Weekly Florida Keys Fishing Update from Capt. Dave Schugar and Sweet E'Nuf Charters
Posts Tagged ‘queen snapper fishing’
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.
Sunday, August 15th, 2010
MARATHON, Florida Keys — Well one of my buddies Andy wanted to go sword fishing and needed some help, so I came along to catch one of these stupendous creators. We made two drops before his reel crapped out. We couldn’t get it fixed so we went to plan B.
Plan B was to use the electric reel and drop on some spots for some snowys — and if we got lucky, a queen snapper. I have been getting a queeny every once in a while.
On the first drop we manged to get hooked up with something big. We were fishing in 800 feet of water and this fish didn’t want to budge a foot. It actually started to take line, so we figured it was a shark and cranked up the drag. Still this fish wouldn’t budge on our Tanacom 1000. After taking in a little line we finally got it off the bottom. We got it up almost 30 feet when he decided he wanted to go back to the bottom again.
After ten minutes of battling, we hadn’t gained any line. After about 20 minutes, we finally started to get this fish off the bottom. We worked hard and finally we we saw what was on our line. It was a monstrous snowy, with battle scars where it had been injured and healed. This was his last battle and we won. I would estimate this fish is around 50-60 pounds, which would have been a new world record…but we caught it on an electric and we all know that wouldn’t count.
On our next drop we caught a small 8-10 pound queen. One of my favorites, because not everyone knows how to catch them. Certain times of the year are better than others, but humps in deep water will hold large quantities of them from Sept-Jan. You just never know when they will show up. It was starting to get late and we wanted to catch a few tunas before heading home.
At the hump, we trolled all over the place and it seems that the tuna were having lock jaw, even in the late hours that we were fishing. The bite all week has been phenomenal, but they have to take a break sometimes and today seems to be the day. We did get a few, but not as many as we had hoped and the size was a little small compared to what we caught all week.
The jigging slowed down all week and still it was slow. We trolled to get the few we caught. We actually chased birds as far as two miles away from the hump to get the tunas we caught. We also caught one on the back side of the rip. While trolling around the hump we caught two gaffers, well one gaffer and a heavy lifter…and that seems to be all we did.
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.
Monday, April 19th, 2010
MARATHON, Florida Keys — Cloudy skies, windy, rain in the distance, looks like a great day to fish.
Well when you only have one day to fish, sometimes you take what you can get. This week was no exception. Even though the conditions were lousy, we still crushed them this week. For us locals, when we are given a day which might be windy or maybe the forecast is predicting rain, we can always fish another day, but when someone only gets one or two weeks out of the year for vacation, they seem to grin and bare it, and usually they get rewarded with a cooler full of fish, too.
Well at least this is what happened with my clients this week. We fished the hump and the tunas were eating everything we threw at them. Doubles and triples all day and our biggest tuna was 20 pounds. Most of the fish were around ten pounds, but some bigger and some smaller were flying over the rails the entire trip. After we had enough for my clients to take home, we played a little game called “catch and release.” Some people just have never heard of that one before. Only take what you can use or eat…this will ensure that we have more bigger tuna next year. Just because there is no size limit and limit of how many you are allowed to keep, think about the future and how much fun you’re going to have when those fish double in size the following year.
We caught all of them on butterfly jigs, where as last week we were able to troll up some lunkers on a ballyhoo-Islander combo. As a matter of fact we caught all of big ones this way. We would drift over the hump and catch fish and then we would troll back to the spot were we would start our next drift and catch some tuna. Deep dropping wasn’t on fire but we produced some quality fish. Earlier in the week we pulled up some barrelfish, and tiles which could have been the next all-tackle record except for the fact that were using too many hooks and the IGFA seems to frown upon the electric reel. But it doesn’t matter, its all about the meat elevator.
People ask me if I feel guilty about using the electric reel, and I ask them “Do you feel guilty about driving to the store and picking out a steak at the meat market?” To me it isn’t any different…it is all about “what’s for dinner.”
Later in the week we did a few drops and caught a nice snowy grouper and big 15-pound queen snapper. I guess there are still a few of them still around too. My clients seemed to be avid anglers and extreme sportsman…well they would have to be to go out there in ten-foot seas! Yup, it was big out there but the fish are chewing.
Towards the end of the week I did a little yellow tailing in the afternoon and it was a steady pick of two-pound fish. The first spot I went to was great except for the fact that they didn’t want to eat. I had 3- to 5-pound yellowtails eating almost out of the bag but they were very line shy and tuned away from the bait every time except twice. We only caught two at that spot but it was so cool to see so many dinosaurs that close to the boat. They looked as big as schoolie dolphin.
The second spot was a complete bust, but as we drove off after fishing for only a half hour, I marked a tremendous school of fish holding close to the bottom. Maybe we didn’t wait long enough, but I needed to put fish in the box and yellowtail can be some of the most challenging fish to catch sometimes.
Our third spot was the ticket, almost all the fish were two pounds or close to it. No sharks like the first spot, and we picked fish till we hit our quota which is ten fish apiece.
