Florida Keys Fishing Report for March 17, 2010

8-lb tripletail I found on a lobster pot buoy

Captain’s Blog – March 17, 2010 – Marathon Florida Keys – Warmer and calmer weather conditions are producing greater options for fishing.

The bite on the patch reefs remains steady with lots of lane and mangrove snapper.  Increasing numbers of yellowtail snapper are enjoying the more temperate mid-70-degree water on the patches.

In the 60-foot depths at the reef edge, there is a nice mingling of yellowtail and mutton snapper, with the muttons averaging six to ten pounds.  Abundant chum and a variety of baits produce good catches.

Grouper are lingering in these areas as well, causing angler angst as we await the May 1 reopening of grouper season.  Let’s hope the fish have no calendars!

There are also plentiful king mackerel around.  Many are in the 10- to 20-pound range.  Anglers using larger live baits, such as pilchards or bluerunners, are putting smoker size kings in the fish box.  Spanish and cero mackerel are in the mix and will respond to pilchards and pinfish.

The amberjack and almaco jack action is quite good on the wrecks, with a fair number of mutton snapper adding to the excitement.  The jacks will take live baits such as grunts as well as large pinfish and pilchards.  A wide variety of both live and dead baits will attract the muttons.  Butterfly jigging is also a viable option.

Sailfishing has picked up as the waters have warmed.  Most charter Captains are heading offshore in search of the color change, which lately has been between 400 and 500 feet of water off Marathon. 

There have been decent numbers of schoolie dolphin showing with the sails.  All manner of live baits will work – pilchards, cigar minnow, goggle eyes, small blue runners and ballyhoo, if you can find some.

On the northern side of the islands, the Florida Bay action has really turned on.  With 74-degree water temperatures being reported, the mangroves and mackerel have awakened from their winter slumber and are aggressively biting just about anything sent their way.  Very respectable lane snapper are in the same areas.

When you’re fishing for snappers, it seems the mackerel will invade your slick eventually.  These mack attacks provide the utmost in light tackle angling fun.  Catches of 30 or more Spanish mackerel in a half day is normal.  It pays to be conservative – release most and keep just a few to enjoy.  These fish do not freeze well and are best eaten fresh within a day or two of being caught.

Cobia should begin migrating back to the bay and gulf with the increasing water temperatures.  In the same areas will be very large king mackerel.  These fish will average 20 to 40 pounds, with bruisers topping 40 pounds not uncommon. 

Large live baits, such as bluerunners, work well for the kings.  There are also large quantities of bluefish to be caught and used as bait.  Small Spanish mackerel work equally as well fished under a kite or balloon.  This will also attract the interest of blacktip sharks, which are great sport on 20-pound spin tackle.

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