Every February, as air and water temperatures take a dip, much of the action moves to the surface. Species such as sailfish, mahi, tuna, wahoo and kingfish all become very active and cruise up and down the rip looking for an easy meal. Although trolling can be productive at times, nothing beats a frisky live bait, especially when presented under a fishing kite. Kite baits can be presented either by drifting or slow trolling. Exactly how to present the baits depends largely on conditions.
Since most of these fish are highly migratory, their numbers and availability vary greatly from day to day and week to week. On days when the current is non existent and the water looks less than great, the bite can slow to a crawl. Seasoned anglers know that this can happen at any time and that a plan b should always be in place. Starting around February, bottom fish start to move in especially around wrecks, rock piles, ledges and areas of hard bottom.
I can’t count the number of days that have been saved by dropping on wrecks. Bruisers such as black grouper, muttons, almaco and amberjack provide an excellent challenge to even the most seasoned anglers. Most of the time, live bait is the best way to catch these fish but on many days vertical jigging works just as well, especially for the jacks. Before you decide to drop, you may want to gauge the wind and current. A ripping current isn’t very conducive to this type of fishing.
Personally, I don’t like dropping when the current exceeds more that 2 mph and prefer less than 1 mph. If amberjack are present in good numbers, the current isn’t a deal breaker. The key is to mark the fish on your bottom machine and proceed to calculate the drift. I usually stop over or near my target and put the boat in neutral while watching my drift on the plotter. Once I figure out which way the boat will drift and how fast, I motor up current and drop.
Fat muttons or grouper are suckers for a pinfish but will eat other baits as well if pinfish aren’t available. Another great option is a medium blue runner. Both of these baits can easily be caught on the way out to the fishing grounds or penned up ahead of time. Some of these wrecks are located in depths exceeding 250’ so a hardy bait is a must. Don’t bother dropping a small pilchard or small herring because most of the time, they won’t survive the first drop.
Tackle for wreck fishing should include some sort of conventional rod and reel spooled with a minimum of 50 pound test braid. Although some may think that heavy line is a great idea, keep in mind that a larger diameter line will tend to rise up in the current and require more weight. Also, I like to use large non offset circle hooks along with a long leader. Use at 25 feet of 50 pound monofilament leader. On large baits, it is a good idea to bridle the bait for better hook ups.
My last piece of advice is to utilize your rod holders, but only if they are through bolted and have a backing plate. Some of these fish will rip off a poorly secured rod holder, so don’t take any chances. Using a bent butt rod and working it from the holder will save your back and give you a better chance of turning an angry fish. Your back will definitely thank you too. Although you’ll catch a lot of jacks doing this, many times you’ll be pleasantly surprised. I always get excited when the fish stops fighting hard halfway to the surface. Grouper and snapper usually stop fighting hard when their bladder fills with air. Since grouper season is closed until May, you may want to carry a release tool that can vent unwanted fish so they can swim safely, back to the bottom.
As you can see, February is full of possibilities. Not only will the fishing be great but you’ll get to enjoy the best South Florida weather. Just remember to bundle up on those cold mornings and evenings. If you’re interested in getting in on the action just give us a call and we can make it happen. Don’t forget to keep up with the latest reports, pictures and news by following me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YOUTUBE.
CAPT. ORLANDO MUNIZ
Nomad Fishing Charters
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