Posts Tagged ‘snapper fishing’

Get Out of the Wind

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

During the winter and spring we tend to get plenty of wind, and as the wind blows the seas pick up to heights where people just don’t go off shore to fish. Don’t let the wind and waves get you down, get out there, and just don’t go as far. There is plenty of inshore fishing around the Keys to fish. Up and down the Keys there are numerous areas which are protected from the wind. You can choose to fish the patch’s which are are only 3-4 miles out. During the winter the winds will generally be somewhat a northern direction so fishing on the south side of the island is where you want to be.

The patches are anywhere from 35-15 feet of water so you won’t need the big rigs, but 10-20 pound gear is what I use. The patches are a conglomerate of grass and reef all intertwined together. Since its shallow the grass can grow and the reef flourishes well in this shallow water too. When hurricanes hit, the shallow reefs do take a beating and I have seen in some areas where entire reefs patches have been destroyed by heavy seas. There are many baits I like to use on the patches and to have an assortment will improve your catch. I prefer to have ballyhoo, shrimp, pinfish and pilchards. I like the knocker rig as well for the patches, since there is rarely too much current to use a knocker rig it is very effective on the patches. I will use cut ballyhoo, pinfish, shrimp, and pilchards on this rig. Because we are fishing near or on the patch a leader rig will get hung up too often for my tastes and the knocker rig is designed for keeping your bait close to the bottom, allowing the fish to run with the bait and if you do get hung in the bottom it has a greater chance of freeing itself. If you get hung in the bottom with a knocker rig don’t pull hard, as you will only drive the hook further into the snag, or wedge the weight in the coral crevice. But instead, let the line go slack and jerk up violently. Do this repeatedly until snag comes free. It’s important to let the line go slack as this will change the direction of the pressure of the line when you jerk up. Do this for 2-4 minutes and at your last resort break it off.

When people think of the patches they think of hogfish, as this is where most of them live. The grass beds and coral patches contain their favorite food, crustaceans. Shrimps, little crabs are the diet of the hogfish, but they will eat fish sometimes. So when targeting these tasty critters you should use shrimp on a 1/8-1/4 oz. jig or the same size knocker rig. I will tend to choose patches that are close to the grass beds or even grass beds themselves. I will not put chum out if I am targeting them but I will pop the heads off the shrimp and put them into a chum bag and lower it down to the bottom on some cord with some weight. This will keep the small yellowtails and blue runners from converging on your chum slick as if you were to use frozen chum. If you use frozen chum and you toss out shrimp 50-1 you will catch anything but a hog fish as they will generally eat it before it hit the bottom, whereas hogfish are slow eaters and with all the other fish around they only get the scraps. So try this method without chum just the shrimp heads, if you want you can also just pitch the shrimp heads over the side but I find that keeping them in the bag they will last longer. Move from patch to patch until you find a good gathering of hogfish or jump in and look around and shoot them with a spear gun. But using this shrimp chum method really works.

Patches are loaded with fish but some are barren, so cruise around and look for schooling fish, this will indicate natural food is present and that there may be great fishing ahead. After you have chosen your location I like to spiral out with the cum bag in the water spreading out the chum as I said before, there is generally little current on the patches, so use the boat to spread out the chum before you anchor down. If you find out that there is no current, you may and try another spot. Fishing in front of the seven mile bridge, there is always water movement here, if there is no current there is always an influx of water from the tides here. I love mangrove fishing and my favorite bait for them is pilchards with pinfish coming in as a close second. Using a knocker rig I will hook the pilchards a little different than most. I hook the pilchard through the anus and come out right before throat. Just under the pectoral fin. I use a #3 long shank hook for this method, as it will not work with a short shank hook. This will not kill the bait if done right, and it will allow the bait to swim up off of the bottom in sight of the large mangroves. I generally allow the mangrove snappers to run with the bait for about 3-5 feet, this allows them get the hook in the mouth, as mangroves tend to grab and run with the bait before they take it all the way in their mouth. So, by allowing them to run with the bait for a few feet will help your hookup ratio, especially if you are using cut ballyhoo or live bait.

