Saturday, November 26, 2016

Thankful for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is the unofficial start of the Keys fishing season.  Cooler weather and scheduled vacation time gets folks in the mood for a little fishing in the Florida Keys, so I have four trips completed for the week. 

One of the big issues with fishing in the Keys after you are used to fishing anywhere else is the line issue.  Many folks are all braid all the time and clear water makes catching many keys species a lot tougher.  If you are not used to monofiliment, you are likely to get frustrated with its memory, but if you get rocked up a few dozen times, you should get over it.  Mono is much more versitile so at least one spinning outfit should be 15 to 20 pound clear mono to make your fishing in the Keys less stressful. 

Another is the circle hook versus J hook issue.  Thanks to regulations, circle hooks are required on the north side of US1 and no on the south side of US1.  Since the Keys are on US1, you need to have both in your box.

Circle hooks are one of those challenges in life.  You don't set circle hooks so if you are a bassmaster kind of angler, you are going to have to break yourself of your bass habits.  Depending on the species, circle hooks are the best things since sliced bread or just a PITA.  For dead stick fishing, when you set a rod on the rod holder and let it do the work, they are great.  Circle hooks were designed for long lines when there is no way to set a hook so they are great at doing what they were designed for.  Other stuff, not so much. 

I took a guy fishing that was on one of the fisheries boards and an advocate for circle hooks.  After we had gut hooked a third snapper with circle hooks, I mentioned that the guys making the rules were brain dead.  That is when he mentioned he was one of those guys.  If you look at the raw data on circles versus J hooks, for some species, mortality close to 9% for circles versus 28% for J hooks.  Other species it is closer to 1% for circles and 3% for J hooks.  So for some species it makes a big difference and for others not so much.  Now what that data does not include is how competent your angler might be.  If I am in a spot where the fish are small and I am a meat fishermen, I will frigging move to another spot.  There is zero mortality if I quit catching small stuff that has to be released.  If I am offshore looking to catch Dolphin for the box, I can have zero mortality for J hooks because 100% of the fish are going in the box.  If you are having a catch and release only adventure, go for circles, however, if you release enough fish, you are going to kill a whole hell of a lot more because there is more to consider than just the hook in figuring mortality.  Probably the largest cause of fish mortality is over regulation.  People end up catching a lot more fish than usual and handling 100s that have to be released from depths that would have a 50% mortality to begin with.  Do you really think that sticking holes in fish that are blown out heals them?   It is kind of like Obamacare for fish, poke a hole in their system and call it healthcare.

So with that out of the way how was fishing?  Okay.  The yellowtail bite if you can get the wind and current together is great.  With the cooling water, Grouper are moving a little deeper so some of the rock piles and wrecks are loaded with keepers.  Mackerel are still a bit spotty.  Ceros and Kings are pretty plentiful on the ocean side but Spanish are inconsistent on the bay side as of this week.  Water temperatures have dropped enough though that they should be getting thicker in the bay.

Mixed bag fishing for reef species is great and thanks to living on an island can be done in just about any weather.  In case you don't know, mixed bag fishing with knocker rigs and fresh bait is just plain fun.  Lots of action, plenty of fish for dinner and you still have a shot at something to brag about.

Sailfish, dolphin and even big tuna are being caught but nothing is super hot consistently.  So if you have the boat or the weather, it is definitely worth a shot but be ready for plan B just in case.  

I have plenty of openings except for Christmas - New Years which will be pretty packed trying to fit folks in with the weather. 

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

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Nice day



Windfinder was off and there is a super full moon, but it was a nice day anyway.  I was fishing with a client from Louisiana who definitely knows fishing.  The goal was just to tune up some techniques on Yellowtail Snapper fishing and get familiar with some new areas.

With the full moon tide, you have to hunt a bit to find a fishable current and with the wind blowing closer to 20 knots than the predicted 10 knots, that means the west side of the bridge.  We hit one spot on the east side just to check, but it was dead.  The water was much cleaner to the west which made the fish a lot happier.

In the channel, plenty of keeper but not big Mangrove Snapper and a few mystery fish, like Goliath Grouper eating the Mangroves we hooked.  On the reef proper, it took no time to get the Yellowtail up in the 32 foot depth.  They were a mixed size ranging from barely legal to 16 inches, not great but great action.  They were balled up right behind the boat and hangry.

Tomorrow is planned to be a mainly a bay trip in search of Spanish Mackerel, Mangroves and the usual suspects.  I have heard there might be a little algae problem back there so that might be more interesting that normal.

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, November 06, 2016

Finally a little News


It has been a slower than normal off season.  Only one bay side trip for Mangroves in October and had to resort to raising a sunk boat for something to do.  But that was October.  November is shaping up better with a few trips booked and the Spanish Mackerel showing up in the bay.

On the ocean side, there has been a fair run of sailfish with a few dolphin and tuna mixed in here and there.  Not great catching but still worth a trip.  For the guys that have been getting to the patches there have been some nice red grouper catches.  Snapper are steady on both sides if you get the wind and current right.

With the winds being iffy and the customers slow, several locals have taken to bridge fishing just to get out and have been having a ball with jacks and the sharks.  Yellowjacks, which most find good to eat have been mentioned pretty regularly lately.  The locals most often don't really want to fight the sharks, but when you let a jack struggle around the boat for a while, watching the bigger bull sharks try to catch a jack is pretty fun. 

Only two more days and we can get this crazy election behind us.  A buddy said that Hillary pulled the wool over his eyes and then he found out it was 60% cotton.  Still waiting to see the trilla in vanilla when Biden and Trump fight it out though.

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

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