Weekly Florida Keys Fishing Update from Capt. Dave Schugar and Sweet E'Nuf Charters
Posts Tagged ‘sailfish fishing’
Thursday, November 10th, 2011
The cool weather is upon us now, which gives us a new perspective on fishing down in the Florida Keys. This cooler weather triggers pelagic migrations. First the bait makes its move and the predators are soon to follow. Our fishing will change from heading way offshore to hanging closer to reef’s edge.
Sailfish, kingfish and wahoo are some of the predators that we will be targeting. These predators will be hanging close to the reef’s edge where batfish congregate. The optimal winds will be a north-easterly direction bucking the east bound current and at times this will push the bait off the edge of the reef where the predators are waiting. It is a small area between the reef and 200 feet of water where the majority of these fish will be roaming for food.
Looking for birds and color changes will be your first tactic in finding these fish. Finding clean water is the key, with the increasing winds from the cold fronts the water can get stirred up near shore which gets pushed offshore by the wind, so this is where your color changes are going to be found. Where the dirty inshore water meets the gulfstream or a splinter of it, there will be color change and a current edge. Most of the time the fish will be in the cleaner water, but not always, so crossing over may be an option too.
Fishing for sailfish, you will want to have nice fresh caught bait, slow-trolled or flown in the kite. Troll down these edges or set up the kites so that your baits are in the clear or blue side of the edge will generate most of your bites. When looking down these edges look at your chart, you will notice outcroppings of the reef will push out the color change or current edge; these slight changes in direction of the current will congregate bait and in turn concentrate the sailfish. Since most of the sailfish are on the move as they head down sea looking for food, they will hold up in these areas where the bait is thick and you will notice that they may even school up as they feed in these places along the reef.
Now, if trolling or flying the kite isn’t your cup of tea you can also chase bait showers, which can be very productive if the fish are actively feeding in the shallows. Having a tower is a great advantage when doing this but not necessary. Run up and down the inside of the reef from 20-40 feet of water while looking for diving birds and showering bait. It’s pretty cut and dry: find the bait showers and cast your bait into the shower or where the shower was. Free spool your line till something grabs it and get to reeling. This is really a fast-paced style of fishing and being able to cast is a must. You may have to cast many times before you get a taker, but once you get one hooked up it can be possible to get a few more hooked up, because generally when the bait showers happen, it’s because of many fish chasing them.
The way you can tell if it’s more than one fish chasing baits is if the showers go into different directions, as a few fish will split the main school into a few bait showers going in different directions. No matter what you like to do, having fresh caught bait is the key. Nice, lively baits trigger the bite, so when catching your bait, handle them with care and don’t over crowd your live well as that’s not good either.
Yeah baby, wahoo is one of the best fighting fish, and tasty too; a very sought after game fish for its blistering speed and its table quality. Wahoo like large baits for their size, so fishing with live bait from one to two pounds isn’t out of the question. Speedos and tinker mackerel are the very best bait for them, but blue runners, goggle eyes, and ballyhoo work well too for a secondary bait if you can’t get the choice bait.
Basically, fishing over deep wrecks and along weedlines and current edges is your best bet to find these elusive critters. Most people use live bait if they want to be sporty with them, but if you just want to catch some your best bet is high speed trolling at 15 knots. Yep, 15 knots…it’s fast, but not too fast for these game fish. Wahoo have been clocked at 65 mph, so 15 kts is like a fast walk for them. Wahoo, like most of the mackerel family, are sight feeders and react to action. So fast-moving baits catch their attention and trigger their need to feed.
Since these fish are toothy, you need wire to catch them, but I have caught plenty on mono dolphin rigs and even light 30# mono sailfish rigs too. It can be done, but to improve your chances, #5 wire is minimal for them on live bait and I like 200# seven strand cable for the high speed lures. When using the high speed lures, color can make a difference so put out many different colors and find out what they are feeding on and then you can switch to have most lures of the color that caught the first few fish. Generally, dark colors like red and black, black and purple are always good, but pink and chartreuse can also be deadly. For your tackle, I suggest at least 50# gear to stand up to the drag of the lure and weight at 15 kts.
