Marathon and Florida Keys Weekly Fishing Report – Captain Chris Johnson, SeaSquared Charters – August 11, 2010
The weather system that produced wind and rain early in the week should pull out of the Florida Keys by mid to late week, allowing conditions to return to favorable for fishing. But, what do I know? I’m no Jim Cantore!
Schoolie size dolphin in the 6- to 7-pound range have been found with regularity at the edge of the Gulf Stream 15 to 17 miles south of Sombrero Light. Birds picking at weeds are good indicators. There has also been a lot of debris, such as pieces of bamboo, 5-gallon buckets and such, which is holding dolphin as well as wahoo and tripletail.
To entice dolphin strikes, troll lures such as Billy Baits. I like the pink and blue or the red and black ones. Or, use a rigged ballyhoo with a squid skirt in front. The blue and silver or the green and yellow skirts work best.
Wahoo and tripletail
I prefer deep-diving plugs to catch wahoo. The Yo-zuri Hydro Magnum dives to 15 to 18 feet and can be trolled at a high rate of speed without the lure rolling over. Heavy chrome jet head lures rigged with wire also do the trick. For the tripletail, a simple shrimp-tipped jig is hard to beat.
From all reports, the blackfin tuna action at the humps has been hit or miss, but it’s always worth a try if you’re in those areas.
If you’re willing to put in the time and effort, mutton snapper fishing on the wrecks has been consistent. Most fish average 10 to 12 pounds, with the occasional bruiser coming in at 18 pounds.
Amberjack and jack crevalle
There are abundant yellowtail snapper on the reef. Although the fish are slightly smaller than those we had in June and July, there are still lots of fish in the 16- to 18-inch class with the occasional flag thrown in.
The best depths right now for the ‘tails are 65 to 90 feet. As always, copious amounts of chum are essential. When the water’s clear, use light leaders, small hooks and bait cut into small pieces. Shrimp, ballyhoo or sardines are all good candidates.
We’ve been seeing a fair number of kingfish at the yellowtail grounds. Most are medium size, in the 15- to 20-pound range. The kings are skyrocketing the ballyhoo, which have been thick on the reef and patches lately.
The best way to catch these toothy critters is to hook a live ballyhoo in your chum slick using your basic mackerel rig (a short trace of wire and a 2/0 or 3/0 live bait hook). Pitch the bait out to the side of your chum slick and wait for the bite.
You may also be pleasantly surprised with the occasional mutton snapper when using this tactic. There have been decent numbers of muttons in the chum slicks lately, with most around 5 to 8 pounds.
Grouper fishing on the reef remains respectable. Using live pinfish or grunts on heavy tackle is getting the job done.
One of the hottest tickets in town is the mangrove snapper fishing on the patch reefs. Mangroves ranging from 15 to 17 inches are taking live baits as well as chunk baits fished on jig heads and presented on or near the bottom.
Mangies in the bay
If the wind’s whipping a bit, head out to the calmer bay side of the islands. There are good numbers of mangrove snapper in and around the grass banks. Shrimp or fresh chunks of pinfish work best.
Based on reports from friends and neighbors, it looks like this is shaping up to be an excellent lobster season.
Canvas artist extraordinaire Drew Caterson (owner of Action Canvas) and the lovely Cora Baggs headed out from their dock in Marathon on opening day and were back by 8:30 with their limit of tasty bugs. We hope the commercial lobstermen have equal success.
The week with SeaSquared Charters
The Malins and Keeler families from England enjoyed their shallow-water encounter with lemon sharks upwards of 6 feet in length.
On another outing, our return client, Dannon Stokes and his group from Abbeville LA, along with Marathon resident Becky Godchaux, had a blast fishing the patch reefs. They hauled in a nice mess of mangrove snapper up to 4 pounds.