Captain Chris Johnson, SeaSquared Charters, Marathon Florida Keys, January 12, 2011
In the Middle Keys, the green water stretches out the 400-foot depths, putting a slight damper on the sailfish bite. To the west, starting at Looe Key in the Big Pine area, the water quality has been better and so has the sailfishing.
The north winds that are predicted for the next few days should light up the sails throughout the Keys waters. Ballyhoo and pilchards are your baits of choice.
The reef action has been outstanding with loads of snapper of all variety. There are also good numbers of medium size kingfish in the 10- to 20-pound range. These are taking everything from buck tails to live pilchards and ballyhoo.
What’s biting on the wrecks
Mutton snapper and amberjack reign supreme on the wrecks. The muttons are in the 10- to 12-pound class, and the AJ’s are averaging 30 pounds. Kingfish are showing on the wrecks as well. Buck tails and butterfly jigs are the best way to catch them.
The patch reefs and channel humps are giving up their usual assortment of snapper, grouper, porgy, hogfish, Spanish and cero mackerel and the occasional king mackerel. There are even some Florida pompano spicing the catches. Remember to release all grouper as the season is closed until May 1.
Bay and bridges
The mangrove snapper bite remains intense in the bay and around the bridges with many keeper size fish hitting the boxes. Six to eight miles out in the bay, the Spanish mackerel action is absolutely stellar. Most of these mackerel average three to four pounds.
Mackerel is quite tasty when eaten the day it’s caught. However, to get the best value from it, send it straight to the smoker, as mackerel makes a premium base for smoked fish dip. Click here for our recipe.
All variety of live and dead bait, such as shrimp, chunks of ballyhoo and buck tails, work for the mangroves and mackerel.
There are a fair number of good size porgy in the bay catches. I’ve also heard some reports of decent size kings attacking hooked Spanish macks, so it wouldn’t hurt to put out a live blue runner on a kite or float it out on a balloon and hope for one of these smokers to show up.
The SeaSquared spent the week in pursuit of good-eating fish for our clients.
I took Brad Webb and his family, visiting Tranquility Bay from Ontario, to the patch reefs where they put together a great catch of huge mangrove snapper, porgy and some bonus Spanish mackerel destined for the smoker.
John and Teri Jordan, from the Chicago area, returned with their daughter, Jeana, and future son-in-law, Ryan. Always excellent anglers, the Jordans hauled in mangrove, mutton and yellowtail snapper, hogfish and porgy.
I had the distinct honor of hosting Capt. Johnny Maddox, proprietor of Captain Pip’s Marina and Hideaway and Porky’s Bayside BBQ, along with his pals, Eric Wickre from Homer AK and Jim MacMillan, owner of Sun Motors in Marathon. Jason Bell, from Marathon, rounded out our crew.
With such esteemed guests on board, the pressure was on. It was a gorgeous day and we had a blast putting together a limit of mangrove snapper, which we feasted on at Porky’s. Thanks, Johnny!