The Florida Keys fishing has been excellent everywhere from the humps into the Gulf and bay despite the on-again, off-again winds.
Florida Keys Weekly Fishing Update – Captain Chris Johnson, SeaSquared Charters – November 24, 2010
On the days you can get there, the Marathon humps are producing good catches of blackfin tuna. Most average 10 pounds or so, with some nicer fish over 15 pounds showing on occasion. Butterfly jigging and live pilchards are the way to go.
There have also been blackfin tuna on the reef line and artificial reefs in the Key West waters. Most of these fish are being taken on live pilchards or live ballyhoo meant to attract sailfish.
There are still huge amounts of ballyhoo on the reef, and the sailfish action has been steady. Chasing down frigate birds or bait sprays has been most productive, but anglers live baiting ballyhoo on the color change have been raising their fair share. A fair number of good size dolphin are mixed with the sails.
On the deeper wrecks and artificial reefs, the mutton snapper bite remains strong with just about any live bait taking the fish with consistency.
Kingfish are positioned around the same wrecks, with some approaching 30 pounds or more. Kings are a nice bonus by-catch for the smoker. After all, it wouldn’t be a Florida Keys Thanksgiving without smoked fish dip!
Snapper and grouper on the reef and patch reefs
Small pieces of ballyhoo as well as small chunks of sardines or shrimp work great for the yellowtails. Live bait is best for the muttons and mangroves, with ballyhoo being the top choice.
Also on the reef edge, there is good quality grouper fishing, with larger live baits, such as just legal yellowtails or smallish blue runners getting the most action, but pinfish will work as well.
All variety of snapper and grouper are being hooked up on the patch reefs and in Hawk Channel. Hogfish, Spanish and cero mackerel and porgies are joining the catches. Live shrimp fished on a jig head works very well, but it’s hard to beat live pilchards for the largest fish.
Florida Bay fishing
In the Bay, the mangrove snapper bite remains outstanding, with plenty of 16- to 18-inch fish there for the taking. A fair number of keeper gag grouper and the occasional keeper red grouper keep the fishing interesting.
The mackerel are back
Spanish mackerel are beginning to intensify their showing in and around the banks. There is more than enough to put together a nice batch of smoked fish. It pays not to be greedy with the mackerel as they do not freeze all that well. Catch enough to use right away, release the rest for another day and move on to another fishery.
Gulf of Mexico fishing
Further out in the bay and Gulf, the cobia and gag grouper are biting well on just about any live bait, with some big kings beginning to show here as well. This fishery will reach its peak by Christmastime.
Casting for Charity
Capt. Spider’s Casting for Charity takes place at the 7 Mile Marina on Tuesday to benefit the Domestic Abuse Shelter of the Florida Keys. Join the fun if you’re in the area.
The week’s best catches
Tom Waite, from Leicester MA, and Henry Todd, from Lakeland FL, fished a half day on the patches in Hawk Channel. Despite the lack of current and ultra clear water, the pair put together a nice catch of red grouper, mutton and yellowtail snapper, a limit of mangroves, Spanish mackerel and a bonus large hogfish.
Returning clients, John and Teri Jordan from the Chicago area, fished five spots in Hawk Channel and brought back red grouper, large mutton snapper, yellowtails and mangroves and two delicious hogfish.