If the wind is blowing too hard to even get out on the patches, there is another untapped area people overlook. Here in Marathon there are plenty of along shore fishing areas. The bridge may not be for everyone, but Sisters Creek has snook, ladyfish, snappers, groupers, tarpon, and even redfish this time of the year. If you don’t have pilchards then shrimp will be the next best bait to use. You can chum, which I like to do and get a feeding frenzy going. Now since you are in a creek or canal there is always water movement so make sure you have sinkers up to 1 ½ oz. and in this area I like using a short leader rig with a swivel which keeps the bait away from the weight. Like the bridge, in certain areas the tide will spread out your chum. You can use pinfish here as well as long as they are really small or cut them in half if you can’t get those candy sized baits. When I look for places to fish I will look for turns in the creek or heavy over grown mangroves trees. Fish right up against the trees and if you do have pilchards throw some out as chum. I even catch mackerel in the creek so you just never know what there will biting that day but there are always mangroves and grouper. Don’t let your vacation or your day off go to waste, get out and go fishing even when the wind blows.

Fishing the Hurricane Season

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.

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Fish this holiday season

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.

Offshore Fishing Report: The Reef is on Fire!

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.

Offshore Fishing Report: Fish Hard, Eat Sophisticated

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

MARATHON, Florida Keys — People go many places on vacation, but a few of them visit the Keys and get hooked.  We live in an extraordinary place — good fishing and sophisticated food.  I don’t mean just fried fish and Key Lime Pie, but out on top…the cutting edge.  The people that fish down here come from every walk of life and that is no joke.

The reef at night has been great, many big mangroves, muttons, and some jumbo yellowtail.  As well in the daytime, yellowtails have been chewing, but fishing them in the fast current was a little challenging.  The patches yielded small yellowtail, but big enough to keep and make a meal.  Fishing the wrecks has produced a few good fish, but since the spawns are over for the most part, mutton fishing here in Marathon has slowed down.  Don’t get me wrong; there are a few nice fish to be had on any given day.

Offshore is where I finished these past couple of days, and the Tuna bite has been decent late in the afternoon.  It was good during most of the day on Thursday, but with people operating their boat like morons, I had to slow down, and in some cases I had to just pick my baits up and move from the area.  I actually had a guy troll over top of me on the hump.  His bait came flying over the gunwale, smacking my center consol before making a hasty exit.  Thank god my clients were back at the stern reeling in fish. I mean, we were stopped fighting fish and somehow this guy came that close to literally troll through my boat.

On Wednesday, I fished a half-day snapper in the morning and then left for a full day from 1:00pm to 9:00 pm.  The afternoon full day can only happen in the summer, we had just enough light to fish the whole time and then came home in the dark.    We caught some nice dolphin and tuna…well, we saw two dolphin and caught them, and then fished the hump where large fish were actually eating trolled baits.  Trolled ballyhoo or cedar plugs did the trick that day.

After all the fishing, it is always nice to sit down and eat a nice meal.   After a day of fishing, some sushi and oysters sounds good to me.  I ordered some Oysters Moscow from Castaways, which is a raw oyster with two types of caviar and horseradish sauce on it.  Very good, it gives it another step up from just a great oyster.  The flavor just pops in your mouth.

I also ordered two of their special sushi rolls, a 2-year roll, and a surf and turf roll.  The 2-year roll has chopped tuna on top, with an inside-out roll of shrimp tempura and asparagus, cream cheese, and something else I can’t remember.  The surf and turf roll has prime rib on top with lobster tempura and some other ingredients too.

Let me tell you one thing though, the custom champagne hand rolls are off the hook.  My favorite is the salmon, tuna, white tuna, with Japanese mayo, massago, and a quails egg yolk.  Yummmmmm that’s some good eating.

Hungry yet?

Offshore Fishing Report: Night Fishing is HOT! Plenty of Fishing Left to be Had.

