While 2013 was an excellent year for fishing in the Florida Keys, early indications are that 2014 is going to be even better. Beyond the reef we’re catching mixed bags of hard-fighting pelagic species including sailfish, wahoo, dolphin, tuna, and kingfish. Target your pelagics between 100 and 300 feet of water, working current edges, weed lines, and color changes, as well as on the deep wrecks. Whether you are live baiting, or trolling lures and dead baits, make sure to fish your baits at various depths. Put a few baits out on the surface, and fish your other baits down deep throughout the columns.
There’s really been no specific pattern to what we’ve been catching offshore in that 100 to 300 foot range. One day the tunas will be busting, and the next day we’ll find packs of sailfish and dolphin. That’s what’s so exciting about the offshore fishing this time of year. There are a variety of fish you can catch all within a short boat ride from the dock.
If you want to venture farther offshore, The Marathon Humps is always a good option. At The Humps, blackfin tunas have been biting on the troll as well as the live bait and jigging. Watch out for the sharks, though, because this time of year they’re heavy. Recently, Capt. Nick Borracino of Nor’Easter Sportfishing out of Marathon, went out to The Humps with some customers from North Carolina. On the way, he was able to find some dolphin and wahoo swimming under floating debris. It can be a long ride out to The Humps, but coming across some fish on the way out makes the trip that much more exciting.
When you’ve had your fill of offshore fishing had back in for some excellent snapper, grouper, and mackerel action. The cooler temperatures have made for great fishing from the bridges, to Hawk Channel, and out to the deep reef.
On the deep reef, the yellowtail snapper bite continues to be excellent when the conditions are right. If you find the wind and current going in the opposite direction don’t hesitate to pull up your anchor and move closer to shore. You may find conditions more favorable on the patch reefs and closer to the bridges where the strong currents can act in your favor.
Speaking of the patch reefs, the mangrove snapper bite has been excellent and we’re starting to get into packs of those big wintertime fish upwards of five pounds. Fish live pilchards on jig heads, and use light fluorocarbon leader, matching line strength with the clarity of the water.
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 a keeper grouper and hard fighting jacks while fishing the bridges as well.
Over the last few days, due to the south/southeast winds, I fished The Florida bay a couple of times. We anchored on some wrecks between 10-20 miles out, and were able to put a good catch of mangrove snapper, Spanish mackerel, goliath groupers, and cobias together. To catch fish out in the bay, I use 30-pound fluorocarbon leaders with jig-heads and live or cut bait on the hook. When the Spanish mackerel move in, change your fluorocarbon leader to a steel leader, so they can’t bite through your line with their sharp teeth. This backcountry fishing should continue to improve as the winter weather continues to move through.
Happy New Year from Big Game Sportfishing! I hope to see you on the water in 2014. Also, keep in mind that grouper season is now closed!