Just a trash fish for some, but for most of us, it’s a great game fish and fun fish with their big runs and explosive bites and up to 15 foot leaps in the air. Kingfish have been under-rated as a great game fish here because they are nucence when we are trying to target other species. But when you get into an area where you are getting cut off, put some wire on…they are blast to catch, even if they aren’t so great to eat.
There are many ways to catch kings: trolling with lures, live and dead bait, jigging and chumming them up. All work great, but my favorite way is chumming or chunking them up. I will usually find them near small shallow wrecks in 150-100 feet of water, as larger wreck usually have barracudas on them and the kings don’t like being stalked by ‘cudas, so they will stay clear of those large wrecks which hold large amounts of barracudas. Early in the morning, I like to net up 500 pilchards for the live well and then another 500 which I kill and put in my cooler for chunking. I will anchor up in a good spot for kings and start chunking…but don’t cut too many up as you don’t want to feed them but just spark their interest. I like to cut two pilchards into 2 or 3 pieces and throw them over every few minutes.
I will belly-hook two baits on the surface and put one down on a short leader rig with a 2 oz. weight to get it down 60 feet or so. Eventually I will start throwing five live baits at a time with the chunks and it won’t take long for the kings to start busting the live bait up on the surface. It is a show, little explosions blowing up all around the boat as the poor pilchards run for their life. Once they start hitting the freebees you should start getting hit on your top and bottom baits. Once we get them all fired up, I will start casting to the boils and explosions and its only seconds before you get a bite, and it is unmistakeble as they scream line off the reel. It’s a blast to use 12-15 pound test, but if you do use such light tackle make sure you got some line capacity because some of these bigger kings will strip 100 yards of line off on their first run. These fish will test your gear and terminal tackle. I you are getting 20-40 pounders you will need to bump up the wire to #6 from #5 because the bigger kings eat through smaller wire leaders with ease.
With the water cooling off and the weather, be sure to dress appropriately and bring some extra clothes so that you can enjoy this great time of the year to fish. Lots of layers is the key so as the day goes on you can shed layers as it gets warmer or add more as the sun goes down. Be comfortable while you fish and enjoy the Keys even if the locals won’t step outside because of the cold.
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.
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.
Tuesday, September 28th, 2010
I went to Colorado this past week and visited a good client and friend. Since the Keys are like a graveyard I took some time off to go fishing. I just can’t get enough, and when I travel I always go fishing. Most of us captains vacation around this time because it becomes very desolate this time of year. From kids going back to school to hurricanes forming in the Atlantic, people just don’t seem to start coming down till November. But if you do come down the hotels cut you a break — sometimes you can stay for almost half price! This is also a great time to fish down here. You can catch tuna, dolphin, wahoo, loads of bottom fish, and some sails are already starting to show up. Cobia are starting to show up on the gulf wrecks and permit is showing up, too.
On my vacation, I went to see my buddy Dave Rogers who operates many businesses in the Denver area. He is the one who designed my web site, which I get many compliments from all of my clients. His son Tucker took me fly-fishing on the dream stream. This is a world famous stream with rainbows, browns, and cutthroat and cutbows, which are a hybrid, mix of a rainbow and a cutthroat. Tucker runs one of the Orvis shops in the Denver area and is an expert fly fisherman. Tucker is an amazing fly fisherman with skills beyond the pros. He used to guide, but being a manger for one of Orvis’s best stores, he has no time to pursue his guiding career.
I was a little rusty casting flies, but as the day wore on I seemed to pick up where I left off a year ago, the last time I picked up my fly rod. Fishing for a living I just don’t seem to get enough time to play with my fly rod. My first fish was a rainbow about two pounds, but looking at the photos, it looks smaller. That’s why I hate getting into the photos because I just make fish look small. Tucker taught me to look for rising fish which are active fish feeding on the hatch. It is really important to match the hatch, and as the day goes on you have to change your flies to what flies are hatching. It was raining and cool so the hatches were small. But as the day heated up more and more bugs started to emerge. After a long day of catching trout, I went to Wyoming for a couple days of walleye fishing in Glendo.