Monday, August 9th, 2010

MARATHON, Florida Keys — Fishing at night has been the ticket.  You beat the heat and the snappers are swarming.  We headed out to reef the past two days and looked for some good marks in 35-45 feet of water and threw the hook.  An hour after dark the bite is on.

I started to fish with a half oz. of lead on my knocker rig and as the night progressed we ended up using a 1/8 oz. sinker.  I didn’t switch because of the slowing current, as a matter of fact the current picked up.  It is almost free lining, keeping the bait down but not on the bottom.  Every once in a while I will hold the line and the bait will rise up and then I feed it back, waiting for the bite.

Last year I cast-netted 180 quarts of sardines, which I am still using.  I saved the baits all year so that I would have them for the summer months of nighttime mangrove fishing.  Sardines are perfect bait for the snappers because of their size and the amount of oil in them.  They don’t stay on the hook real good but they are definitely preferred bait by the mangroves.

Each night we were able to capture a few other species other than mangroves.  Almost every night we have caught a legal red grouper and one night we caught a small cubera about 10 pounds and the other night we caught a few mutton snappers around 8 pounds.

The current has been good, in the west-bound direction.  It doesn’t take long for the bait to show up so don’t forget the cast net.  I will switch back and forth from the sardine to pilchard and I mainly chop up the pilchards into chunks and chum with them, but if you don’t have sardines they will work fine.

Good luck and keep only what you can use — conservation starts with us.

Offshore Fishing Report: Lots of fun to be had offshore!

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

MARATHON, Florida Keys — It sure has been a while since I had a day off, but you wont hear me complain.  Many people who usually come down to the Keys may not make it this year, but since there has been trouble in Mexico, the people who got a few bucks for a good time came down here.  Some of my clients this week told me that they were going to go to Cancun but changed their plans due to the problems and threats that heard on the news.  Last year it was a swine flu epidemic that caused people to stay in the country.

This week I spent a lot of time offshore, which was very productive as long as you fished the humps and deep dropped on ledges.  The humps from Islamorada to Marathon have been packed with boats.  The tuna and amberjack bite has been red hot.  There have been much bigger amberjacks on the Islamorada Hump but still plenty of them on the Marathon hump to put any tackle you have to the test.  The tunas have been smoking hot and their size has been good with many fish from 10 pounds and up.  I only caught small ones when we pulled feathers.  I only did that to get small ones for bait, the amberjacks love small tunas.  You can fish them live or dead, but if you fish them live make sure you use enough lead to take them down three hundred feet to where the amberjacks are holding.  It is better to have more lead than less, the tunas are hard swimmers and three pounds may seem like a lot but it will get the tuna down to the amberjacks.  Using larger baits will ensure that you can get some of the largest fish out of this gigantic biomass of amberjacks that inhabit the hump.

The dolphin have been almost nonexistent, but there have been a few caught inside of 200 feet and some caught around floating debris out in the 600’s.  With the water temperature in the low 70’s the dolphin will not be found in any numbers.  I don’t know if it is just me but I can’t wait for the temps to rise, I am looking for the first push of dolphin.  It probably won’t happen until the end of April but we can only hope.

The shallow wrecks have been over run with large amberjacks, and the word got out, the well-known wrecks looked like a parking lot.  Everyone has been jockeying for the best position on the wrecks.  Being in the right area of the wreck makes a whole lot of difference between catching and watching the boat next to you catching.

Reef fishing hasn’t changed much, it is still kind of slow for the most part, but the patches to the west of the seven mile bridge are producing a bounty of groupers and snappers.  Most of the snappers are small muttons, and yellowtails with a few big mangrove snappers thrown in the mix.

The bay is full of mackerel, snappers, and groupers.  Fishing the large deepwater grass beds near banks have produced for me very well.  It doesn’t matter where you are, the mackerel will find you with a good chum slick.    The best areas are about 7-10 miles strait out in front of the Seven Mile Bridge.  Spoons and jig-n-shrimp combo works well too.