Good luck! And if any of you need a shove in the right direction, don’t hesitate to call. I also can guide your boat so you can learn with your own equipment. You can read all you want, but when it comes down to it, hands-on training seems to work much better for most people. Be safe out there, and be courteous to your fellow anglers.
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.
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.
Monday, February 1st, 2010
ISLAMORADA, Florida Keys — Well I had to converse with my friends and other charter captains to get this weeks report because I was up in Islamorada this week for two tournaments. We had a few days to catch our bait and get ready for the tournaments. The first tournament was the Al Flutie Over The Hill Rip-Off tournament, which is a tournament that supports the Cystic Fibrosis charity. It is a great tournament that usually has at least 25-40 boats in it any given year. Florida Keys Fishing is some of the best in the world.
We fished up by Molasses in the morning, which was completely a total waste of time. We checked the Roth’s chart, which predicts and fills you in where the current edges are going to be which can be useful most of the times but this time it really messed us up. After missing the morning bite we headed to Conch Reef, which is one of my favorite places to sailfish in Islamorada. Like I have told you guys in the past we like to fish for sails around out-cropped pieces of reef. Conch Reef is the nicest out-cropping piece of reef in Islamorada and is a favorite sail fishing spot for all of Islamorada fisherman.
As soon as we set up the kites we were hooked up to a double, which we landed fairly quickly. After setting back up again the bite slowed down all over, with very few fish being called in to the committee boat. After a couple of hours we hooked another double, but loosing one and getting the release of the other one in less then thirty seconds. The bite was really slow now until all of the sudden boats started to call in fish left and right. Once this happened most of the boats left Conch. I knew that it was only going to be a matter of time before Conch turned on again.
With only an hour left in the tournament I was thinking, maybe I made a mistake by staying. You just never know where the fish are going to pop up. With five minutes left to go in the tournament, I figured it was hopeless for us. The two minute warning came over the radio when I saw a sail come up on the left short, as I screamed, ‘Sailfish, left short, sailfish, left short.’ My anglers we getting ready to get hooked up when the sail finally caught the gog and pulled the line out of the kite as he took to the air with some really impressive acrobatics. I called in the fish into the committee boat when I noticed a sail on the left long so I yelled down, ‘Sail on the left long, wind, wind wind,wind!’ Hooked up to a double with two minutes left. I called the double into the committee boat, thinking if we get both of these fish we could be in contention for placing in the tournament. We released the first sail in thirty seconds, as I called that fish in to the committee boat, thinking we really need to get the next one to stay in contention. Exactly as they called in lines out of the water I called in our release of the second fish. Two releases in two minutes, one of my best times ever. If you get cooperative fish this can be done, but if you get some bulldogs you could be on a fish for hours.
When the day was over I found out the first and second place caught 6 fish, and four boats with 5 fish. Since Capt Brian on the Contagious caught his five fish before us he took third place and we took fourth. I had fun and my clients enjoyed themselves too. The IFC tournament we lost most of our fish, and landed two, which didn’t even come close to the leader with 18 fish. The boat Relentless was relentless in this tournament with multiple triples and doubles all day long, it was impressive to hear them on the radio and later in the day I got to see them in action, with a professional crew who works phenomenal together, bar none, it was a pleasure to watch them work.
Now for the report for Marathon. Of course there were sailfish to be had with most of them down to the west, from Bahia Honda to Big Pine. The fish were being reported up in the shallows and from 140-130 feet of water. Plenty of kings and cero mackerel along the reef’s edge too. There were plenty of showers of bait in this are which were mostly mackerel, but a few sails causing the bait to get up out of the water. The bottom fishing has been great and the wahoo bite turned on for a few people fishing some deep wrecks. The yellowtail bite was great from what I heard, as were the muttons biting on the patches too.
Heading way out, there were some swords caught, but I didn’t hear of any jumbos though. The hump has many AJ’s and small tunas. The deep dropping has been great with snowy grouper, tiles, queen snapper, barrel fish and rosefish being caught. I can’t wait to get out there and do some deep dropping. Be prepared for what the weather has to offer this week, get out there and have fun catching some fish.
Monday, January 11th, 2010
MARATHON, Florida Keys — With all the bad weather we had to pick the right days to get out this week. I did manage to get out and find some quality fish. When the wind blows or it’s just too cold to go fishing you can use this time wisely and go over all your safety equipment. Having the operational emergency equipment is important no matter who you are. Even if you never need them, always check your fire extinguishers to make sure they are fully charged and check out your first aid kit to make sure that everything is good and not moldy. We have a problem with mold down here from the humidity and even if you never opened it could be ruined. Most of you already know that your flares have an expiration date so check them and if they are expired keep them onboard and get some new ones. Even though they are expired it couldn’t hurt to have a few extra. They might be out-dated but they will most likely work.
