Thursday, September 22, 2016

I have been getting a lot more Yellowtail catching calls.  Some turn into trips which I like but a lot just turn into fishing for information.  I don't mind that, but I also like to make a little cash every now and then.  So I have posted a lot of information on the blog about fishing basics and added a paypal button so you can make a little donation to the poor captain's fund (me) if you find it helpful. 

The biggest thing I seem to do is teach people how to operate their electronics.  Setting your gain on your sonar is a huge part of the job.  If you set your gain too high, you think fish are everywhere.  Too low and you never seem to find fish.  Since every boat is set up different I have gotten into a bit of an old school habit of looking for structure, changes in the bottom more than looking for "fish" which can be real fish, bait, noise or something splattered on the bottom finder screen. 

Knowing something about the area you are fishing and the types of fish you are likely to find is a huge help.  This is local knowledge which helps me "calibrate" your bottom finder.  Fishing out of Marathon mostly, I have a dozen or so "public" numbers I share more to learn about what is going on than actually limiting out on fish.  Catching Grouper and big Mangroves on these "public" spots is pretty hard because they get hit hard.  Yellowtail though tend to be trainable along with smaller Mangroves and various bait fish so you still get plenty of action most of the time.  The object though is to show you what you are looking for structure wise.

Flag Yellowtail are very popular but also not exactly easy to hammer for a new comer.  "Generally", they are in deeper water, 70 to 100 foot and like a coral head, wreck or ledge for their home base.  When they are active, it is hard to mistake the mark they make on your sonar.  However, they tend to like a particular current to get active and how much current and what direction depends on their mood and the area. 

I did a trip on the Harvest Moon a few days ago and the bite was very slow and the fish didn't mark up like they were active.  I knew that ahead of time and had told the crew that it would be slow and that when we got a bite going, it would not last as long as "normal".  We never got the 'tails fired up but caught enough for dinner plus a bragging size Mangrove, keeper Red Grouper and a nice Porgie and missed a few larger fish that caught the guys off guard.  It was a slow day but productive, so if you have to fish the full moon, just be aware that the bite will be a little more funky than normal and put some other baits out for quality fish that aren't Yellowtail.  It is all good.

Off Marathon, the flags generally like a moderate current flowing toward deeper water.  However, if they are holding on a head or wreck, just having a current is enough provide you anchor up current of that head so your chum is working the right spot. 

This would be a legitimate Flag Yellowtail.  We didn't weigh it but it was in the 6 pound range and over 25" long.  We lost several larger fish, which happens to be best of anglers but a lot more often when you are learning to catch Flag Yellowtail.  If you lose one or two of the really big girls, you bite can run off with the lost fish.  So if you hook one, you want to get it to the boat if you plan on catching a mess.

To do that you want to have a larger hook, heavier leader and a tighter drag setting.  However, you cannot go too large, too heavy or too tight, so you need a reasonable starting point.  That is a 2/0 hook, 20 pound leader and about 10 pounds of drag.  If the water is crystal clear and the current light, this probably won't work so you have to adjust lighter until you find your combination for that spot on that day.

I also recommend leaving the braided line on the dock if you are serious about Yellowtail.  Old fashion clear monofiliment is the best all around line with a fairly long fluorocarbon leader if the water is clear.  Some people are dedicated to coffee colored or bronze hooks, certain model feathers or jigs, the perfect bait and double top secret chum recipes, but technique tends to be the real secret.  That means finding the right combination of weight, leader, bait size, bait type and drift rate.  I could make it super complicated, but just starting off with the normal combination and adjusting to conditions is a lot easier to remember. 

Spinning tackle also makes life simpler.  You can use a "trout" rod (bait caster), but if you get a hard hit you are likely to get a backlash and you have to spend more time stripping line.  If you want to use your "ultralight" with braid, you can use that also, but you need a very long leader most of the time and if the fish rocks you up, that just mean lots more leader trashing up the reef.  Using clean mono with a shorter leader or no leader at all, not only makes life simpler it also is more reef friendly.  So having a dedicated Yellowtail outfit, spinning combo with a nice comfortable rod loaded with clear mono or fluorocarbon in the 15# to 20# range makes you look like a trained professional.

