A few weeks ago I wrote about the large numbers of sailfish being caught off south Florida’s Atlantic Coast and speculated that it wouldn’t be long before these same fish made a push into our local Keys waters. This week, I’m excited to report that they have arrived! East and southeast breezes have driven the Gulf Stream closer to shore, creating a distinct color change and current edge off the reef, and bringing solid numbers of sailfish, as well as dolphin and other pelagic species, along with it.
In addition, easterly winds have provided excellent conditions to sight fish for tailing sailfish. These fish will literally ride the Gulf Stream currents on the surface with their tails exposed, and we’ll go out and run them down and pitch a bait right to the fish. Trust me when I tell you that watching a sailfish light up and charge after your bait is a sight you won’t soon forget, nor will the high-flying, drag-screaming battle that ensues. Tailing sailfish season is one of my favorite times of year and if you’ve never experienced it before and I highly recommend giving it a shot while you’re down here in the Florida Keys. When conditions don’t allow for tailing, live baiting and slow trolling will also produce fish. Be sure to work the current edges and color changes and you’ll have a shot at catching sailfish as well as any number of other migratory species swimming along in the Gulf Stream.
Further offshore, the Marathon hump is alive with blackfin tuna in the 10 to 20-pound class. Fortunately, the sharks have been non-existent lately so we’ve been able to get the fish to the boat without having to sacrifice them to the toothy critters. If you’re heading out this week stock up on butterfly jigs before you go. Vertical jigging seems to be out producing live baiting.
On the deep wrecks, monster amberjacks (upwards of 60-pounds and greater!) continue to test the strength and resolve of even the most seasoned angler. For those of you looking to catch big fish with even bigger attitudes, send a live bait or butterfly jig down to the bottom and hold on. Aj’s provide quite a battle and offer great photo opportunities of you and your giant fish to show all your friends back home.
On the wrecks, and all the way into the patch reefs, the mutton snapper bite continues to be phenomenal. Also on the patches the mangrove snapper bite remains steady, while the yellowtail snapper are beginning to steal the show. This past week we’ve been catching phenomenal numbers of yellowtails up to 20-inches anywhere between 35 to 40 feet of water. While fishing the reef of Hawk Channel don’t be afraid to put a bait out with a stretch of wire.
Big kingfish are still hanging around as well and now’s a great time to load up on fresh meat for the smoker.
Your Best Bet for the Weeks Ahead: Sight fish for Tailers
Sight fishing for tailing sailfish is a thrill every angler should experience, and the weeks ahead should offer NE, E, and SE winds that will make tailing conditions just right. Feel free to stop by one of the Best Bet boats located in Key Colony Beach on the causeway and I’ll be happy to offer some advice on targeting these exciting fish. I’ll also be more than happy to set you and your family and friends up with a trip out to catch them.
The mutton snapper bite has been excellent from the deep wrecks all the way into the patch reefs.
Richard Waibel of Connecticut and first mate Wayne Burri with a sailfish caught aboard the Best Bet II this past week.