The past week was full of excitement on the reef! We had everything from sailfish, to snappers, to gail-force winds, all in one week! Just before the winds picked up the snapper bite was unbelievable. The yellowtails were chewing like crazy no matter where you went on the reef or wrecks near the reef. Day and night the ‘tail bite was hot. The best bait is always live shrimp, but they are by no means necessary to catch nice fish. Ballyhoo cut into strips about an inch long is one of my favorite baits. Squid can work well too, as do silversides (small bait fish available at most bait shops) and small pilchards.
The mutton snappers were biting like crazy too. We did not get a chance to target them on any deep structure, but we picked a bunch of them up on the reef in 30 to 80 feet of water while yellowtailing. We got them on ballyhoo, blue runner filets, pinfish, pilchards and squid. In other words, they are biting on everything. Along with muttons, we also pulled a few red groupers off the bottom on the same baits.
Sailfish have been quite plentiful on the reef as well. Most people don’t think about catching sails on party boats, but this time of year through the spring we see and catch lots of them because they are up on the reef feeding on ballyhoo, houndfish, pilchards, cigar minnows, and so forth. We caught three of them just before the winds picked up. All three came on live ballyhoos.
After the winds slowed down the water was extremely dirty, making the fishing even better. I haven’t been able to find the muttons yet, but yellowtailing has been great, the mangroves are biting ballyhoo on the bottom and schools of nice dolphin have been traveling down the edge of the reef.
Thanks for reading folks,
Capt. Brian McCadie
The big talk on the reef this time of year is the mangrove snappers. I am happy to say that they are actually still biting fairly well! Typically speaking the bite shuts of after the full moon in August. Well, that was over a week ago and they are still comin’ in the boat pretty consistently. It’s nothing like it was a month ago, but we are getting them quite well at night and in a few select spots in the daytime as well. Capt. Ron said that this past Thursday night they caught the limit of mangroves with 22 people on board. Also mixed in with them were lots of yellowtails and a couple of mutton snappers.
Also hot on the reef right now are the barracudas! We have been catching at least one a day, and big ones too! Just last week two of our customers caught big ‘cudas and had them mounted by Gray’s Taxidermy. The ‘cudas are a lot of fun to catch no matter who you are and how many fish you have caught in your life. They usually fall victim to a live bait on a wire leader. The best baits are what they are already there to eat… yellowtails, mangroves, blue runners, etc.
The charter boat “Satisfaction” out of Robbie’s has been doing well on the reef too. Capt. Shannon has been doing a lot of reef fishing in order to capitalize on the hot snapper bite. In addition to catching countless mangroves, yellowtails and muttons he has boated two king mackerels over 40 pounds in the last month. While he is fishing for mutton snappers on deep wrecks he always throws out a king bait as well. Lately it has certainly been paying off!
Capt. Jeff Norton on the Islamorada Lady II put together a nice catch of flag yellowtails this past Friday while the offshore fishing was slow. While most boats waisted their customer’s time running 30 miles offshore Capt. Jeff stuck close to home and sent his customers home with a fantastic cooler full of snappers and kings. No groupers were found on that trip, but that’s to be expected in the hot summer months. Our groupers in the Keys prefer colder water.
That’s not to say that you can’t catch them right now, but you are far more likely to put a few in the box in the winter months.
I would expect the snapper bite to tail off (no pun intended) in the next few weeks, so if you get a chance to come to Robbie’s and do some fish in’ in the near future I definitely recommend it.
Thanks for reading,