Marathon Florida Keys Fishing Report, Capt. Chris Johnson, SeaSquared Charters, February 2, 2011
If you’re looking for a good fight out on the water with tasty rewards, there’s plenty of options right now.
The real go-to fishing right now is kingfish. They are biting on the wrecks and reef Keyswide. There are abundant kings in the 10- to 20-pound class, with some mighty smokers exceeding 60 pounds among the mix.
For the king mackerel, you’ll want to use live baits, such as pilchards and small blue runners. To the chagrin of those in pursuit of sailfish, goggle eyes on kites are producing good catches. Bucktail jigging and trolling Drone spoons are also doing the trick.
Amberjack seem to be on every high profile wreck and artificial reef throughout the Keys. Most are hitting the 40-pound mark, although I’ve heard of a couple going more than 60 pounds.
Large live baits, such as blue runners, large pinfish or pilchards, are working well for the amberjack. My choice for the most fun way to take them is with a butterfly jig.
There are good numbers of mutton snapper on the same wrecks. Decidedly smaller baits, such as pilchards or butterflied ballyhoo, are the ticket for these pink delicacies. Pinfish will work in a pinch.
Hit the reef for snapper
The snapper bite on the reef has been good when there’s some current. The mangroves and muttons have been more aggressive lately than the yellowtails. With this week’s warmer weather, the water temperatures should stabilize, which will improve the yellowtail fishing. Thirty to sixty feet of water is the magic zone.
All variety on the patches and channel humps
As always, the patch reefs and channel humps are providing quite the variety of table fare. There are plenty of snapper, mackerel of all kinds, porgy and oddballs like Florida pompano, sheepshead and hogfish. Grouper are taking the hooks as well. Just be sure to release them as the season is closed until May 1.
Load the smoker
The same holds true in the bay and gulf where there are huge amounts of Spanish mackerel hitting everything with abandon. Round out your catches with mangrove snapper and the regular assortment of bay species such as bluefish and ladyfish.
If you’ve caught dinner and you’re looking for a show, big bull and blacktip sharks are prevalent in all areas.
Three Jersey guys – Jay Goldberg, Jeff Sax and Craig Mandell – spent some time with me on the SeaSquared fishing the reef and channel humps. The guys put together a nice catch of mangrove and mutton snapper, hogfish and cero mackerel. They released loads of keeper size grouper.