Cobia have arrived; mahi forgot to leave
Recently, it’s been outstanding out on the water (but honestly, even if the fishing’s weren’t red hot, how can you beat a day in the Florida keys?). And the best part, how about this weather?! It’s certainly been a mild winter for those of us living and loving life in paradise.
The fantastic weather has certainly contributed to the great fishing we’ve been experiencing lately. The wind blows a day or two here and there, which is perfect for the Marathon area fishing scene; it stirs up the water and keeps the fish on the move and aggressive.
Offshore, there is still a chance you can find a dolphin or two swimming through our waters, which typically is not the case this time of year. On a recent charter, I caught two 30-plus pound dolphin that were swimming just outside the reef. When I called other captains to let them know there were still a few mahi’s in the area, they couldn’t believe it. Dolphin are generally summertime fish, but with our mild water temperatures lately it is not uncommon to find a few still hanging around, enjoying the holiday season in the Keys.
So far this winter it appears we’re going to have another outstanding sailfish season. We’ve caught multiple sails on several trips already, and with all the bait still around the sailfish action should remain excellent throughout the months ahead. Winter tends to be prime sailfish season and double-digit catches are already being reported up and down the Keys. So be prepared to head out and sight fish or troll for these beautiful, hard-fighting billfish.
In addition, the reef remains red hot for all the snapper species. A charter out to the reef is the a perfect trip for half-day charters, novice anglers and families with young children. Charter boats have been reporting great catches of mangrove and yellowtail snapper, with the bigger yellowtail snapper on the outside edge of the reef. The patch reefs are lit up with big mangrove snapper and quality mutton snapper up to 15 pounds and there are plenty of kingfish and cero mackerel tossed in the mix to keep anglers on their toes.
At the Florida Keys bridges we’re also experiencing an excellent mangrove snapper bite. Fish the pilings during both the incoming and outgoing tides using pilchards, shrimp, or small pinfish on jig heads. The bridges are extremely active this time of year and it’s not uncommon to hook into hard fighting jacks, mutton snappers and large groupers. Though there are plenty of grouper on the bridges as well the deep and shallow reefs, please remember that grouper season is closed as of January 1 and will remain closed until May 1. So be sure to release any species of grouper of any size unharmed.
One of my absolute favorite fish to catch during this time of year, and probably my absolute favorite to eat, is cobia! You can easily catch your limit of these tasty game fish with some fish approaching 70 pounds or more! Another spot to find cobia is Hawks Channel. Hawks Channel is often times overlooked as a fishing venue since most people head out to the reef. The channel has many shallow rocky patches which hold a variety of Keys game such as snapper, kingfish and cobia. This is a great venue when the wind is a little strong for your liking as most spots, are only a few miles from shore.
Happy New Year from Big Game Sportfishing! I hope to see you out on the water in 2015.