This time of year I get more last minute calls because of weather and I get a surprisingly large number of calls from locals looking to fine tune their methods and find a few closer to home spots so they can get in some after or before work fishing.  So if you are interested, call me (305) 304-8656 or you can check some of the fishing basic posts and if you find something helpful, think about that captain's tip jar.

Marathon in the Florida Keys should be your next fishing vacation destination. Join us for charter fishing, fishing guide trips or our fishing 101 so you can fish on your own with better success.

Tight lines,

Capt. Dallas

Monday, September 19, 2016

Still Fishing - Snapper and Grouper

 I don't get many trips this time of year and we have had a couple of tropical systems that got more press than they deserved, but even a blind hog gets an acorn once in a while.  This trip wasa dead on the harvest moon and the bite was slow, but still nice fish and some respectable action.  My crew wasn't into Cero Mackerel which were biting nicely so we had to hunt around a while to find a current for the snapper and grouper.

As is often the case, we had to head to the west in order to get the bridge current so things were more behind the boat than the other way around.  There were some misses that could have made the trip real good, but slow and steady still worked for some nice fish, just not many.

The yellowtail never really fired up so we just peaked away for enough for appetizers and had to settle for Mangrove and Red Grouper for the main course.  An afternoon trip would most likely have been more productive with the current going deeper instead of shallow, but it was what it was.

I was disappointed with the porgie bite which is generally pretty good on a full moon and not a single hogfish which is a bit unusual.  Still, the crew learned a few things, caught some nice fish, and missed a few big boys that got them talking.  Nice day on the water.

Marathon in the Florida Keys should be your next fishing vacation destination. Join us for charter fishing, fishing guide trips or our fishing 101 so you can fish on your own with better success.

Tight lines,

Capt. Dallas

Update:  I just got a text from the guys and they limited out on 'tails after the currents got a little more "normal" following the peak of the moon.  There is joy in Yellowtailingville :)

Sunday, July 03, 2016

No accent fishing 101

Not everyday I get to fish with a crew that knows how to speak proper southern English, but today was such a day, complete with southern belles.

Fishing wasn't up to snuff unfortunately since I didn't get to a few spots I wanted to visit, but the crew saw things they wouldn't normally see, caught fish and learned a thing or two.  It was a catch and release day anyway so the box being light wasn't a problem. 

Since it is the week of the Fourth, plenty of folks are on the water and the majority were likely enjoying the day rather than slaying fish.  Not much to report other than the Mangrove fishing at the Seven Mile Bridge is a bit tough.  For whatever reason the fish are there but spookier than normal.  I could be that releasing fish under such conditions had something to do with that.

As a reminder, it is a bit sunny and warm out there so make sure you have plenty of water to go with your adult refreshments.  I missed out on a night trip this evening because I was a bit more drained than usual, but from the reports, the night Mangrove fishing on the reef is getting into full swing.  That is a great way to beat the heat while filling the cooler if you are so inclined.  Unfortunately, it looks like the tarpon bite at the 7 mile bridge might be about done with.  I didn't get a chance to check out some of the flats I wanted because of other fisherman, but  most of the usual spots didn't have much indication of fish and the water was close to gin clear. 

I saw a couple reports from offshore that weren't very impressive but it appears the wrecks are still loaded with mutton snapper, a few amberjack and the occasional tuna.  Everyday some boat offshore is finding a nice fish or two so it isn't a complete waste, but I wouldn't expect to fill the cooler right now.

Marathon in the Florida Keys should be your next fishing vacation destination. Join us for charter fishing, fishing guide trips or our fishing 101 so you can fish on your own with better success.

Tight lines,

Capt. Dallas

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Bay Side and Shark Week

 This time of year most folks come down to chase Dolphin or hit the reef and wrecks for snapper and grouper.  The bay side can be a lot of fun though and still produce a pretty good mess of Mangrove Snapper with the occasion Cero Mackerel and a few other species. 

