service. On the way there we caught another kingfish. It was a slow day, but you can’t always catch a lot every trip. The service was moving, and with tears flowing, my throat got all tight, and I am glad it was a short service otherwise I would have been joining the rest of them sobbing. He sounded like a great man, from the stories they were remembering, and the fact that he raised his kids, and they felt that he did a wonderful job. It is always sad to see our loved ones go.
On the next day I had a guide trio on the 50 foot Bertram I have been running for a client I have had for over three years. We headed out and started the troll at the reefs edge. There was not much for conditions, but we trolled along and out of the corner of my eye I see a dolphin making a B-line to my right rigger. I yelled down from the tower and said,”Dolphin coming for the right rigger.” He slammed the bait and the line popped out of the rigger, but he wasn’t hooked. Dan Chambers dropped back the bait and the dolphin scarfed it up. After a brief battle on the trolling rod we boated the first fish, a 18 pound cow.
I headed out offshore after an hour with no more bites, and when we hit an area outside the thunderbolt in 250 feet of water we caught a small 6 pound black fin tuna. I kept trolling around in this area and boated many more tunas, as a squall line appeared to the north. It wasn’t long before we got hit with 50kt winds and a water spout of our port side. It got really rough in moments. It went from flat calm seas to 8 foot, six feet apart from each other. We called the trip early, but it had been a great day with a big dolphin and a cooler full of tunas. I am glad I was in that big boat instead of my 33 foot Hydro sport when the winds hit. I was in conditions like this before, and the rain stings like needles at that wind speed. It sure was nice to stay dry up in the flying bridge. The wind was blowing so hard it blew out the outrigger, snapping two cables and bending the outrigger. As soon as we hit the dock, the wind died as if it had never happened, freaky, freaky stuff.
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.
Sunday, January 16th, 2011
Wintertime has come early this year and as the weather cools the water, fish will venture towards the deeper, more stable water temperatures. February is a great month to fish down here in the Keys. The mutton snapper bite will be very stable throughout the winter on the wrecks and reefs. There are many ways way to fish for muttons, but I believe the most productive way is live bait. Muttons can be tricked to eat many different types of artificial lures and most small live baits. As with muttons, groupers and amberjacks will also be very abundant on the wrecks and reefs as well.
Fishing the reefs for muttons may be different than what you think. Most people think of reefs and they assume that the depth of water is from 25-100 feet. Well, they are mostly right. We also have reefs as far out as 200 feet. They generally have low relief and can be stacked with muttons. There are bands of reef that stretch east and west ranging in depths of 125-200 feet of water. I will scout areas where I have caught fish in the past, and what I am looking for is bait. Looking at your depth finder, look for what most of us call fuzzy bottom. This fuzzy bottom is scattered bait such as tomtates and other small grunts and porgies. This is the primary food source for the muttons while they are out on these reefs.
These reefs also have an abundant supply of small crustaceans, which muttons can’t resist. Occasionally I get snagged on these deep reefs, but by having a rig with a breakaway lead you will save most of your rig if you do encounter a snag. I will fish these areas where I mark bait. It takes a while sometimes until you find out where the fish are hanging out on the reef. One day they will be right on top, other days they will be in the sand, either inside or outside of the reef. Using a three-way swivel rig or swivel bead swivel method, drifting or slow trolling your bait back and forth on these deep reefs you will eventually find out where the fish are gathering. Once you find the fish, you will find them in similar locations on other reefs.
Wrecks are highly guarded so don’t bother asking any of the local charter boat captains. But keep your eye on your bottom finder when you are running in 100-300 feet, you just might find some. I have been given some of the numbers that I have and traded with other captains to accumulate about twenty wrecks in a thirty mile area. I have found about dozen on my own, by just looking at the bottom while traveling from spot to spot. A good way to find wrecks is to look for bait gathering on the surface or on your depth sounder. If you are marking lots of bait, there is a good chance there is wreck near by or a very healthy reef. There is a neat website that has wrecks so you can start with a few. This website is www.artificalreeflocator.
