CAPTAIN JOEL’S FISHIN’ HOLES: SEASONAL BITES IN MARATHON

Capt. Joseph ‘JoJo’ Brandenburg, son of Capt. Joel Brandenburg, shows off a puffer fish to Stanley Switlik junior fishers in one of the Switfish Fishing Club’s meetings. CONTRIBUTED

This is my first edition of Captain Joel’s Fishin’ Holes in the Marathon Weekly. My number one goal is to keep you, the reader, informed on what’s biting, current conditions, techniques and tutorials, season openings and closures, upcoming tournaments and fishing events, significant  recent catches and much more. The fishing industry is the heartbeat of the Florida Keys, especially in Marathon. I am proud to write for the Marathon Weekly as a locally-owned and -operated publication, and I’m honored to reach out to you each week in this column.

For those of you who know me, you probably know that I fish 300 days a year so I can afford to hunt the other 65, normally hunting in September, October and November. It’s our slowest three months, which also conveniently falls during hunting season. This year, I spent a few weeks in the Midwest on a successful deer hunting trip, arriving back in Marathon just before Thanksgiving. We’ve been running charters fairly steadily, and here’s this week’s fishing report:

  • Reef and wreck: A great quantity and quality of yellowtails are schooling up in between 20 and 100 feet. Mutton snapper and black grouper are showing up on the reef on slack or slackish tide. Some sailfish are being caught too.
  • Bridges and ledges: My favorite fish to target at the Seven Mile Bridge this time of year are yellow jacks. They like live bait and will school into a chum line. They fight as hard as a jack crevalle, but they taste like a permit or pompano. While you’re fishing for yellow jack, you catch many other game fish too.
  • Back country and flats: The post-spawn mangrove snapper are hanging in four to eight feet of water over seagrass, staying warm when the water temp drops. Chum a lot and use a cut ballyhoo the size of your thumb on a jig head. Sharks, barracuda and juvenile tarpon can be targeted in the same skinny water.
  • Offshore: The mahi bite is starting to slow down. There are no birds or weed lines to be found, but if you happen to find a good floater – a large piece of floating debris – you have a fair chance of finding several good quality mahi and a wahoo or three. All sizes of blackfin tuna are thick at the Marathon Humps. The best tuna bite happens at sunup and sundown.

In Fishing News: Stanley Switlik Elementary has a new fishing club called Switfish Fishing Club. It’s for any kid between the VPK and fifth grade who would like to fish and learn all about the sport. Special thanks to Captain Chris and city councilwoman Robyn Still of the Tackle Box for their hard work and commitment to the Switfish Fishing Club. If you have a child who would like to join or if you are interested in volunteering, contact marathonke[email protected] or call Captain Jojo at 305-879-0564.

Tournament News: The Second Annual Marathon Premier Sailfish Tournament was just announced for April 20-22, 2023. For info, visit www.marathonsailfish.com or call tournament director Katie Lewis at 305-783-8313. In last year’s inaugural tournament, Katie Lewis, Mark Busch and their tournament volunteers, sponsors and 20 teams of participants raised more than $10,000 for a wonderful charity called Mission Fishin’.

I hope to see you all out there! Be safe and happy holidays!

To book a charter with Ana Banana, call or text Capt. Joel at 813-267-4401 or Capt. Jojo at 305-879-0564, or visit anabananafishing.com.

Bio: Born in Coral Gables Florida, Capt. Joel Brandenburg is a fifth-generation Floridian and second-generation fishing captain in the Florida Keys. His businesss, Ana Banana Fishing Company, was established in 1999. Joel loves to fish, especially in the fishing capital of the world: Marathon. Each week he looks forward to discussing current conditions, what's biting, techniques and tutorials, season openings and closures, upcoming fishing events, tournaments and significant catches.