Just about any place you set up for fishing on the bay side is likely to be visited by a pretty large number of sharks.  Today I fished on the Little Lady Catherine and we had a tiger shark playing around the chum slick plus a few sharp nose.  Sometimes its Lemons, Black Tips, Bulls, Hammerheads or just Nurse sharks, but if seeing sharks is pretty rare where you fish, you might find yourself enjoying the show.

The Mangroves we caught were a little smaller on average because so many have moved out to the reef for spawn, but we still had a decent catch with a few in the 16 inch range.  The bigger ones tend to prefer fresh Pinfish or ballyhoo chunks and you will probably need to break out the 12 pound fluorocarbon leader, but they will bite.  Bigger chunks also help cut down on the number of undersized fish, but there are so many some will be unavoidable.

Marathon in the Florida Keys should be your next fishing vacation destination. Join us for charter fishing, fishing guide trips or our fishing 101 so you can fish on your own with better success.

Tight lines,

Capt. Dallas

Monday, June 27, 2016

Pretty nice Yellowtail

Imagine that, the camera worked and the lens wasn't completely covered with crude.  Anywho, that is a 25" Yellowtail with is pretty nice.  I haven't seen many over 20 inches for a while so this is a good sign.

It was caught on a reef 101 after we hit a few other spots.  Plenty of Mangroves and Yellowtail every where, but there are so many barely legals you have to work a bit to find the bigger ones.

Marathon in the Florida Keys should be your next fishing vacation destination. Join us for charter fishing, fishing guide trips or our fishing 101 so you can fish on your own with better success.

Tight lines,

Capt. Dallas

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Full Moon and Bananas

I have gotten two messages about fishing on the full moon today.  The full moon is a PITA for a variety of reasons, especially in the summer.  Just about everything down here spawns around the full moon when the water temperatures are right.  So you can have some critter that you don't fish for like sponge worms spawn, screwing up your bucket list tarpon trip.  Then you can have Grouper or Snapper move to a different area to spawns show you don't find them in their usual places.  Plus with the faster than normal currents you can have a bite that doesn't last as long for some species and longer for another.  There can be so many things happening that you have trouble finding the right combination.

To keep things simple, planning a trip for the quarter moons is the way to go unless you are looking for spawn fish and you know where they are.  You can kill plenty of fish if you fish at one spot at a particular time of day and on a particular tide.   That particular time seems to be late, at night and/or early, but fish love making a liar out of folks so you never know for sure.

I am not a fan of hammering spawn fish so I avoid that, but there are some fish that are more than plentiful enough to hammer once or twice a year, so it doesn't bother me much.  Night time Mangroves, they are pretty plentiful, but I have noticed years when perhaps a bit too much hammering occurred.  Mutton snapper are also plentiful, but that is subject to change as more and more people figure out that combination.  They will bounce back as long as just hook and line fishing is used and the coral pretty much eliminate serious net fishing so they are good to go.  Amberjack were hit really hard about 15 years ago by commercial semi-long liners using 20 to 50 hook rigs with live bait, but most of the serious depletion has been with nets which are heavily regulated now.

Luckily, the Keys has a huge variety of targets and lots of fishing styles so even on a full moon you will likely have better fishing than you are used to back home, but magic trips are more likely around the quarter moons.    For example if you want to catch yellowtail snapper finding a good current that last long enough to really work them is tougher on a full or new moon than it is on a quarter moon.  You can still peak away at them, but that huge ball of fat yellowtails is more common and bite lasts longer when the current is just right.

If you are stuck with a full or new moon in your schedule, then plans C and D might be in order, but you can find something willing to bite.  This is a great time to forget bananas completely and don't forget your lucky fish hat or whatever just in case.

Marathon in the Florida Keys should be your next fishing vacation destination. Join us for charter fishing, fishing guide trips or our fishing 101 so you can fish on your own with better success.

 Tight lines,

 Capt. Dallas