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Florida Keys Fishing Report: Marathon & Middle Keys

Capt. Jason Long
October 30, 2012
Marathon - Saltwater Fishing Report

By: www.bestbetsportfishing.com

November is a time when many of our pelagic wintertime fish start showing up in the Florida Keys as the water temperatures begin to cool. These include kingfish, wahoo, tuna, a few cobias, and one of my favorite fish to catch…sailfish! All of which can be caught just a few miles from the dock. That's just one of the many things I love about fishing in the Florida Keys. You don't have to run 40 or 50 miles to get to the fishing grounds. Within minutes you can be anchored on the reef catching snapper and grouper; stalking the flats for bonefish and permit; or just beyond the reef battling those hard-fighting pelagics mentioned above. There are so many options, and you can break up your fishing trip by trying different things on different days.

Last week I talked about not letting the winds keep you at the dock. This week I will confess, I didn't think it was going to be that windy, for that long. Forecasts had called for it lay down by the weekend, but we all know that didn't happen. At least we had good weather for the fantasy fest parade! Fortunately, it's not going to stay windy forever, and once the weather has cleared and things have returned to normal the fishing should be outstanding.

So what can you expect to catch when the lines hit the water?


The patch reef fishing is historically excellent throughout November due to the increased amount of baitfish, most notably ballyhoo, that push onto the patches as water temperatures drop. Big mangrove snapper, as well as yellowtails, muttons, grouper, and mackerel can all be caught in good numbers fishing between 20 and 30 feet of water. Start out with a well full of pilchards, or small pinfish, and then try and catch your ballyhoo with the cast net or using hair hooks when they swim up in the chum slick. Live and fresh cut ballyhoo fished on a jig-head will catch any one of the species, and should help send you home with a tasty bag of filets.

Click to Enlarge Photo

On the deep reef, I've found that November can be hit or miss for yellowtailing. Some days it can be excellent, while other days the fish just don't want to cooperate. If the conditions are favorable, give it a shot and see if you can get the tails up. While you're anchored you may also want to fly the kite with a large pilchard, blue runner, or other active live bait that can draw the attention of a hungry pelagic. Sailfish, wahoo, kingfish, and even an occasional dolphin can be caught on your kite bait while out fishing the deep reef.


November is the month you generally start seeing good numbers of blackfin tunas push all the way in to the edge of the reef. These can be caught while live baiting, or on the troll in 100 to 300 feet of water. Look for tunas busting on the surface, under birds, and around the wrecks—where many of our other pelagic species will congregate as well as they feed on baitfish throughout the water columns. This is the same area you should start your hunt for kingfish, wahoo, and sails too.

Click to Enlarge Photo

As far as the bottom fishing on the wrecks, November can be really good at times. Just plan to get bit off a lot while dropping for mutton snappers, as it can be tough to get your baits by the large packs of aggressive toothy critters that hover over the wrecks. My advice is to make a few drops, and if you keep getting bit off tie on a small stretch of wire. Your shot at landing trophy mutton may decrease, but you can have loads of fun battling kingfish, wahoo, and sharks up from the depths as well.


The action in Florida Bay also starts to turn on in November. This is a great month for targeting keeper gag grouper using live pinfish, as well as live and fresh cut ballyhoo. One of the nice (and convenient) things about fishing the Bay this time of year is that there is usually a ton of bait around. Within minutes of anchoring you should have ballyhoo, pinfish, and even pilchards gathered behind you chum bag. Don't forget to take a cast net, or sabikis with you when you set out.

In addition, November is when the mangrove snapper bite starts to heat up at the bridges. Fish the pilings with pilchards fished on a jig head and you can put together quite a nice catch of big mangroves, as well as jacks, mackerel, and the occasional keeper grouper.

Your Best Bet for the Week Ahead: See what November has to offer!

November is an excellent month to fish in the Florida Keys, with a variety of species to target both offshore and inshore. To find out more about what's biting stop by the Best Bet boats located at Mile Marker 54 on the Sadowski Causeway in Key Colony Beach.

To book a trip with Best Bet Sportfishing call 305-395-1376, or visit www.bestbetsportfishing.com.

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Docked in Key Colony Beach (Marathon), in the heart of the Middle Keys, Best Bet Sportfishing offers reef, wreck, offshore and tarpon trips for anglers of all ages and skill levels, specializing in live bait, light tackle techniques. In business for over 15 years, Best Bet has earned a reputation throughout the Florida Keys for catching big fish, while offering an honest, fun and safe environment. We offer three different styles of boats to accommodate your fishing needs and price range.

Contact Info:

Best Bet Sportfishing
PO BOX 510785
Key Colony Beach, FL 33051
Phone: 305-395-1376
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