We went sail fishing in the beginning of the week and it wasn’t great but we did catch two fish. Fishing for sails can be a waiting game sometimes and if you are impatient you can miss out, but sometimes making a move can also turn your day around. Sometimes it can be a coin toss, but what I look for is an outcropped piece of reef when I set up for sails. The bait holds up on the shallow patches and will get pushed out by the tide and wind, game fish such as sailfish will gather in these areas. So look on your chart for areas with really shallow water near the drop off. Before you set up, look around, ask yourself a few questions such as; is there any bait around, is there a color change in the area, and is there a temperature change in the area. If you can say yes to at least one of these questions, fish the area and see what happens.
Before the weather broke on Friday I mutton fished two days in all this wind and we caught some choice fish. We didn’t set the world on fire but we were able to put a nice catch of muttons together with numerous amberjacks. I was able to keep my clients with bent rods and smiles on their faces. Live bait was also the key. I like to drop a live pinfish or grunt and a split-tailed ballyhoo to keep them honest. You just never know what they will eat but when they choose one of the two I will drop the same bait on both rods next time. But in this case the live bait was working while the dead bait just didn’t seem to get noticed. Most of the muttons were from 12-15 pounds and the amberjacks were from 20-30 pounds with a few small ones around 10 pounds. The AJ’s were biting on every wreck, but the 140-180 foot wrecks is where we caught the muttons. We also caught some muttons on live bottom in 140-165 feet too.
Finally we got a break from the wind on Friday, so we went offshore to do some tuna fishing, deep dropping, and sword fishing. The tuna bite was hot, but the fish were only a few pounds. I kept a few for bait and we went to my queen spot down to the west and the bite was on. We dropped five times and caught fish every drop. We ended up with two queens around fifteen pounds and two around ten pounds. We also dragged up a big amberjack, which we released unharmed to fight again. Four big queens were enough and the day was getting late so we headed further west to drop for swords. We had a really long first drift and no bite so we started to bring up the bait when all of a sudden we got a bite a couple hundred feet off the bottom. We stopped the retrieval of the bait and slowly dropped the bait down so to put slack in the leader and it was just enough to allow the sword to eat the bait. Hooked up, we ended up landing a 100 pounder, not a big one but it was getting late so we bagged the fish and headed home. What a cooler, four jumbo queens, and a decent sword to boot.
Good luck this week and wear layers to keep warm.
Monday, January 4th, 2010
MARATHON, Florida Keys — Brrrrrrr, it is just down right cold outside. Global warming, what? Fishing this week was a bit off for the weather we have been having, but it might be caused by the Gulf Stream being so far offshore. Most of the week the Gulf Stream has been around 20-26 miles offshore which puts a big gap between it and the edge of the reef. The green water, which has had little to no current, has pushed all the way out to the beginning edge of the continental shelf. There has been bait all the way out to the blue water, but as soon as you enter the blue water the water temperature jumps up from 74 degrees to 77.5 degrees.
Sail fishing has suffered as did most of the offshore species, but I did find a couple fish each day while fishing in tight to the edge of the reef. The grass has made it hard to troll, but trying to find fish in the shallows is really tough because of the milky water conditions. We found some nice big kings while slow trolling for sails with a deep bait. The ballyhoo are hoarding around the shallow banks on the Oceanside. Catching plenty of bait has not been the problem. I have talked to many captains this week and it seems to be a consensus, the sail fishing is slow, and it won’t get better unless the current comes back.
I ventured out to the deep water this week once to deep drop some, and we did very well with the groceries. We got plenty of queen snappers, barrels, and got one snowy grouper. The tunas at the hump are abundant and small, but if you get way out in front of the hump and drop your jig down 90 seconds you have a better chance of getting a larger tuna from 10-20 pounds. Once you get closer to the hump the small tunas are to ferocious to even get a jig far enough down to where the bigger fish might be. The bait of choice for the queen snapper was tuna, but the barrels only eat squid. When dropping down for snowy grouper use big baits and squid to entice these numerous and tasty fish to bite. There is talk about the closure of these deepwater species, but they have no real data, if they talked to us charter fisherman and the commercial fisherman they would see that there is no need to shut down all of the fishing in the deep reefs from 300-out. They shut down a 25 square mile last year and we all had no problems with that, but I guess it wasn’t enough for them because now they are threatening to shut all the deep water off so that no one can use this resource which is not in any danger of being over fished. They shut the commercial fishing of snowy groupers to 150 pounds. These guys which fish for these fish have no problem catching there limit, and didn’t have a problem catching their limit when they could catch 600 pounds. Something is very fishy, no fishery is safe, someone is behind in ruining the Florida Keys and they are hurting us with all this talk about shutting down all fishing down here. Make limits, we will abide by them; don’t shut down a fishery especially when you don’t have the data. I recommend that everyone join the RFA; this is an organization, which is fighting for our fishing rights while preserving the fish we are so eager to catch and eat.
If the seas got you down, don’t let it. You don’t have to go far to have some fun and catch plenty of fish. This past week the mackerel and snappers have been everywhere just inside of hawks channel and you can make a whole day of catching. Putting a large bait on the bottom while your chumming in this area can produce great results from goliaths to sharks. Remember hawks channel is like a super highway for fish, it is like those guys trying to sell flowers at the off ramps, use the bumps and lumps like the flower sellers to catch your fish.
Good luck and be safe.