Hey fellow fisherman!
I'm not sure that the winter weather has arrived in the Florida Keys yet. I do know that there has been an 80 percent chance of showers lately, and I'm not talking about rain! The schools of ballyhoo have arrived on the reef, as they usually do this time of year. This means that the sailfish, cero mackerel, and dolphin are feeding on these huge schools. Most of the ballyhoo showers have frigate birds feeding on them. The ballyhoo try to skip away from the attacking predator fish, which makes it easy prey for the frigate birds. Therefore, the most important bait to have this time of year is… you guessed it, a BALLYHOO! It is not uncommon to get up to 10 shots at sailfish in a day running showers when the conditions are good. The best ballyhoo showers days are typically on a good, sunny day with winds less than ten knots and clean water on the reef line.
If you're not interested in sailfish along the reef, the snapper and grouper fishing have remained strong, as long as you can keep them away from the sharks. There is still a month left until grouper season closes. We've been getting most of our fish on a variety of live baits like grunts, pinfish, and speedos. A few mutton snapper have been spotted on the reef, but not as many as last month. The deeper wrecks have been producing more mutton snapper, while using live ballyhoo for bait.
Surprisingly, there has been an abundance of dolphin this fall. On Thanksgiving morning, we went out on a half day trip and caught 40 nice dolphin up to 20 pounds. The fish were caught from the reef line out to the gulf stream current edge around 400 feet. The key to finding the dolphin is locating the working birds or weed edges. There have been quite a few big dolphin found on showering ballyhoo or on pieces of debris.
The humps are still producing nice tuna as long as you have a good supply of bait to chum them up. Today we loaded our wells with pilchards and ran off to the marathon hump. We knew it was going to be fun when we chummed the first couple of freebies and the blackfin tuna were busting on them immediately. Within a couple of hours we had a box full of tuna up to 25 lbs. And yes, the sharks were bad. I think we might have hooked three times as many tunas as we caught! We actually had a shark chase a tuna to the boat, and it ended up biting the propeller and shutting the engine off. Pretty crazy!!!!
I'm looking forward to this December's sailfish season, nice wahoo, and all the other winter time fish.
I hope everyone has a great holiday season. Come spend a day or two on the water and enjoy what the Florida Keys has to offer.
Tight lines and Happy Holidays
Capt. Brian Cone