‘Tis the season for mackerel in Marathon and the Middle Keys.
King, Spanish and cero mackerel are here in abundance this time of year, and they’re all prime for the smoker. Here in south Florida, you’re likely to get more gifts from Santa if you leave him a nice serving of smoked fish dip rather than cookies!
The kingfish average anywhere from 10 to 20 pounds, with some smokers weighing in at 40 pounds. The Spanish and cero mackerel run two to four pounds, with the occasional larger specimen pushing eight pounds or more. All of the mackerel are consistently caught on both the Atlantic and Gulf sides, and the usual tactics work for these toothy speedsters.
December is also the season for sailfish.
Every cold front that passed through in November brought with it another wave of sailfish to take up residence off the edge of the reef. Now that it’s December, it’s all about chasing sails as they spray ballyhoo in 20 to 30 feet of water.
There’s nothing more exciting than watching frigate birds working the surface of the water as the hapless ballyhoo are pushed skyward by the marauding sailfish. The absolute best bait this month is live ballyhoo, although pilchards also work at times.
The reef bite continues to be dependable during December.
Remember … December is your last opportunity to catch your 2011 grouper as the season is closed January through April.