Mike Burkart reels in a 38-pound kingfish he caught two miles offshore of Marathon.
Cobia, kingfish and bull sharks don’t mind temperature change
We’ve had a few mild cold fronts roll through the Florida Keys over the past few weeks, and they have stirred things up on the water. These “cool” fronts, as they are more appropriately called, do have an affect on the fishing in terms of wind speed, direction and overall water temperature. You may have to adjust your fishing game plan to accommodate Mother Nature.
If heading offshore, be prepared to travel a little further out in search of your pelagic species. Heavy tides and consistent north winds have stirred up the water, pushing many of these fish out deeper. So instead of targeting pelagics in 100-150 feet, you may need to fish deeper than 200 feet to find the fish. Look for strong easterly current edges of clear blue seas and you may find sailfish, wahoo, blackfin tunas, dolphin, and kingfish.
Those looking for a tasty meal closer to home need search no further than the patch reefs. We’re still having great success with mangrove snappers as well as the occasional mutton. Live pilchards and small live pinfish fished on jig heads are producing the best results. Just keep in mind that in these cooler water temperatures, mangrove snappers have a tendency to shut off without warning. If you catch four or five fish at a certain spot, and the bite suddenly slows, don’t hesitate to pick up anchor and move on to another location.
One species that we are finding in consistent numbers in the cooler waters of the Atlantic are cobia. From Hawk Channel, to the reef, out to the deep wrecks, the cobia are really beginning to show up, and we’ve caught several quality fish up to 50-pounds over the past couple weeks. When targeting cobia always be prepared with a pitch that you can cast a long distance, rigged either with a large live bait or buck tail jig with a twister tail. Cobias are known to spook easily, so it’s best to cast to them from a distance and before the sound or site of the boat scares them off.
Out on the deep wrecks we’ve still been catching big mutton snappers, with live pilchards, ballyhoo, and pinfish being the baits of choice. The big amberjacks are also starting to bite steadily on the wrecks and make for great battles for anglers wanting to wrestle with one of the sea’s strongest fighting fish. Just drop a large live bait or butterfly jig to the bottom and hold on. In addition, we’re catching good numbers of kingfish on the wrecks. Fish a butterfly jig or live bait with a stretch of wire at various depths and you should be able to hook a few quality kingfish for the smoker.
Another species that seems to be affected by the cooler waters is the bull shark. While most anglers find sharks to be a nuisance while fishing, since they tend to eat the fish you’ve hooked before you can reel it in to the boat, some anglers love the thrill of fighting these predators. When fishing for bull sharks we’ll generally catch a bonita or kingfish, butterfly it, and then send it down to entice the sharks. The set up we use is a conventional reel, using no lighter than 50-pound monofilament line, on a stout rod with a lot of backbone. When anchored up it’s best to use as heavy of tackle as possible as you won’t be able to chase the fish down and it’s just you verse the fish.
Most often we’ll use a strong and sharp 8/0 to 9/0 hook attached to a three-foot stretch of #12 wire. It’s important to use only the sharpest hooks you can find with the smallest diameter so that the hook can penetrate the bull shark’s tough mouth. We also attach an eight-foot leader of 150 to 200-pound mono to the wire so that we can handle the fish at the boat. One thing to consider if you’re out shark fishing is to always carry a sharp pair of wire cutters if you need to cut the wire. The hook will eventually rust out of the fish’s mouth, just be sure to cut the wire as close to its mouth as possible.
Capt. Ariel Medero is the captain of Big Game Sportfishing, located at the Hammocks of Marathon, MM 48. For more information, check out his web site at www.biggamesportfish.com or email him at [email protected].