Lighten Up: Marathon, FL Keys Fishing Report July 11, 2012
Capt. Jason Long
July 11, 2012
Marathon - Saltwater Fishing Report
Imagine if the fish always bit, regardless of how heavy the tackle you were using. You could load the 50 wide reels in the boat, lock down the drags, tie on ten foot Biminis with 100 pound monofilament leaders, and head out to your favorite yellowtail snapper holes! It wouldn't be much of a challenge getting the fish to the boat, would it? Those large tails wouldn't have a chance of running you into the bottom and breaking you off, and the sharks wouldn't be much of a factor as you crank your snapper across the surface faster than a cigarette boat. The end result would no doubt be a cooler full of delicious filets, and you could go the entire day without having to tie on a new hook. But what fun would that be?
To people who only care about catching meat, this would be a perfect world. But fortunately for those of us that love the sport of fishing and the excitement of the catch—from finding the fish, to getting them to eat, to battling them all the way to the boat—this is most definitely not the case. In the Florida Keys you have to work for your fish, and this means adjusting your techniques and your gear to match the feeding habits of the species you are targeting. To get those large yellowtail snappers to bite, you must go light, often real light, making it a supreme challenge to reel in these fish. Same goes for many of our other favorite inshore, reef, and offshore species, including: bonefish, mutton snapper, permit, tuna, mangrove snapper, and more. The list goes on and on. Some fish are simply best targeted using light tackle.
The point I'm trying to make is twofold. First, tailor your gear and your techniques to the species of fish you are targeting. There is no universal rod and reel or bait and tackle that you can use to target every fish in the sea. Be prepared with a variety of gear and rigs, and adjust accordingly. Second, enjoy the sport of fishing, not only the end result of the catch. A three pound mangrove snapper is an absolute blast on a light spinning rod with 12 pound test. And it can be quite a challenge for even the most experienced angler to keep that fish from rocking you up. So remember, if you take away the fight, you take away the challenge, and if you take away the challenge, you take away the fun of fishing. Enjoy your light tackle battle, and that fish will taste that much better when it's fried up and on the table.
On the reef…
The mangrove snapper bite has been outstanding both day and night. During the daylight hours the best fishing has been in depths of 20 to 40 feet, using small live pinfish on jig heads, and ballyhoo that have been swimming up in the chum line. At night, head out a little deeper to 40 to 60 feet using the same baits.
On the wrecks…
The mutton snapper fishing has really started to turn back on. Fish your favorite live baits with a long stretch of fluorocarbon leader and you should find good success on the Atlantic wrecks between 100 to 250 feet.
There has been a lot of dolphin around, although we've had to weed through a good amount of small fish before finding our gaffers and slammers. Look for smaller dolphin within 18 miles, with larger fish more common further out. Also offshore, the blackfin tuna bite has been nothing short of outstanding! Target blackfins at the Humps later in the day on the troll, live baiting, and using butterfly jigs. All techniques have been working extremely well.
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