Hands-free fishing means anglers can target reef species

I’m going to be completely honest, I’ve never been a huge football fan. I was born in Argentina, so I’m more of a futbol fan. But I do enjoy watching the Super Bowl, and not just for the commercials. If you’re thinking of having a Super Bowl party of your own this Sunday, and are in need of some fresh fish to serve as part of your game day recipes, Saturday’s just a good a day as any to get out on the water and load up your cooler up with a delicious catch…and don’t let the wind fool you.

Even if it seems windy out, don’t let that keep you on land. A common misconception that many people have is that the 15 to 20-knot winds we often encounter this time of year in the Keys will make for rough seas and difficult fishing conditions. This thought couldn’t be further from the truth. When the wind is blowing out of the north, the islands shield the Atlantic and seas rarely exceed two to three feet inside the reef, this makes for extremely pleasant and fishable conditions.

One great way to target and catch fish during the winter months is to head out to the edge of the reef, anchor up, and put a few live baits out on the kite.  Kite fishing provides an excellent opportunity to catch a variety of species on the surface, including big kings, sails, wahoo, blackfin tuna, and wintertime mahis.  And during this time while the kite is out doing all the work, your hands can be free so that you can target your delicious snapper species.

Another benefit of using a kite is that it allows you to target sailfish when conditions are less than favorable for trolling or site fishing.  With north winds bringing bay grass through the bridges and into the Atlantic, trolling can often be difficult.  You have to continuously reel in your trolling rods time after time and clean the grass off your baits.  Kite fishing limits this hassle.

Furthermore, on those overcast days when you can’t count on frigate birds leading you to the fish, kite fishing brings the fish to you. The fish can hone in on your kite bait from extremely far away and will get fired up when they see it dancing across the water.

Even though regular grouper season is closed until May 1, many people will be surprised to learn that there are actually a few species of grouper you can still keep during this time.  Deep-water groupers, like snowy and yellow edge, are still legal to keep.  Last week I took a crew from Virginia out to target deep-water fish.  We were fishing in 700 feet of water using electric and manual reels, and were able to catch a 45-pound snowy grouper, a couple yellow edge groupers, a few tilefish, and beautiful barrel fish.  After we filled up deep dropping, we found a nice weed line and were able to put a dozen dolphin in the boat.  Needless to say, those customers ate well that night.

Over the next few weeks look for the edge of the Gulf Stream to push in closer to shore creating a sharp color change anywhere from 50 to 300 feet out. The bait should congregate here and this will be where you’ll want to target your pelagic species.

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]


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