Back to school. Back to work. Back to fishing! 

By: Capt. Chris Johnson 

The Marathon area enjoyed consistent dolphin (mahi mahi) fishing this summer. If the past few years are any indication, September and October should remain productive, with more midrange 10- to 15-pound fish coming over the rails than small schoolies. The usual assortment of trolling lures and rigged ballyhoo will take their share of keepers.

The dolphin are typically found under floating debris and weed lines. Sargasso mats have been heavy the past few months, and we see no sign of them lightening up. This makes finding the dolphin a bit easier as you can get on a good weed line and work it for miles.

There have been good numbers of blackfin tuna offshore. Most run five to ten pounds this time of year, with the occasional larger fish at the Marathon humps. Trolling and jigging are the preferred methods to catch the tuna

On the inshore reef and wreck areas, snapper fishing can also be good this time of year. Our water temps are at their highest for the year, in the upper 80’s. The snappers seek cooler waters, so focus your efforts in the 60- to 90-foot depths. Typically, the bite is better in the early morning or late afternoon, as the fish are more comfortable eating in low light conditions. Yellowtails dominate, with a few straggler mangroves and the occasional mutton mixed in.

First and foremost, be sure to take plenty of chum. We use Mojo Oats plus either SnapperUp or YellowtailUp, all from Aquatic Nutrition, mixed together as a slop. One of the benefits of using the Aquatic Nutrition products is they will spur the yellowtails into feeding more aggressively than they would normally.

Got light with your tackle. The ideal combination is small, Owner #2 Mosquito hooks with Berkley Vanish 15-pound fluorocarbon (sometimes even 10- or 12-pound flouro) and Berkley ProSpec 12-pound test main line.

The best baits are shrimp or silversides or small pieces of ballyhoo.

On the wrecks, we pick away at mutton snappers. They also hold an assortment of amberjacks, jack crevalles and even the occasional African pompano to liven things up.

If you’re looking for serious light-tackle action on big fish, you can’t do better than shallow-water fishing for lemon sharks. Most are found in the four- to five-foot depths surrounding shallow flats. This is where they do their hunting. Jack crevalles and bluerunners make good chum and bait for the sharks.

September and October are great times to get out for spiny lobster. The summer crowds have dispersed, so there’s less pressure to find keepers. If you’re a novice, I highly recommend hiring an experienced guide.

— Capt. Chris Johnson | SeaSquared Charters, Marathon FL
305-393-2929 | SeaSquaredCharters.com

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