Well, it’s been a couple months since the last report. We have been blessed with great weather here in the Florida Keys lately. The winds have been relatively light, with the only downfall being some rainy days. Thankfully, the tropics have been quiet so far.
The best thing about fall is the large amount of bait that shows up in our waters. Fishing is always easier when you are ready to target your favorite species with a live well full of good bait. There are large schools of pilchards in Hawks Channel along with cigar minnows and ballyhoo on the reef line. The shoreline is also full of pilchards as well as finger mullet migrating south for the on coming winter.
My favorite fish to target this time of year is the blackfin and skipjack tuna on the humps. They can be targeted by trolling feathers or deep jigging vertical jigs. The most effective way, though, is to chum the humps with live pilchards. There is nothing more exciting than to see a school of blackfin tuna going air bound on freebie pilchards! You know it’s only a matter of time before you’re hooked up to a line screaming, “Tuna!!!” The tuna are great fighters on light spinning rods and make great table fare. From sushi to tuna salad, you can’t go wrong.
The dolphin fishing has slowed down the last few weeks, but some can still be caught. Unfortunately, the birds that help tip of the feeding dolphin have left for the Caribbean. So, the best way to target dolphin is to find a current edge or weed line and troll small feathers or skipping ballyhoos. Quite often there will be a good piece of debris somewhere on the current edge. Bamboo trees, cargo nets, and wooden pallets have been holding the best schools of fish this fall. Along with the dolphin, you can also find tripletail and wahoo around the debris. I like small chrome jet heads trolled at 10 knots for the wahoo. The tripletails will often fall for a live shrimp or a tail hooked live bait. By tail hooking the bait you can hold the bait in position for the slower tripletail to ambush it.
This is also a great time of year to target blue marlin. In a one week period, we had 3 occurrences with giant blue marlin eating schoolie dolphin. I also have hooked several blue marlin in late august and September on live tuna. Big sharks will also take a live tuna around the humps this time of year as well.
I also love the fall bottom fishing. The wrecks are teaming with a variety of snappers and groupers. We’ve been catching some nice vermillion snapper and silky snapper on some of the 200 ft to 300 ft spots this month. If you want a good fight, amberjack can be targeted by using a larger live bait such as a blue runner or goggle eye. The king mackerel start to make an appearance on the deeper wrecks in the fall. Live speedos and cigar minnows or deboned ballyhoo work best. And if there is good clean water, don’t be surprised if you hook into a wahoo.
Over the next month or so, I expect the sailfish as well as nice dolphin to start showering the schools of ballyhoo along the outer reef. The frigate birds will help tip off the feeding fish. The trick is to get to the fish before they fill up with ballyhoo. I like to cast a light spinning rod with 30 to 50 lb mono leader and a sharp 4/0 hook. So keep scan the horizon for baits on the move!!! And be ready to cast a live ballyhoo for some great action!
Capt. Brian Cone