Glendo is a small town of 229 people, but people travel all over this country for its excellent walleye fishing. As fishing goes it was slow, but we did catch a few and some carp and catfish. I got to vertical jig, trolled, and we used flee flies, clackers, and cranks baits of all sizes and colors. I learned that walleye fishing is hard and lots of work when the fish aren’t biting. Switching back and forth between colors and different styles we covered it all with little success. I had a great time spending time with my friends, though, and that’s what really counts. Catching fish was a bonus. I have been told that last year during this week it was off the chain and people were limiting out in a few hours. But this year just like down here in the Keys, the fishing was all mixed up — fish showing up late and leaving early. We had a great year, but it threw us a curve ball, and made us captains work a little harder to find the fish.
I will be fishing this next week as long as the storms aren’t too bad, so give me a call. I still have a few days open, but days are slowly filling in. Don’t forget to consider fishing in the off-season — the fish don’t know that there are less people down here! So come on down, beat the crowds and save some money coming during the fall.
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.
Sunday, April 11th, 2010
MARATHON, Florida Keys — Spring is here, thank God. It seems that our cold days are in our past. The water temperature has been warming and soon we will be in full swing with lots of dolphin. The Gulf Stream has moved in and out this week, this has caused the shallower water to warm as well as the heat from the sun too. Keep you eyes and ears open because it isn’t going to be long before the dolphin come pouring through.
I have been all over the pace this week. I fished the deep, the shallow and all the places in between. In the beginning of the week we went out for tunas at the hump and did very well. Most of the tunas were perfect size, not too small to eat and not too big where the meat gets really red. I prefer the 10-20 pounders…they have pinkish meat and I believe it is the best tasting. We filled the cooler with all the tuna my clients could eat and then we took a short ride to the west to fish for queen snapper. We caught tilefish, and queen snappers — good size to them as well. The fish have been averaging 12 pounds, but we have been getting a few close to 20 pounds.
The next charter this past week was a guide trip. A guide trip is when I jump on my clients boat and I give hands on training of the rigs, bait, and the area. If anyone is interested in this please give me a call…I would love to help you out! My client Dave wanted to learn about the reef so we went yellow tailing. It took a while for the yellowtails to pop up, but once they did we caught a few before they got spooked off buy the numerous kings and mackerel…or maybe it was the current (or lack of). We tried every trick in the book and they still wouldn’t bite. So I move to another spot out in 88 feet of water.
We marked a nice school, but I hadn’t been in this spot for quite some time now, so who knew that we would get into some great mangrove action? Most of them were 3-4 pounds, but none smaller than 2 pounds. After the bite died off, we switched to a jig, and whipped-jigged kings and mackerel on 8-pound test line. What a blast that was! All throughout the day we were catching grouper on the bottom with a small 1’4 oz jig tipped with a small pinfish. We were targeting muttons, but only caught groupers and mangroves. We probably caught 20 groupers (gags, reds, and blacks) and half of them were keepers, which we released unharmed to get a little bigger. I can’t wait till the grouper season opens, it’s killing me to release such quality fish, but the law is the law.
My next charter was another guide trip and we did our tuna thing for while when we finally caught some small ones, which we bridled up on two Tiagra 50 wides with 80-pound test. My client wanted to troll live tuna around the hump, so we did. We didn’t get any strikes but the anticipation of what might eat our baits really got our blood flowing. One of these days we will get a big marlin or maybe a mako. While we trolled around trying to get the smaller tunas we picked up one dolphin, which was a bonus. After a few hours with no strikes we went deep dropping and we caught a 60-pound wreckfish, rosefish, and a barrelfish. Unfortunately we were unable to keep the wreckfish due to its “no take” status. They are commercially taken but recreational anglers are not allowed to posses this fish.
On Sunday we headed out o look for yellowfin tuna, but we couldn’t find any. It was a desert out there, no dolphin and no yellowfins. We did manage to catch a sailfish on a squid spreader bar. We looked all over for birds but to no avail. I was using an open array radar to search for the birds, but we only found a few and they were just flying.
Good luck and keep it safe.
Sunday, April 4th, 2010
MARATHON, Florida Keys — What an enjoyable week compared to the frigid winter we have had! I have been booked all week and there is a lot of fish to be had almost everywhere out there.
Thanks to the East wind, the sails were piling down the pipeline and boats with upper stations had a ball sight fishing for those acrobatic speedsters. Even though they were being finicky, there were many sailfish to be had. With the ballyhoo hard to find, the choice of bait here in Marathon has been pilchards, which really is a better bait for sight fishing. I like to hook the bait in the belly to force the pilchard down which usually entices the sailfish to strike.
