Offshore for Something More: Florida Keys Offshore Report
Capt. Jason Long
June 27, 2012
Marathon - Saltwater Fishing Report
What to do, out in the blue, when the mahi are scarce, and the bites they are few?
Many anglers come to the Florida Keys during the summer months with one thing on their minds, catching big dolphin. But what happens when the dolphin fishing is slow, or you've already loaded your coolers with tasty mahi filets and you're ready to go after something new? Fortunately, offshore fishing in the Florida Keys offers much more than just chasing slammers. To start, summer is a great time to head out to the humps in search of blackfin tunas and any of a number of species that prowl the fishy waters 30-miles out in the Atlantic.
For targeting blackfins, prepare for a variety of techniques. Some days the fish will be on the surface and trolling or live baiting will produce the best results, while other days, especially when there is heavy boat traffic, the fish will be down deep, best targeted by drifting a live bait at various depths, or getting jiggy with it with your favorite butterfly jigs. Recently the blackfin tuna bite has been outstanding, with many fish over 20 pounds making their way back to the docks and onto plates with soy sauce.
But don't stop with just blackfin tuna. The humps offer a chance to catch a variety of other fish too. On the bottom you can catch queen snapper, snowy grouper, tile fish, and more. Not to mention those 100-plus pound amberjacks that will test the strength of any angler. I've even caught almaco jacks over 40 pounds. To target these fish drop a multi-hook rig with squid strips and a heavy lead that can get your bait all the way down to the bottom. Wait for that rod tip to bend and wind away, or for those of us that like to take advantage of today's fishing technology, press the button and let the electric reel do the hard work for you. For those that want a true work out, drop your butterfly jig to the bottom. There's a good chance you'll hook up with a tuna, snowy, queen, or more often than not, a giant amberjack that's going to battle you all the way to the surface.
Speaking of the surface, it's not uncommon to see a billfish while out fishing the humps. I've had several blue marlins come up and slam a tuna right next to the boat that one of my anglers was reeling in. If you're planning on heading to the humps have a rod rigged for big game fish. You can hook a marlin or sailfish on the troll, or be ready to throw one of the small blackfins you've caught on a hook and pitch it to that hungry blue.
Another fun species to target offshore are sharks. A wide range of big toothy beasts inhabit the waters surrounding the humps, most commonly silky sharks, but also makos, hammerheads, and tiger sharks during the right time of year. Similar to being ready to pitch to a marlin, have your heavy gear rigged with wire and ready to grab. When that big shark comes up and tries to eat your tuna or amberjack have a chunk of bait ready to pitch. Let the shark eat, and hold on!
Also offshore, at the continental shelf, the Florida Keys swordfish population is once again thriving providing offshore anglers unmatched excitement. Imagine dropping a bait 1,600 feet down and battling (often with the help of an electric reel) a 200-pound fish! The action is intense, especially when that fish nears the boat, and anglers are often rewarded with a catch-of-a-lifetime and delicious swordfish steaks to take home. Just a few months back a 683-pound swordfish was caught 30-miles off Marathon and brought back to the docks at Key Colony Beach. There are monsters out there, it's up to you to head out and catch em!
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