Capt. Joel’s Fishin’ Holes

By: Capt. Joel Brandenburg

Look for the fishing to start picking up and it’s that time of year where the mahi start showing up. Big fish start hanging around the reef, like kingfish, cero mackerel, amberjack, cobia, african pompano, yellow jacks and permit. Wahoo come in a little closer and big tuna start showing up at the humps. Schools of ballyhoo come in with the sailfish smashing them, and schools of mullet come in with the migratory tarpon following right behind the mullet schools.
Once the tarpon show up, the sharks come to greet them. This is also the time of the year when mutton snapper bunch up outside the reef, yellowtail gather on the reef and big mangrove snapper can be targeted in the backcountry in the Gulf of Mexico.
During this time of year, bait can be hit or miss. At night we go out and get goggle eyes and shrimp and during the day we harvest pinfish out of our pinfish traps and cast net for pilchards. We also spend a lot of time catching mullet for tarpon and live ballyhoo and speedos inside the reef for the pelagic game fish. It’s also that time of year when kite fishing is very effective for sailfish. We can catch small bonita this time of year to bump troll for wahoo, too. Bonefish and permit are showing up around the Seven Mile Bridge and in the backcountry flats. We typically target them with live shrimp on a small jig.
Recently, there have been reports of a large number of sawfish washing up on the shore in the Lower Keys. There have also been reports of many other species, from large fish down to small bait fish, acting weird and doing circles. Scientists from a number of local and national agencies are doing a lot of research and development on these reports. Although no one has yet identified an absolute cause, some are already pointing their finger at agriculture runoff from sugar cane through the Everglades, some are pointing their finger at the recent record-high heat waves affecting the reef, and some are saying there’s nothing to see here, it’s just Mother Nature doing her thing.
I’m sure we’ll find out more specifics as the scientists’ research continues. You may remember last year the big story in the news was that our satellites showed images of a big blob of weeds heading our way that was supposed to cover up the Keys, possibly for months. That report scared off a lot of tourists and left a lot of locals wondering how we were going to get our boats in and out of ports with all the weed cover.
While many media outlets painted a doom-and-gloom story, several scientists said it was too early to tell what the “blob’s” impact would be in the Keys. Sure enough, our situation last summer was nowhere near what initial stories suggested. Hopefully whatever is affecting these fish comes and goes like the green blob did. This is one of the best times of the year to catch good quality and quantity fish. It’s also a great time to target your trophy bucket list fish.

— For a charter with Captain Joel or Jojo Brandenburg of Ana Banana Fishing Company in Marathon Florida Keys call cell 813-267-4401 or office 305-395-4212 or visit or visit us in person at Ana Banana Marina located at 11699 Overseas Hwy Marathon Florida Keys. Look for the big yellow Ana Banana sign with antlers around it.