Snapper Francoise. Broiled snapper. Fried snapper. Blackened snapper. Snapper almandine. I feel a bit like Forrest Gump, but there are about a hundred and one ways to prepare fresh Florida Keys snapper. And, now’s the time to get out and catch yourself a nice cooler-full!
The yellowtail bite is very good on the reef in depths from 60 to 90 feet, both during the day and at night. Use 12-lb. tackle with 15-lb. fluorocarbon leaders and #2 or smaller hooks. Attract them with prodigious amounts of chum and small cut baits.
You will find abundant mutton snapper on the wrecks and live bottom patches in 130 to 200-plus feet of water. If you do not have access to specific GPS locations, a great place to start is any of the artificial reefs located throughout the Keys. The best baits lately have been live pinfish and live ballyhoo. If you can’t procure these, a butterflied dead ‘hoo will work just fine. To butterfly a bait, simply filet it from the tail toward the head on both sides, snap the backbone at the base of the head and pull it out. You are left with two pieces of meat and the head, which will flutter along as you drift. You may also encounter amberjack, almaco jack and the occasional king mackerel in these same areas.
At night, the mangrove snapper have been biting fairly well, with most anglers finding the best action in 65 feet or less. Utilize the pilchards that show up in your slick or small live pinfish free-lined back in your slick. A chunk of ballyhoo will also work. Remember to scale your tackle up a little heavier at night, with 20 to 30-lb. leader material being a good start.
Offshore, the dolphin bite has slowed, but this is most likely due to the full moon and should pick up as it wanes. The blackfin tuna action on the humps is fantastic. Tuna upwards of 30 pounds or more are being taken by those fishing live baits or butterfly jigs. Smaller blackfins are being snagged while trolling on or near the humps, often when the target is dolphin.
For those of you up for some adventurous game fishing, there seems to be a decent push of both blue and white marlin as well as sailfish in the area. Lures closely matching the size and color of skipjacks or blackfins are best to tempt the blue marlin. Trolling a couple of rigged horse ballyhoo will do you well in attracting the white marlin and sailfish. Start your search at 800 feet or deeper for the blues. The whites and sailfish can be found just about anywhere right now. Look for birds working over the skipjacks or blackfins and troll the perimeter of these schools, as the marlin will not be far from their major food source. I recommend at a minimum of 30-lb. tackle for the blues, but 25-lb. or lighter tackle will work just fine for the whites and sailfish. When trolling these larger baits, you may be pleasantly surprised by a large dolphin or wahoo.
Marathon’s fishing community lost one of its valued members this week with the death of Capt. Dave Navarro, owner of World Class Angler. He will be remembered for his trademark seminars and tournaments. Our sympathy goes out to his friends and family.
Returning customers, Todd and Annalee Burns and Allen Holmes, all from NM, had great success with the mutton snapper last week during an outing with SeaSquared. They got a 20-lbr, a 17-lbr and a 14-lbr.
The Conti family from Jupiter, who stayed at Tranquility Bay Resort, had a blast yellowtailing with Capt. Chris Johnson. Despite a visit from an 8-foot lemon shark, they put a nice bunch of ‘tails in the cooler and enjoyed them for lunch back at RumBums at the 7 Mile Marina. Of course, 12 year old Taylor caught the most and the largest fish!
Capt. Chris Johnson has been involved in the charter fishing business since he was a kid at the Jersey Shore. He now specializes in offshore, gulf/bay, bottom, wreck and reef fishing with SeaSquared Charters out of 7 Mile Marina. You can reach him at 305.743.5305 or SeaSquaredCharters.com. Follow him on Facebook: SeaSquared Fishing Charters, or Twitter: MarathonFishing. Book now for night snapper fishing on our comfortable 28-foot center console.