Fishing is all about adjustments. A species that’s aggressively feeding one day may have lock jaw the next. Or a flat that’s teaming with tailing bonefish the day prior, may hold only a few rays when you go to pole it again the following morning.
The best thing we can do as anglers is to be prepared for those days when the fish don’t want to cooperate. We can’t be afraid to try different baits, work different areas, or target different species if the ones we set out to catch just aren’t biting.
Case in point is the recent snapper bite. The past few weeks I discussed how phenomenal the mangrove and yellowtail snapper fishing has been on the shallow reefs. This week however, they’ve shut down. The recent cold front has made the snapper lethargic and less aggressive, and while there are fish still out there, they’ve become much more difficult to catch.
No worries, we just need to adjust. If you’re looking to load up on your delicious snapper species bypass the shallow reefs and move deeper. Instead of targeting yellowtails and mangroves, try your luck with muttons and vermilions. Fish the wrecks, or look for a good lively bottom between 120 and 200 feet of water and see what you can pull up.
For targeting muttons drop down a ballyhoo (live or dead), pinfish, large pilchard or blue crab and get ready to crank as soon as you feel the fish suck the bait in. And don’t be afraid to attach a trace of wire to your rig if you start getting cut off by mackerel. Deep water muttons will eat bait even with wire, and you’re likely to hook a few nice smoker kingfish in the process as well.
Elsewhere, the recent cold front has had a positive effect on the pelagic species; with sailfish, wahoo, blackfin tuna, and dolphin all actively showering ballyhoo between 25 and 200 feet of water. To target these fish I suggest first heading to the patch reefs and loading your live well full of ballyhoo.
Look for ballyhoo skipping around on the surface, anchor up, and get your chum out. The ballyhoo should swim right up behind your boat and you can either catch on rod and reel using hair hooks or sabiki rigs, or you can throw the cast net on them if they get close enough.
Once you’ve loaded up on ballyhoo cruise the edge of the reef, between 80 and 120 feet, and look for frigate birds working the deck and for bait sprays. Once you’ve found the fish pitch out a live ballyhoo and hold on.
I prefer sight fishing this time of year as opposed to trolling for several reasons. First, sight fishing is more exciting. It’s a great deal of fun to run down a fish, make the perfect cast, and then watch as the fish charges after your bait. Second, there are loads of mackerel on the reef right now that are just waiting to cut off your baits. And third, with all the bay grass that is floating on the surface it can be difficult to keep your baits clean while trolling.
Offshore, daytime swordfishing is as hot as ever. Captain Nick Borraccino fished several trips this past week and never returned to the dock empty handed— catching fish over 100-pounds on every trip.
Also offshore, the sharks have eased off a bit on the humps, making it possible to get the big blackfins to the boat. There are loads of smaller fish on the humps as well and you shouldn’t have any difficulty filling your cooler. Jigging or trolling feathers has produced the best.
Inshore, Captain Chris Morrison (www.captchris.com) reports that the cold front has slowed down the flats fishing a bit, but that there are still plenty of shallow water fish around to keep you busy. Look for bonefish mudding in the middle of the afternoon, and keep an eye out for tailing permit as well. Chris also reports that there are tarpon still around (albeit spread out), and that the jacks and cudas are becoming very active for those looking to get out and bend the rod.
Your Best Bet for the Week Ahead: Be Prepared.
Inconsistent water temperatures can make fishing for one species better than the next. Before you leave the docks always have a plan B. You don’t know what’s biting until you get out your lines in the water.
Jennifer Bell of Cabana Breezes fame with her first ever sailfish caught this past week aboard the Best Bet.Tarpon:
Despite the cold front Captain Chris Morrison was able to locate this tarpon for Rico Ferrante of Danbury, Ct.