Whether you’re looking to fill the trophy wall, the dinner plate or the smoker, November offers bountiful fishing opportunities in Marathon.
Our pelagic friends begin to show in force, and it’s an exciting time to be an angler. Trailing acres of bait coming from the north, sailfish and king mackerel are thick on the reef, while cobia and Spanish mackerel crowd both sides of the highway.
Mid-November begins the sailfish season in earnest. These majestic creatures cruise the reef edge as shallow as 20 feet on out to the 100-plus-foot depths.
Typically, we anchor up on a patch reef to procure some ballyhoo to use as bait. Not to waste the opportunity, we also catch yellowtail, mangrove and mutton snapper along with good size black and red grouper to put in the fish box for dinner.
From there we move off the reef edge into 100 or so feet of water where we wait and watch for frigate birds to dive out of the sky down to the water’s surface. A shower of ballyhoo in the air is our signal to throw the boat in gear, run to the spot and toss a live bait on the sailfish.
Some days, we repeat this ritual as many as twenty times. Multiple hookups are quite common, as there is often a pack of sailfish working the ballyhoo. Typically, this action lasts through midmorning.
When the sailfish action fades, we switch gears and anchor up on the reef and wrecks to catch snapper and grouper. This bite really heats up with the large amounts of bait pouring down the reef along with the cooling water temperatures.
Large grouper and mutton snapper move back up shallow to take advantage of the plethora of food. And, the yellowtail snapper begin to shift shallower as the cooler waters spur them into a feeding mode.
Also, hogfish make their way from the Gulf to these same areas. A shrimp-tipped jig head, from 3/8 to ½ ounce, presented on the bottom will draw strikes from these tasty wrasses.
If smoked fish is on your shopping list, you can’t pick a better month than November to fish in Marathon. The king mackerel are here and they’re hungry. There is also an abundance of cero and Spanish mackerel.
On the Oceanside, typically we live bait for the mackerel in either Hawk Channel or off the deeper edge of the reef. Live ballyhoo and pilchards are the baits of choice.
Spanish mackerel is the main objective in Florida Bay. Here we anchor up in eight to ten feet of water, put the chum out and catch them on live baits such as pilchards or shrimp-tipped jig heads.
This fishery provides a ton of fast-paced action. When the run is really on, limits are the norm.
All of the mackerel species are excellent fare for the smoker. And, there’s no better holiday hors d’oeuvres than fish dip made with smoked mackerel from Marathon!
We provide a fish smoking service whether you catch your mackerel with us or on your own. Check it out on our website: http://seasquared-charters.com/well-smoke-your-fish-send-it-to-you/.
Mixed with the mackerel in the Bay are ample amounts of nice size mangrove snapper destined for the fry pan. These tasty snappers make for excellent family fishing with non-stop action.
There you have it! Sailfish for your trophy wall, snapper, grouper and hogfish for the dinner plate and mackerel for the smoker. Marathon offers it all!
Christy and I wish all of you a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday filled with family, friends … and hopefully some fishing!
Capt. Chris Johnson is a member of the Yamaha National Fishing Team and specializes in offshore, reef/wreck, gulf/bay, shark and tarpon fishing with SeaSquared Charters out of Captain Pip’s Marina and Hideaway in Marathon. You can reach him at 305.743.5305, SeaSquared@bellsouth.net and www.SeaSquaredCharters.com.