We have many things to be thankful for here in the Keys. We’re blessed with wonderful weather, fantastic fishing, and most importantly, we’re surrounded by great people. Each year I’m fortunate to spend time on the water with a variety of people from all walks of life, many of whom become friends for life.
Just last week I had the opportunity to fish with Duck Key resident Jim Nealis on the maiden voyage of his new 32’ Yellowfin, My Mary. Along with Jim’s sons Dan and Mike, and the lovely Ann Nash, we set out for the Marathon Hump with blackfin tunas on our minds.
After loading both livewells full of pilchards, we set out from Key Colony Beach and arrived at the fishing grounds 40 minutes later. Once at the Hump, it didn’t take long for the silky sharks to find us. This time of year, it’s common for silky sharks to congregate at the Hump, aggressively feeding on tunas, and often attracted by the sounds of the boats.
After losing several fish to sharks on our first drift, we realized that the silkys weren’t going to leave us alone. If we wanted to catch any tunas at all, we had to change our strategy. So we decided to go all-in and “beef up” our tackle (to say the least). If the tunas were going to bite the heavy tackle, we’d be able to get them into the boat. If they weren’t, then at least the sharks wouldn’t get them either.
Thankfully, the blackfins weren’t line shy, and on the next two drifts we slung tuna after tuna over the rail before the silky’s could sink their teeth into them. Overall, we caught 50 blackfins on just those two drifts, keeping several over 20 pounds while releasing the rest.
After celebrating “bloodying up” the My Mary for the first time, we returned home with a box full of quality blackfins. It was a truly memorable trip, and the entire experience lasted only three-and-a-half hours! Thanks for the great trip Jim!
Elsewhere on the water, things are just as exciting. The reef is alive with big mangrove snappers and exceptional numbers of sailfish. On every trip last week we had multiple sailfish hookups, and things should only get better over the weeks ahead as the water cools. Look for sails and mangroves in 25 to 45 feet of water, with most of the big mangroves being caught on the same patch reefs that you’re finding the ballyhoo.
Off the edge of the reef, the kingfish bite is also really turning on. Target kings between 60 and 180 feet of water. Use live bait on the surface in the shallower water, and drop a live bait halfway down to the bottom when fishing out deeper.
Your Best Bet for the Week Ahead: Have a Wonderful Thanksgiving!
Give thanks for friends and family by spending a wonderful day on the water with them in the Florida Keys.
Capt. Jason Long helped Capt. Jim Nealis of Duck Key (standing, far right) christen his new boat, My Mary, with a trip to The Hump. In just two hours and only two drifts, the crew, including Mike Nealis (standing, far left), Ann Nash and Dan Nealis (kneeling, l-r), boated 22 black fin tuna.
Brent Drossel (left) of Ohio landed this stellar sailfish aboard the Best Bet II with Capt. Ariel Medero.