Florida Keys Fishing: Marathon Report
Capt. Jason Long
September 4, 2012
Marathon - Saltwater Fishing Report
Muttons, Mangroves, and More...
Last week I mentioned that the bottom fishing in the Florida Keys is generally quite good after a significant storm blows through the islands. That prediction was spot on! On the wrecks, and on the reef, Isaac spawned a red hot bite throughout the Keys for snapper, grouper, jacks, and more. In fact, the post-storm fishing was, and continues to be, some of the best that I have seen in quite a while.
On the reef, mangrove snapper fishing is where it's at. During one particular outing aboard the Best Bet last week, six of my regular customers (from Jacksonville, Florida) limited out on big mangs in less than two hours, with several fish weighing four to six-pounds! As soon as the lines hit the water the rods were bent and the drags were screaming. Plan for plenty more of the same this week.
For targeting mangroves work the patch reefs in depths of 20 to 30 feet of water. The water is starting to clear up again, so be certain to use a stretch of fluorocarbon leader, dropping down as low as 14-pounds if you're having trouble getting the fish to turn on. As far as baits go, let the environment dictate what you throw at them. If a large school of ballyhoo swims up in your chum line, it's likely that live and fresh cut ballyhoo will produce the best results. If the ballyhoo are not around, pilchards or pinfish may be the ticket. Experiment with different kinds of bait, and bring along a variety of bait to choose from.
This week I'd also like to get more in-depth about one of my favorite types of fishing—wreck fishing. The day after our stellar reef trip last week, the same group of Jacksonville anglers had another unforgettable day fishing the wrecks. On a ¾ day charter we had non-stop action for big mutton snappers, black groupers, amberjacks, almaco jacks, vermillion snappers, and even more big mangroves. Great trip guys!
If you're not familiar with what we refer to as Florida Keys "wreck fishing," here's a brief tutorial about the type of fishing you will do, and the species of fish you will catch.
Wreck fishing most often involves drift fishing over a natural or man-made reef in depths of 100 to 250 feet of water. This includes fishing on the hundreds of sunken boats scattered throughout the Keys, as well as stretches of hard coral bottom that act as natural habitats for baitfish and attract a wide variety of game fish and predatory species. When we fish these "wrecks" we generally use conventional gear or medium to heavy spinning tackle, and drop a live bait, or fresh cut bait all the way to the bottom, allowing that bait to swim through the bite zone as we drift across.
Not to sound cliché, but one of the best parts about wreck fishing is that you just never know what you're going to catch. Some of the target species include mutton snapper, grouper, vermillion snapper, and amberjacks—but it's not uncommon to hook up with a big cobia, kingfish, wahoo, cubera snapper, African Pompano, white margate, and more. And if you want to catch something truly big, wreck fishing gives you a chance to do battle with massive goliath groupers and sharks weighing several hundred pounds!
It's truly an exciting fishery, and trust me when I say that most all of these wreck species will put up quite a fight! Another great thing about wreck fishing is that it's close to home, and there are a number of wrecks that we fish aboard the Best Bet. That means that we can get to the fishing grounds in a short time, and spend the entire trip wreck hopping from spot to spot.
Your Best Bet for the Week Ahead: Wreck Fishing
Now is a great time to deep drop for muttons, grouper, and more on the Florida Keys wrecks! For more information on wreck trips visit www.bestbetsportfishing.com, or stop by the Best Bet boats located on the Key Colony Beach (Sadowski) Causeway.
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