Weekly Florida Keys Fishing Update from Capt. Dave Schugar and Sweet E'Nuf Charters
Posts Tagged ‘mutton snapper fishing’
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.