Florida Keys Deep Sea Fishing Report
Capt. Jason Long
January 15, 2013
Marathon - Saltwater Fishing Report
If you live in the Florida Keys, or are a frequent visitor, you know that the fishing forecast can be extremely unpredictable in the winter months. One day it's flat calm with two to three feet seas offshore, and the next day the wind may be blowing twenty-five knots, ruining any chance of heading out in search of our favorite blue water pelagic species.
Last week was one of these weeks. High winds made it difficult to target the sailfish, tuna, and wahoo that had been biting well after the ball dropped to ring in the New Year. Fortunately, as I write this (Tuesday morning) the winds have died down and we're looking at great fishing conditions through the weekend. I'm excited to head offshore and see how the latest cold front has affected the offshore bite. There's a good chance more and more sailfish have pushed into the Keys, and my guess is that you'll see a lot of flags flying from the riggers as boats return to the docks this week.
Captain Mike Nealis (left) and Alex Paulson braved the elements and caught this big mangrove snapper last week. The mangrove snapper fishing has been excellent on the patch reefs and at the Florida Keys bridges.
Since the weather prevented us from going offshore last week we fished the majority of our trips inshore on patch reefs and at the Seven-Mile Bridge. On the patches, from 20 to 40 feet of water, the snapper bite has been excellent. We've been catching good numbers of yellowtails flat lining small chunks of shrimp, as well as mangrove snappers on live pilchards fished on jig heads. In addition, we caught a handful of keeper mutton snappers on the patches as well. Few fish are as fun to catch (or as tasty to eat) as shallow water mutton snapper on light tackle.
Also on the patch reefs the grouper and mackerel bites have been red hot. Remember, you have to release any grouper caught in the Florida Keys until the season reopens on May 1. Take a photo and release your fish for another day. As far as the mackerel fishing, the cero bite has been excellent, providing great fun on light tackle. Pitch a bait out on the surface with a stretch of wire and get ready for a drag screaming fight when you hook up with a big cero. Mackerel fishing on light tackle is great practice for kids and beginner anglers who haven't done much saltwater fishing.
Closer to shore, the snapper bite at the bridges has really turned on lately. We've had great success at the Seven-Mile Bridge bouncing piling to piling while fishing live pilchards on jig heads. Bridge fishing is a great alternative in the winter months as the bridges are usually fishable in windy conditions. Plus, in addition to big mangrove snappers there are a variety of other species you might catch. Keys bridges also hold grouper, mutton snapper, yellow jacks, hard-fighting jack crevalles, sharks, snook, tarpon, and more.
Captain Mike Nealis with a redfish caught and released in the Middle Keys last week.
Another fishing alternative on windy days is to fish the creeks and mangrove islands that flow through and surround the Florida Keys. This is a great time of year to target a variety of fish in these protected waters including redfish, snook, jacks, and snappers.
Over in the Gulf, the cobia fishing remains excellent with many boats catching their limit last week before the front. There have also been several big kingfish caught on the Gulf wrecks as well, so hopefully we'll begin seeing those smoker kings soon out in the Atlantic as well.
Your Best Bet for the Week Ahead: Head Offshore
Take advantage of the good fishing conditions that are forecast for this weekend and head offshore in search of sailfish, wahoo, kingfish, and blackfin tuna.
The Best Bet Sportfishing fleet is located in Key Colony Beach, Florida (Mile Marker 54) on the Sadowski Causeway. Took book a trip please visit www.bestbetsportfishing.com, or call Captain Jason Long at 305-395-1376.
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