During September, water temperatures are at their peak of the year on both the Atlantic and Gulf sides of Marathon. Fishing is most productive early in the day or in the late afternoon and evening.
Offshore, the two major players are dolphin and blackfin tuna.
Find weed lines and you will find the dolphin that are hunting for the small morsels that live in the Sargasso. For best results, troll ballyhoo or small plastic lures in the 4-inch range. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for any manner of floating debris or birds as these are telltale indications of dolphin activity below.
The most successful tactic for catching tuna at the Marathon humps is to troll small feathers, small plastics or cedar plugs.
The real go-to fishing this time of year is snapper. Regardless of venue, all species of snapper are abundant and provide a consistent bite. Yellowtail and mutton snapper are thick on the reef and patches, while mangrove snapper are plentiful in the bay and gulf.
On the deep Atlantic wrecks in 200-plus feet of water, there is first-class activity from hard-fighting amberjack. You may encounter some mutton snapper and the occasional grouper in the same areas.
Thanks to the warmest water temperatures of the year, your chum tends to disappear before your eyes. It is imperative to have copious amounts of chum for any degree of success. In a half day of fishing, I often go through a dozen 5-pound blocks.
Live baits will serve you well for all of these fish, although dead baits, such as butterflied ballyhoo or whole squid, are also effective.
To get the wiley snappers to bite on the reef and patches, I use #2 circle hooks and light leaders, starting with 15lb. and, on some days, going down to 10lb.
The mangrove snapper have a voracious hunger and are anxious to eat just about anything. The best bait by far for the biggest fish, those three to five pounds and heavier, is 50-cent size live pinfish. They work wonders attached to a 1/8 to ¼ ounce HookUp Lures jig head.
I tend to use 20lb. fluorocarbon for the mangroves as they have an impressive set of teeth and can easily cut through lighter line. The bay water is murkier than the ocean, allowing you to get away with the heavier fluoro.
The amberjack will readily bite a butterfly jig, affording you exciting, hard-pulling action on light tackle.
Sharks seem to love the increased temperatures, making September an ideal time for catch-and-release shark fishing in the warm, shallow bayside waters.
Shark adventures have an eco twist to them in that the fish are easily observed as they swim around the boat in crystal-clear depths of about four feet. Often, there are also stingrays, turtles and all sorts of tropical fish to see. And, the bait used is the byproduct from other fishing trips.
Shark wrangling is a ton of fun for anglers of all ages and abilities. I highly recommend hiring a charter captain who has the expertise and experience to attract and handle large, toothy critters.
Nothing beats a fun time snorkeling in the bay for spiny lobster with tasty rewards bathed in butter at the end of the day! The lobster soon begin their annual trek to the ocean to seek more secure winter homes on the reef line. Here, they are more elusive to the casual snorkeler.