Brett Hogan out of the Holiday Inn in Key Largo reported most of the boats fishing offshore in his area have opted to fish the patch reefs in 30 to 50 feet of water. Anchoring and chumming while you fish baits on the surface for cero, Spanish and king mackerel as well as using whole and cut bait on the bottom has been excellent. The bottom fish have included mutton, mangrove, yellowtail and lane snappers, gag, black and red groupers, porgies, hogfish, and an assortment of jacks, grunts and sharks.
Miami resident Jerry Zawodney fished in North Bay around a large baitfish school and hooked, landed and released an estimated 50-pound tarpon. The tarpon ate an L&S 2000 Mirrolure. Zawodney also caught a lot of small sea trout plus a few 18-inch trout. Captain Dave Kostyo of Knot Nancy Charters out of TNT Marina reported having limit catches of kingfish on most charters offshore of Miami. The action has been in depths from 100 to 160 feet of water. Along with the kingfish have been bonito and skip jack tunas.
Captain Scott Yetter of Sight Fish Charters out of Little Torch Key reported the mild winter conditions are ideal for catching bonefish, juvenile tarpon and permits in between the cold fronts on the shallow flats in his area. Fishing in the mullet muds and along the mangrove island shorelines will produce steady catches of sea trout, redfish and large barracudas. Captain Rick Rodriguez of Sea Horse Deep Sea Sport Fishing charters out of Islamorada reported a good run of sailfish just outside the reef. Bottom fishing on the reef has been good, and swordfishing in 1,800 to 2,000 feet of water has been very productive during day trips. All of this action has been offshore of Islamorada. Captain Ralph Mayans from the charter boat Sea Cross out of Haulover Marina reported awesome action from kingfish, dolphins and blackfin tuna. His kingfish catches are coming in 120 feet of water and the dolphins and tunas are biting in 200 to 800 feet of water offshore of Haulover Inlet.
Captain Charlie Conner of FishTales Charters out of Port St. Lucie reported sheepshead, black drum and mangrove snappers are being caught next to bridge and dock pilings. Best baits have been fiddler crabs and live shrimp. Pompano have been caught in decent numbers in the St Lucie River. Spanish mackerel, jacks and ladyfish are attacking shiny lures in the ocean inlets.
Captain Richard Stanczyk out of Bud N’ Mary’s Marina reported Spanish mackerel have been biting in the open waters of the Gulf. The best action came on the beginning of a falling tide. These fish are averaging three to five pounds. Snook, redfish and sheepshead can be found in the Cape Sable area. Captain Jason Sullivan of Rising Tide Charters reported fishing in the remote areas of the backcountry where no other boats might be seen all day has rewarded his clients with some hot laid-up redfish and large snook using sight-fishing action.
Captain Pete Rapps of Captain Rapps’ Charters and Guides out of Chokoloskee reported now is the time to get in on a great sheepshead bite in the Ten Thousand Islands. Using small pieces of shrimp hooked to a No.1 size hook with just enough weight to get the bait to the bottom is how he catchers these great-eating fish. Look for the sheepshead to be in areas that have hard bottom and when you feel the light nibble gently pull the bait away from the fish to fool him into eating the entire bait and then set the hook.
Mark Escobar from BJ’s Bait and Tackle in Plantation reported with dropping water levels in the Everglades Conservation areas and in the local canals, largemouth bass to eight pounds are being caught. The largemouth bass are eating top-water baits, flukes, swim baits, frogs and soft plastic 7- to 10-inch worms. Live shiners are catching lots of fish as well. Plenty of panfish are being caught in the canals. To catch the panfish use live minnows, crickets, wigglers and small jigs. The canals around Alligator Alley, Holey Land and Loxahatchee are producing many of the fish.
Capt. Alan Sherman