There has been an incredible color edge off of Marathon all week with lots of sailfish action on it. The bite had been better the further West you went. Some boats fished all the way down to American shoals (what a hike!), but in order to put up big numbers of fish that’s where you needed to be. Along with the sails, cobia and dolphin are also being caught along that edge.
The deeper edge further offshore that had the dolphin last week dried right up as if it was never there. I would keep looking for dolphin just beyond the color change and out as far as 400 feet just in case there is another push of fish this week.
The wrecks have been hit hard for the past few weeks and the fishing pressure has made a definite impact on the bite, which was out of this world. The wrecks are still producing amberjacks, muttons, and beautiful grouper, which we have been releasing. I caught a small genuine red snapper, which is not common in these parts except for a few deeper wrecks during certain times of the year.
The bait of choice on the mutton snapper bite has been live pinfish and any small grunts, which I was able to catch. The tomtates, my favorite bait has been hard to come by, but pinfish seem to be doing the job just fine.
Kingfish have been on most of the deeper wrecks from 130-200 feet of water. I was mainly catching them with deep-trolled ballyhoo. I heard that the reef also had kingfish prowling behind the yellowtails. When fishing for yellow tails, the kings will be hanging back waiting for the right time to strike.
The hump has been red hot. The tunas have been biting better in the afternoon verses the morning, but that may be due to the full moon we have had and the tunas must be feasting on the squid all night long. Jigging for the tunas has resulted in more and bigger fish, but when it becomes overcast the larger tunas will hit the trolled baits too.
The live baiter out there have been harassed by all the boat traffic out there, so if you see a boat using live bait, give him some room and respect that he can’t catch his fish when boats come barreling up behind them. While we were out offshore we did a little deep dropping and yielded some quality queen snappers. Most of the queens were up in the 12-18 pound class, which is some quality fish. Snowys and tilefish are abundant right now too in the 800-700 foot range.
I had a charter which took me out in the bay. I normally don’t fish out here but when the weather gets rough and my clients can’t take the big seas we head out there for some action packed fishing. They wanted to catch some goliaths and the bay didn’t let us down. We caught a couple in the 30 pound class and two big ones one was about 100 pounds and the other had to 350 pounds if it wasn’t 400 pounds. Most of the mackerel have left the bay but we did manage to get a dozen or so.
The bluefish on the other hand have been ransacking our baits in packs of 20-50 fish strong. It is pretty cool to se 20 or so fish following the one you have hooked. When this happens I like to throw some cut chunks right behind the hooked fish to get them really fired up before I pitch a spoon or a jig with a ballyhoo on it to get multiple hookups. We had out a shark bait for most of the day but we only had a couple of small ones short strike the bait.
Have a great week and I will see you out there. For those of you who haven’t signed the petition please sign it, we need everyone in on this one. Lets take back our rights to fish here come sign this petition!
Monday, March 29th, 2010
MARATHON, Florida — Tailing conditions have arrived and the sailfish are on the move. As many as 25 to 50 sailfish coming down sea in packs of 5 to 20 fish at a time, what a sight. If you’re looking to put some numbers up, this week was the week to do it. Unfortunately I was not sail fishing, my clients wanted food so I missed out on the great sail fishing. This has been the trend and having a tower sure makes it easy to find the fish, but the sails have been finicky, turning on baits but not eating from what I have been hearing. If you’re looking to try this for the first time, look for an edge from the reef line out to 200 feet and head to the west. Just keep heading west the hot spots have been from Big Pine Key to Sandy Key Light. Ballyhoo has been tough to get, but the pilchards are thick, so get in the skinny water and bait shouldn’t be a problem.
