By: Capt. Chris Johnson
We begin to see our fall and winter fish arrive in the waters off Marathon and their arrival coincides with cold fronts, which come later and later every year.
Fishing on the reef can always be challenging during October, and it’s best to get out there early in the morning. The snapper bite has switched from mangroves to yellowtails. We’re fishing primarily in the 60- to 90-foot depths, and the fish average 14 to 16 inches. Mixed with the yellowtails are medium-size mutton snappers in the eight- to ten-pound category. Be sure to keep the chum flow nice and steady. Water temps in the low 80’s keep the snappers’ metabolisms revving on high and, hence, they need to eat more. We use YellowtailUp and Chum Drop together with ground chum to keep the fish up and feeding in the slick.
As we get to the late part of the month, the grouper will show up, mostly reds and blacks. Use live ballyhoo or pinfish for best results. We will also see the arrival of large cero mackerel this month. They’re quite tasty and excellent for the smoker. These fish can get up to 10 or 12 pounds. Live pilchards or small, live ballyhoo are the best baits. To prevent bite-offs, be sure to use very light #4 wire six to eight inches in front of your 2/0 or 3/0 Owner SSW hook.
A smattering of king mackerel will make an appearance as well. They’re typically in the five- to 15-pound class with the larger kings showing later in the fall.
Fishing offshore, the dolphin (mahi mahi) bite looks to be solid this month, with lots of nice gaffers at eight to ten pounds along with a fair number of larger fish in the 15- to 20-pound class.
The usual assortment of lures – blue and white or pink and white – will serve you best. Rigged ballyhoo are also a good bet. Make sure you have live bait with you as the bigger fish will quite often refuse an artificial but gladly gobble up a pinfish tossed in their direction.
As always, there are loads of blackfin tuna on weed lines and out at the humps. These fish are running 10 to 15 pounds, with more than a few pushing 20 pounds.
Bayside fishing offers copious amounts of good-size mangrove snappers. The seatrout should arrive during the second half of the month. They’ll be mixed with the mangroves on the grass banks and shallow wrecks.
October also heralds the arrival of the Spanish mackerel run, which really heats up in November.
Finally, if we get an early cold front, we may also find cobia and gag groupers on the shallower wrecks in 10 to 20 feet of water.
— Capt. Chris Johnson | SeaSquared Charters, Marathon FL
305-393-2929 | SeaSquaredCharters.com