I mainly use live bait on the wrecks, but I do have a few friends who love using jigs for muttons and groupers. I do use butterfly jigs for the amberjacks when the kingfish are not swarming, because otherwise it can get quite expensive. Don’t over look dead bait; it can work great some days. I prefer split-tailed ballyhoo or bonita strips for my dead bait. When using dead bait I will hold my rod high and when I get a bite I will drop the tip and allow the mutton or grouper to inhale the bait especially on long baits such as ballyhoo and bonita strips. I make my leaders long, 15-20 feet to be exact. I use the long leaders for two reasons, one is to get the bait away from the bouncing lead, and the other is to ensure the mutton snapper gets the bait in his mouth before you start reeling. I always use at least 10oz of lead or more. I find that sash weights or bank sinker type weights tend to hold better than egg sinkers. Keeping the weight close to the bottom is usually sufficient, if the lead comes up about ten feet or so is ok too. If you find that your lead is having a hard time staying down, and already have over a pound on, try backing up to your line to keep your lead on the bottom. We call this a controlled drift, and on really windy days it is the only way to go. When the wind and current allow it, I can literally troll my bait across the bottom in search of a hungry mutton, and I always watch for my lead to hit the bottom every once in a while. You can also just drift and systematically cover the bottom until you find the muttons. Having a long leader allows the bait to stay close to the bottom where the muttons food is naturally found. I have caught muttons half way up while reeling in after a drift; so even high in the water column you can catch these tasty critters.
Fishing wrecks may require a little boat handling skills on windy days to ensure that you are able to keep your bait in the zone as long as you can. I find that most of my bites will occur fairly close to the wreck. But don’t pull up and start over until you get a tenth of a mile away from the wreck as muttons circle the wreck at different distances. Just like the deep reef, when you find an area near the wreck where you caught one, you should be able to hit that spot again and again. Some people like to anchor up on these wrecks, but that requires precise anchoring. It may take you a few times to get it right, but when the bite goes off, it best behooves you to be positioned right. Sometimes anchoring can diminish your chances of catching a lot, due to the fact that the fish are not located right behind your boat. Before anchoring I would drift around and try and find out where the fish are eating. Then after determining where the school is feeding, anchor up so that the spot is right behind the boat. When anchoring we use bombs, which are cut bait and soft chum mixed with sand. You can place this mixture in a paper bag and drop it to the bottom. When the bomb hits the bottom it explodes expelling chum and chunks, which the larger fish will snack on until they see your bait. There are some cons about the bombs, as they attract sharks and triggerfish. Sharks are bad because once they key on you, getting your fish to the surface in one piece can be almost impossible. Triggerfish will kill your bait or even remove it from your hook without you knowing it, so use the bombs only as a last ditch effort on a slow bite.
The tackle I use for mutton fishing is light, but effective. You will loose some big groupers but if you want to target muttons, but the lighter the better. I use 50-pound braid with a 10-20 foot shock leader of 60-pound. This shock leader has two jobs. It gives you a little stretch as the fish runs hard and it also allows my lead to slide along the mono and not the braid. I use the swivel bead swivel method, which acts like a three-way but doesn’t allow the fish to feel the lead and gives you great sensitivity for even the lightest of bites. By sliding a bead before the swivel it will not allow the lead to slide past your knot from the braid to mono. Then I slide on another bead before tying on my swivel, which my 15-20 foot leader is attached to. This extra bead keeps your lead swivel from catching on your knot to your swivel from the leader.
So to simplify this rig, slide a bead on, then slide a swivel on, slide another bead and tie another swivel to your shock leader. The swivel that slides I attach one foot of 30-pound where I attach my lead for the break away. I use 30-50 pound floro carbon for my leaders, but regular mono for the shock leader. The shock leader needs to stretch and mono stretches more than floro carbon.