Get out there and fish and if you enjoy fishing please sign the petition to ensure that our favorite past time is still here to pass on to our kids.  The web site for the petition is here.

Offshore Fishing Report: Kingfish and Queen Snappers Biting Despite Chilly Weather

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.

Offshore Fishing Report: Mackerel Biting During the Holidays

Monday, December 21st, 2009

MARATHON, Florida Keys — Happy holidays everyone. It is usually pretty quiet down here the week before Christmas and it seems that this year is following normal trends. With a fresh blanket of snow in the northeast we seem to be pretty cozy down here in paradise.

The sailfish action has been steady with 2-4 fish as a daily average. Most of the fish were found tucking up along the edge of the reef. Putting the time in with slow trolling live baits has produced some nice action with kings and dolphin while waiting to be attacked by wolf packs of sails. During the midday the bite has slowed down and I would recommend dropping down on wrecks and the edge of the reef for some mutton and grouper action until later in the day when the sails pick back up again. There have been some sprays from bait showers inside the reef from 20-40 feet of water and using your tower you will see if they are from mackerels or sails. There has been a great push of mackerels in the shallows.

The mackerel fishing has picked up considerably since last week. Hoards of Spanish and cero mackerel have been feasting on the abundant bait from inside of Hawks Channel out to the patches. Trolling spoons or medium size crank baits works really well to help locate a big school. Once you have located a big school you anchor up and chum. While you’re chumming you can use shrimp, which seems to be the best bait for them, small pilchards, chunks and strips to have fun with these guys on light tackle. You can even use your fly rod, which is pretty cool as the mackerel scream line off of your flimsy noodle of a rod. The current allotment is 15 per person, but you can’t freeze this fish, so only keep as many as your going to eat fresh or put in the smoker, because they do make some of the best smoked fish when done right. My buddy Chris Kilmas has probably the best smoke fish I have ever tried. I have been smoking fish for a long time and he blows past me with his smoked fish. He will be smoking some mackerel I gave him this past weekend, I can’t wait till it gets done.

This time of the year we get heavy north winds which tends to keep people from fishing. This isn’t always necessary if you knew about the great fishing we have in Hawks Channel and on the patches. You might have to move around a bit until you find a good spot when you do, man-o-man it can be some exciting fishing, never knowing what will swim by the boat next. Big sharks, cobia, grouper, kingfish, mackerel, all kinds of snappers, and some pretty big, use hawks channel as a super highway. Finding rock piles scattered through the channel the fish use these as feeding stations, kinda like our rest stops on the turnpike. You never want to fish on top of the rock pile but instead anchor along side of it. If you don’t produce anything after a half-hour move to another rock pile until you find one with fish on it. Sometimes the fish will come to you if you chum long enough.

We need everyone to get involved and band together, because we need to get lobbyists to fight for our cause. There is a two-part amendment, which is going to be devastating to our economy if passed. ‘If approved, the closure will affect federal waters in the South Atlantic region from approximately 240 feet deep seaward and prohibit fishing for or possession of speckled hind, and warsaw grouper, as well as snowy grouper, blueline tilefish, yellowedge grouper, misty grouper, queen snapper, and silk snapper. The deepwater closure excludes golden tilefish, a species generally found over mud bottom and not likely to co-occur over the hard bottom habitat preferred by speckled hind and warsaw grouper. The closure is based on the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee’s recommendation that an Allowable Biological Catch of zero (0) landings be implemented for both speckled hind and warsaw grouper. Currently, fishermen are allowed to keep 1 fish per vessel per trip and sale is prohibited for these two species. The amendment will prohibit all fishing for, possession, and retaining speckled hind and warsaw grouper.’ They are doing this to protect the deep-water reefs not because of over fishing. This is an outrage because they have no idea that there is even a problem, it is just another elaborate scheme that the tree huggers and their lobbyists are trying to do to keep us from making a living from a great renewable resource. Please help us by joining together so we too can get a lobbyist to fight for us. Email me at and join the fight.

