August 2nd 2014

 We made it!  Marathon and the rest of the Florida Keys survived another year of lobster mini-season insanity.  Many people who participated in lobster mini-season had no trouble limiting out on big tails.  Hopefully you had a safe and successful bug hunting experience and you were able to cook up some tasty tails.  Now that we have mini-season out of the way, it’s time to focus our attention back on the fishing.

    On the reef, the mangrove snapper bite has been incredible. Quality fish in the three-to-five pound class have been slamming live baits on the patches, and it’s becoming more common to reel in a nice sized fish over six pounds.  The mangrove bite has been consistent both day and night.  So if you don’t feel like baking in the summertime mid-day heat, don’t sweat it, head out during the cooler night time hours to catch some meat.  For bait, the Mangroves are not picky.  Any cut or live bait will do.  As for tackle, I’ve been using 20-30 pound fluorocarbon with  a jig head, which makes the bait sink nicely to the bottom.

    While fishing the patch reefs keep your eyes open for barracudas that seem to have taken over the area, this is most likely because of all the mangroves around.  We had more than one snapper get chomped in half by angry cudas up to five feet in length, so try and get those mangroves to the boat as soon as possible.  If you want to mix things up and catch these toothy critters pitch out a large baitfish or snapper head (if the cudas ate the rest) rigged with number five wire.  Big barracudas provide quite the exciting battle on light tackle, but I would not recommend eating them. 

    Offshore, the dolphin fishing has been steady and we’re loading the boxes with quality fish.  The dolphins remain scattered, anywhere from 15 to 32 miles out, but they can be found if you put your time into it.  Keep an eye out for birds and weed lines and have a live bait ready to pitch when you see the fish.  The warm water temperatures have made the dolphin a bit sluggish and they’ve been a little picky lately about what they’ll eat.  On a recent charter, I fished a crew from Montreal, Canada.  We ran across our fist pack of dolphin between 24-30 miles out.  We were able to land a 40 and 25 pound bull, two nice cows in the 20 pound range, and a handful of schoolies and gaffers. 

    On the humps the blackfin tuna bite remains excellent.  The smaller fish have been extremely aggressive lately and can easily be caught while trolling.  For the larger fish, live baiting and vertical jigging has produced the best results, but be prepared for the smaller fish to slam your bait before the larger blackfins can find it.

    On the deep wrecks,  the amberjacks have been putting up quite the fight.  Many captains are reporting catching fish up to 60 pounds! Just make sure you have plenty of beers waiting for you back at the dock to ease the soreness in your arms and shoulders after reeling them in.
Also on the wrecks we’re continuing to catch big mutton snapper in good numbers and we’ve been catching our share of summertime kingfish as well.  For those of you looking for a kingfish or two to throw on the smoker, put out a live bait on the surface with a stretch of wire, or drop down a vertical jig for best results.

    Along the bridges of the Middle Keys, the tarpon bite is still surprisingly active.  Normally this time of year, the tarpon migrate away from the bridges.  Captain John Callion has been catching and releasing multiple fish on both tides.  So take advantage of the lingering tarpon bite, it won’t be around for very much longer.

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