As for my hooks, I prefer to use a circle hook, it allows for non targeted species to be released unharmed, and for my inexperienced anglers who have a hard time keeping the line taught at all times. The circle hooks also tend to catch fish in the corner of the mouth so that the fish’s teeth aren’t rubbing on your leader. They don’t have very sharp teeth but with enough pressure and time the muttons will have no problem severing through your leader if they are gut hooked.
I set my drags light because muttons don’t normally run for cover, but instead high tail it for open water. If there is a lot of structure where you are fishing you may want to tighten up your drag a bit and use some 50-pound floro. I like circle hooks, and the one I use is made by Mustad and are called Circle Demons. I generally use 8/0 and 9/0 in this style; to me it is like Velcro to an Afro if you ask me. I rarely miss bites and that is important when my clients are fishing. So get out there try something new, and take these tips for your next fishing trip down here in the Keys.
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.
Thursday, October 7th, 2010
MARATHON, Florida Keys — Boy the fishing has really gotten red hot down here. My buddy David Rogers from Colorado has come to fish for the week but we were only able to fish one day and dive one day before the wind picked up and forced us off the water.
We had a game plan of deep dropping to get some tasty critters from deep. Most of the morning we were hitting some of my usual snowy grouper spots, but there was no current. When deep dropping from 600-700 feet of water we need current to stimulate the fish. We hit 4 spots with no luck. I finally made up my mind to go deeper and find some current. I headed out to my barrel fish spot where we finally found some current; it wasn’t a lot, but it was enough. We made two drops with a barrel fish on each drop. Barrel fish is like eating grouper, but a little more firm. I prefer to freeze these fish before eating to tenderize the meat. My clients consider barrel fish one of the best fish they have ever eaten. We caught one around 20 pounds and the other was close to 40 pounds, which is a jumbo. Dave likes to take home multiple species so that he has an assortment of fish to eat over the winter time where in Colorado most of the water is covered by ice.
After we had enough of barrel fish, we were headed east to find some current further inside as we looked for dolphin. We found a barrel floating with loads of baitfish underneath it. It looked very fishy and so we threw some bait in the water and as soon as it hit the water, the baitfish (Baby Almaco Jacks) tore up our baits. Dave was actually catching them with a bare hook. Shortly after a few jigs with the butterfly jigs, five dolphins swam past the boat. We pitched some live bait and the biggest of the five ate the bait and we were on. We pitched more live bait, but they seemed to be not interested. We tried every trick in the book, but we were only able to catch three of the five fish, but since they were big dolphin we were ok with that. The weights of these dolphins were from 15-20 pounds and this size fish has a very good yield of meat. We were able to get almost 30 pounds of fillets off of them, which is a considerable amount of meat.
It was starting to get late, so we headed back to the wrecks close to shore to see if we could get a few muttons before heading home. We were at the right wreck because as soon as the bait hit the bottom we were on — nice ten-pound mutton. Before the end of the drift, we dropped down another bait and scored another ten-pound mutton. It was so cool! I love it when the muttons bite this well. We made another drift and yielded one about 20 pounds. With a box full of fish we headed home for some cocktails while I filleted the fish. Fishing couldn’t have gone any better this day…a nice snowy wouldn’t have hurt anything, but I guess they will be waiting for my next trip.
Are you looking for a great time to come down to the Keys? I would recommend that you come on down during the fall! The weather is changing and can cause some rough days, so when booking your vacation, be sure to book your fishing trips early in your vacation — that way, if we experience some bad weather, we can reschedule later in the week. Fishing is great this time of the year with many different types of fish to catch, and the heat is dwindling away, making it quite refreshing to fish. The fall is the time when our swordfishing gets red hot. We catch more fish over 200 pounds this time of the year than any other. I offer day and night time fishing for these giants of the deep, so keep that in mind when you are booking your trip. The sailfish are starting to show up! It is only a matter of time before we go gung ho for them and the smoker kings. Sweet E’Nuf Charters specializes in live bait and light tackle fishing. Lets go fishing!