August brings the warmest temperatures of the year, so you’ll want to adjust your schedule to fish the cooler times of day … early morning, late evening and dark of night.
Here’s a good plan to beat the heat:
Start off your day with some fishing on the reef, where the bite is excellent in August. The yellowtail and mangrove snappers respond well on the reef right up until mid-morning. When the sun gets high in the sky, the fish easily see your line. Not only that, but it’s the hottest time of the day.
You’ll need to use abundant quantities of chum, as the snappers on the reef are spawning and react best to copious amounts of food.
The yellowtails are the least aggressive, so it’s best to use light 15-pound leaders, small #4 to #6 hooks and small chunks of cut bait, such as ballyhoo, to mimic the pieces of chum drifting in your slick.
Mixed with the yellowtails in the shallower, 35- to 50-foot depths are the more hard-hitting mangrove snappers. These are mature fish on the reef for the sole purpose of spawning. They average two to four pounds, but we’ve seen them as big as ten pounds!
Live baits do the trick most often, including pilchards, small pinfish to about three inches and small ballyhoo. Some days, the mangroves prefer a chunk bait, such as a slice of pinfish or ballyhoo, or even whole dead pilchards. Drift these baits back in your slick the same as yellowtailing, or fish them on jigheads at or near the bottom.
Slightly heavier leaders – 20- to 25-pound – are required for the mangroves, as their teeth can cut through the lighter leaders rather easily. And, with these bigger baits, we like to use larger Owner SSW hooks in either 1/0 or 2/0 sizes. Jigheads ranging in size from ¼ to ½ ounce will cover all current conditions.
While you’re fishing on the Atlantic side, check out the deeper wrecks and artificial reefs for nice size mutton snapper and very large black grouper. The Marathon area sees muttons up to 20 pounds this time of year, although the majority are in the 12- to 14-pound class. Live ballyhoo, pinfish or cigar minnows are the baits of choice.
When you’ve loaded up with delicious snappers and maybe a bonus grouper – or the heat has gotten the better of you – retreat to the dock to clean your fish and refresh with some lunch.
Once recharged, head out to Florida Bay to do a little lobster snorkeling. Lobster season opens August 6 and continues through March 31.
Rock holes located anywhere from one to ten miles or more out in the bay provide plenty of spiny lobster – or, as we call them, bugs – for everyone. Your limit is six per person, per day, and be sure to follow the regulations as provided here in Coastal Angler or on MyFWC.com, as you can be assured they are strictly enforced by agents on and off the water.
Back to the snappers.
If you’re not a morning person, no sweat. Nighttime fishing for mangroves and yellowtails in Marathon is outstanding during the summer!
Leave the dock just prior to sunset – about 8 o’clock – so you’re anchored up with your chum slick going by dark. Douse all lights, with the exception of your anchor lights for safety.
You can upgrade your tackle weight, if you desire, as the mangroves lose their wariness at night. You may even hook into a mutton, which is another reason for using heavier tackle.
Just in time for Shark Week, huge schools of toothy critters maraud the shallow grass flats and banks in Florida Bay. The waters are calm, but the sharks are anything but tranquil.
Shallow-water catch-and-release shark fishing is an extraordinary experience for anglers of all ages and abilities. It is quite a thrill to wrangle a seven-foot lemon or bull shark on 20-pound spin tackle. The sharks tend to come in groups. In a typical four-hour shark adventure, we will catch and release upwards of 15 fish.
If your heart is set on going offshore for tuna and dolphin, again, early morning or late day is best. We typically see a nice run of dolphin during August, but they tend to be on the small side. Be sure to measure, and remember the legal size is 20 inches to the fork of the tail.
Whether you fish on top of the water or underneath, we hope you have a great August in Marathon!SeaSquared Charters Marathon Florida Keys 305-743-5305
Capt. Chris Johnson is a member of the Yamaha National Fishing Team and specializes in offshore, sailfish, reef/wreck, gulf/bay, shark and tarpon fishing. He and his wife, Christy, own and operate SeaSquared Charters out of Porky’s Bayside Restaurant and Marina in Marathon. You can reach them at 305-743-5305, http://SeaSquaredCharters.com and http://Facebook.com/MarathonFishing.