If sailfish isn’t your thing the dolphin have showed up in great numbers just not any size to them though. I have heard of a few gaffer size fish but for the most part the fish are running small from 28 inches to 15 inches. Lots of throwback dolphin being caught, and lots of fun to be had. We had caught over 50-60 fish with only 20 keepers one day and 15 keepers the next. The fish have been out on a current edge just inside of 500 feet of water. The water temperatures hare cool for them but it hasn’t seemed to influence their appetite. The fish are moving in small packs and the most fish we hooked at a time was 10 fish, but we never moved far before we hooked up more. It appears that the fish are loaded up on the edge, with most of them on the inside edge of the slower moving water. Their isn’t much of a color change but you will have no problem seeing the edge of the current, the rip sticks out like a sore thumb. I would recommend using the smallest ballyhoo as possible and any small feathers or chuggers. The fish are small so use smaller baits to help your hookup ratio.
The reef fishing is still kind of slow, but if you put your time in you can manage a good catch of snappers and there are plenty of groupers too. I had out one of the scientists that is currently doing the grouper research in the Gulf and he was telling me that they have been working hard to get the research done so they can make a decision on the grouper closer. He was telling me that the groupers have a 20% mortality when they are released. The way they figure this out is to catch a bunch of groupers and then put them back down in the water in a cage. Then they come back at different intervals to check how many groupers have died. The research still points to the decline of the gag groupers in the gulf but the red population is fine. Hopefully they will open the season on time, but I have serious doubts.
Way offshore the hump has been steady, with plenty of tunas and amberjacks. Live bait and jigging are the best methods for getting bigger fish and if you happen to get out there on an overcast day the bite has been even better. My favorite colors for the jigs are chartreuse and pink; I don’t own any other colors. Well that’s, a lie, I have some purple ones but I haven’t used them in quite some time now. The 5-7 oz. Stick jigs work the best. You don’t have to buy shimano but if you want to spend more money for the same results then go for it. I generally start my drift just before the rise on the hump, which is like 700 feet of water, and this usually gives me an idea where they are holding up that day. Sometimes I will head out to 800 feet of water, which is pretty far away from the hump and drop down really deep to get the bigger ones. If you try this on top of the hump your chances of hooking an amberjack on light tackle is sure to happen.
Deep dropping has been good for the brave fisherman who have been heading out to the 650’s and beyond. I did really well early this week and got a few snowys, tiles, rosefish, and barrels too. The queen snapper season is over for the most part, but there are a few stragglers left behind.
Good luck this week and keep safe.
Sunday, February 28th, 2010
MARATHON, Florida Keys – It is starting to look like spring, as this week’s tides have been extremely low. The temperature has been a little cooler than normal, which hasn’t been good for our tourist population. This week’s full moon made the fishing a little interesting.
The yellowtails on the reef are still sluggish, but the mangroves that have been on the patches have been day savers. Speaking of day savers the kingfish which are most often overlooked can give your light tackle a good run for it’s money. Drag screaming off of a reel gets every fisherman’s blood flowing. These toothy critters love this weather and as the water cleared up the bite was really on. Kingfish rely on their great eyesight to eat. They have very large eyes for their size. Kingfish have a torpedo shaped body, which allows them to have incredible acceleration to surprise its prey. One of the many reasons I love to fish for kings is their ability to launch themselves out of the water and land directly on your bait. Sometimes kingfish can jump twenty feet in the air when they attack bait on the surface. These supersonic jet –like predators can eat very large baits, as they will cut larger baits down to size as they shred apiece off on every pass. You can target these fish on deeper wrecks from 125-180 feet of water. If there are barracudas around the wreck the kings will stay further off the wreck so not to be eaten themselves. You can troll for them with live or dead bait along the edge of the reef or anchor up and chunk for them as well. When you’re anchored up try the kite with a large bait and some flatlines with live baits for the best results. They will readily eat a spoon or jig retrieved very fast. These fish are triggered to attack by fast moving action.
Sail fishing has been a little on the boring side. The current still hasn’t been all that great and this eddy of no current was shortly interrupted for a few days as we did experience some current this week. The bite for sails has been slow all the way up to Miami. When we get some current we will see the action pick back up. There were a few dolphin caught along the reef this week, nothing of any size or numbers but a few is better than none. I heard from one of my friends that a large school of schoolies cam by their boat, but they were too small to keep. If I had to go offshore this upcoming week I would venture out to the humps where the action has been with tuna and amberjacks. The super large jacks have held up residence on the hump and so has many large sharks too. The jacks out there have been averaging 65-80 pounds with some 100 pounders being caught too.