Offshore Fishing Report: Hogfish, It’s What’s For Dinner

Monday, December 14th, 2009

MARATHON, Florida Keys — Hogfish, it’s what’s for dinner. Hogfish has to be one of the best fish we have down here in the Keys and they are all over the place right now. I have been taking my friends out to the patches and we have been shooting our dinner. Hogfish have to be the easiest fish to shoot; they turn sideways to make it easier to shoot them when confronted. Not very smart for as fish go, but it sure is nice of them. You can find hogfish on reefs, and grass beds. I usually will find them on the outskirts of the patches. These fish can change colors in an instant to blend into the bottom. It is really neat to see these fish change colors and they really do blend in amazingly. Most of the hogfish you will find in shallow water, but if you dive in the deeper reefs they can be abundant out there too. I will usually find bigger ones out in the deeper water, some up to five pounds or better. I donated the fish to the Monkey for a fish fry this week. My buddy Bobby Butler made some fried hogfish poorboys that were out of this world. He took the fillets and marinated them for a couple of hours in Coco Lopez, which is sweetened, condensed coconut milk. Then he breaded them with rice krispies and put coleslaw on a sub roll and man it was amazing. Thanks Bobby.

The sailfish action was a little slow this week but there was some great wahoo fishing. High speed trolling has been working well from 150-250 feet of water. Most people were using drails and plastics, but I talked to one of my friends up the road a bit and they were having some great luck with live speedos. They caught lots of kingfish and five wahoo from 20-40 pounds. One of my friends caught a few wahoo this week using ballyhoo with cone lures in front. The sailfish action was slow but a couple of days they turned on pretty good in the shallows. Following the bait sprays was the key this week. Finding the frigates diving was also a good indication of some action too. Live bait has been pretty easy to come by right now. There are lots of cigars here in Marathon, which is unusual, and plenty of pilchards on the flats from 79th street up to Valhalla. The ballyhoo can be found just about everywhere, but if you want the green backs they are back in the bay and they are all over the place as well.

The reef is still on fire with yellowtail, jacks, kings, muttons and groupers. Anchoring up can be so much fun this time of year. You can do all sorts of fishing while you’re anchored up on your yellowtail spot. I like to yellowtail fish first and while we are catching yellowtails I put down a couple of bottom rods with one large bait for grouper and a small bait for muttons. After we have enough yellowtails I will switch over and king fish either from a kite or just flat lining from the back of the boat. Big kings will circle your yellowtails and putting one up in the kite off the side of the boat will usually yield some big smoker kings. Most people don’t like to eat kingfish, but I will tell you from my own personal experience, they make great smoked fish dip. Besides, they really are a great sport fish, which is usually overlooked because of their poor food quality. I have caught many kingfish over 50 pounds and they are like fighting a large wahoo. They will make blistering runs and my favorite part is when they strike the bait on the surface, either exploding on the bait or coming fifteen feet out of the water with the bait in their mouth. Wintertime fishing is one of my favorite times of the year because you just never know what you’re going to get. You could catch dolphin, sailfish, wahoo, tuna, white marlin, grouper, muttons, yellowtail and other assorted snappers. There are sharks, and barracudas, and numerous kinds of jacks, which will test your will and your tackle.

Way out has been a virtually barren except for some sword fishing off the shelf and lots of big tuna at the humps. The tunas have been thick but so are the sharks. You just never know when the sharks will be bad, but most days this time of the year they seem to swarm the humps and the reefs. We dove the other day and the first three spots had a big bull shark swimming on them. We only stayed in those areas for a short time, because they bull sharks were starting to investigate us, so not to tempt fate we moved. The jigs and live bait were the only way to get the big tunas to bite. If you trolled you only caught bait size tunas. Fishing further in front of the hump can help keep the sharks from getting your tuna, but you really are at their mercy.

Good luck, it looks like the rain missed us this week, and I looking forward to the next front, hopefully it will spark up the sailfish bite.