JUST THE TIPS: GO WHERE IT DOESN’T BLOW

When the wind isn’t a factor, trolling for wahoo can bring home what some consider to be the fish of a lifetime. NICK BORRACCINO/Contributed

Well, spin the wheel and see what the wind forecast lands on. It’s been pretty all over the place the last few weeks, coming from every direction. Keep checking that forecast to help you plan your next outing. 

If you’re unfamiliar with how it works around here, the long and the short of it is: Head the way the wind is going. When a cold front comes through, and the wind is blowing out of the north, it’s nicer on the ocean side. Even at velocities of 20-plus, it’s still usually pretty nice in close on the Atlantic side. 

Hawk Channel and inside patch reefs can be very fishable and productive. That being said, the further out you go, the rougher it will get. Find a bump or lump in the channel, get up current of it and anchor in the sand with a Danforth or plow style anchor. Stay off of it far enough to not get stuck every cast. The fish will move off of it into the chum. Live shrimp and pilchards with a light wire and light jig head or no weight at all should get plenty of attention from mackerel. Fresh cut bait and live baits on the bottom will get snapper, grouper and jack bites. If you venture out deeper in search of yellowtail, the dirty green water is your friend.

Conversely, wind from the south makes it pretty swelly pretty quickly on the ocean side, so if you’re hoping for a smoother outing, head north into the bay on those days. From five to 15 miles is a very active area. Mangrove snapper and Spanish mackerel live in the grassy areas, and the dirtier water further out should have plenty of kingfish, runners, various jacks and more on any type of structure. I like to put a blue runner on a balloon or kite with a wire out there for a shot at a big kingfish.

If the wind is not an issue, the big prize lately has been wahoo. It seems particularly good around the full moon in 150 to 350 feet of water. Last week there were LOTS of nice fish caught trolling diving plugs and ballyhoo-lure combinations at 6-9 knots.

I’ll sure be ready for the next big bite!

Captain Nick Borraccino is the owner and operator of Noreaster Sport Fishing, based out of the Island Fish Co. in Marathon. A Massachusetts native, Nick grew up commercial fishing for bluefin tuna and striped bass. He has been fishing in the Keys full time since moving here in 2005. Noreaster offers everything from flats to offshore on boats ranging from 18 to 35 feet.