After the Lobster Hunt
Capt. Jason Long
July 24, 2012
Marathon - Saltwater Fishing Report
Located at Charter Boat Row in Key Colony Beach (Marathon),Florida Keys.
Another Florida Keys lobster mini-season has come and gone. Hopefully you caught your share of bugs, and had a safe and fun time on the water. But now that lobster season is once again closed (it reopens recreationally August 6), it's time to set our sights back on fishing. One great thing about fishing in the Florida Keys is that you can do a lot with a little, and those of you that trailered down your skiffs and small center consoles for lobster hunting can also use your boats to go out and catch a variety of fish. You may not be able to venture offshore in search of dolphin or tuna, but there are still tons of light tackle options available for you to load the coolers and battle some hard-fighting fish in the process.
Remember seeing all those snappers swimming around while you were diving your favorite Florida Bay lobster holes? Well, now's the time to go back and catch them on hook and line. In less than eight feet of water you can catch big mangroves, keeper red grouper, speckled sea trout, and more. Just anchor on those spots you saw that held fish, put out the chum, and hook up some delicious fish to go with your tasty tails.
For tackle, I prefer to use light spinning gear, and when the water is clear a short stretch of fluorocarbon leader can make all the difference in the world. Don't skimp at your local tackle shop. Spend the extra buck and you will be rewarded. Almost all species you will be targeting in Florida Bay will eat a small live pinfish, ballyhoo, or shrimp, as well as fresh cut chunks of ballyhoo.
Experiment with various techniques, and don't be afraid to switch things up if you're not getting the bites. Fishing live baits on jig heads or Carolina rigs, as well as freelining chunks of cut bait, will all work when conditions are right. Experiment with different methods and stick with what works.
Another thing to remember is that a lot of these Florida Bay holes are pretty small compared to the spots you will fish on the reef. This means they likely won't hold as many fish either. So once the bite starts to slow or you start catching smaller fish, don't hesitate to pull up your anchor and move on to another hole.
While Florida Keys bridge fishing is most popular during the winter months and during tarpon season, they can also be quite productive during the summer months, and offer excellent fishing opportunities for those of you with smaller boats. My favorite bridge to fish is the Seven-Mile Bridge, but a lot can be said about fishing Long Key, the Tom's Harbor Bridges, Bahia Honda, and even Vaca Cut.
(The shallow patch reefs are quite accessible for anglers fishing on small boats, and allow you to catch a variety of species including muttons, mangroves, yellowtails, and yellowjack pictured here).
For fishing the bridges I use the same baits as I would use in Florida Bay, only I start out with a heavier leader to try and get those bigger fish out of the current and to keep them from breaking me off on the pilings. Often if you miss a few fish the bite will turn off at that spot, so I prefer to start out using heavier gear and lighten up accordingly if the fish aren't biting.
If the current is slack or just starting to change it's often best to drift instead of anchoring, bumping the boat in and out of gear from piling to piling. This lets you cover a lot more ground, and once you do find an area where you're getting several bites you can then anchor up and concentrate on that spot. The Florida Keys bridges hold a variety of species this time of year, including keeper snapper and grouper, jacks, sharks, tarpon and more.
On the Marathon Hump, the tuna fishing has been good but as good as it was the past couple of weeks. Plan to use a variety of techniques (trolling, jigging, and live baiting), and to fish early or late in the day as the midday sun and boat traffic are likely to push the larger fish down deep.
Most of the bigger dolphin we've been catching have been from 21 to 27 miles out on scattered grass and debris. There have been plenty of throwbacks around as well, so be prepared to weed through smaller fish to find the slammers.
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