For the up coming week, it looks like we are going to experience cooler waters only in front of Marathon and as far out as 30 miles, but later in the week it will be pushed out by the warm water eddy and the warm water looks like it will push almost to the reef. When we loose the cooler water the Upper Keys will get it for a few days until it pushes around the corner to Miami. Look for warm water East or West till Thursday and then we should have some current and warm water for a few days until a new eddy of cold water will plague us once again. All of this cooler water is being pushed by the warm water out of the Gulf of Mexico and creating a Ying and a Yang mixture of cold and warm water along the Keys. This warm water is swirling the cold water up the coast and this is why we will be experiencing these changes of water temperatures.
I am counting the days till the dolphin run, but I am predicting that it won’t be until the end of April or the beginning of May before we see any major runs, but I hope I am wrong. This was the trend last year, and the only way that we will see the dolphin return early is if we experience some global warming, hahahaha, just kidding, but seriously, we need the warm water for the dolphin to show up early. And everyone hated El Nino, but I think that’s why we had loads of dolphin from March to October. I had amazing Octobers in the past when the water stayed warm late in the season. Keep your eyes peeled for birds working anywhere near the warm water for dolphin. Good luck out there.
Sunday, February 21st, 2010
MARATHON, Florida Keys — Cold and blusterous, seems to be a theme this year. There has been cold water plaguing us here in Marathon. This was caused by the Gulf Stream shooting into the Gulf of Mexico and forcing out cold water, which inevitably was forced along the Keys and it was the reason why the Gulf Stream or warmer water was so far out this week. If you think of a bucket that has been filled to the top with cold water, then add a hose with warm water; the water leaving the bucket first will be cold and then a mix of warm and cold water. This is what we are going to experience this coming week. There will be very large spikes of warm water all along the Keys. By heading either East or West you will find the warm water when heading out offshore. Listening to the weather report by NOAA you will be able to find out if your homeport is in the vicinity of the Gulf Stream. If it isn’t, you will either travel far offshore or up and down the road where the current and warmer water comes closer to shore. Fishing in these cold water is a waste of time and money. Find the warm water and you find the fish.
Offshore has been awfully bleak. There has been a few dolphin around the edge of the warm and cold water. Off of Marathon this week it was 30 miles out and further. There is warm water heading our way for the rest of the week. The Gulf Steam aught to be no more than ten miles from shore if not closer. This warm water will only be here for two to five days before another body of cold water from the Gulf of Mexico is pushed around Key West and then up the Straits of Florida. Most people think we are fishing the Atlantic Ocean, but in fact we are not in the Atlantic but the Florida Straits.
The reef has been fair with some yellowtail biting even though there hasn’t been any current in three weeks. The water has been dirty green and cold, not a great combo for a normally warm water-loving, cold blooded animal. The yellowtails are there and schooling in the chum, but they are not motivated to eat. I fished for yellowtails once this week and we got our limit but it took a while. The grouper action is hot just about everywhere. From 20 feet of water to 160 feet the blacks have been on a rampage, eating most baits. It is too bad we can’t even keep one a day. A few muttons have been taken on the reef from what my friend have told me, we didn’t see any though. The kingfish are pretty much all over the place; they seem to be digging the cold water. Cobias have been spotted in great number on the ocean side following rays and turtles. I wish I were out there to see it, I was told it was pretty impressive, with many fish in the 50-pound class and bigger.
Sail fishing was a bit bleak in Marathon, but if you traveled twenty miles East or West the bite was decent. There has been cleaner and warmer water in these areas, which have been teeming with sails and dolphin. Set up on the edge of the reef from 80-130 feet for the sails. Many multiple hook ups are possible and don’t forget about the wahoo, they are still around. My buddy John Foster got a fifty pounder this week. By using a little wire on your sailfish rig you can capture some of the toothy critters, which are in the same areas as the sails. Six inches of number Four or Five wire will work just fine and the sailfish won’t even know it was there, especially if you’re using ballyhoo.
Check the weather reports and fish in areas that look fishy don’t just choose an area out of a hat, and be precise with your rigging. By using all the tools and information available today the fisherman can be very productive these days, but when you fish blind sometime you get lucky and sometimes fall down. So use everything at your disposal from the Internet to the electronics on your boat, and be safe and good luck.