Middle Keys Fishing

The Barnetts, from the Naples area, caught this big amberjack, plus a limit of mangroves, with Capt. Wayne Burri and SeaSquared Charters.

By Capt. Chris Johnson

Ahhhh September. Parents call it the most wonderful time of the year. With kids back to school and summer vacations in the memory books, our tourism slows down a tad. But, not the fishing!

Lobster season opened August 6. It’s been pretty darn good so far with plenty of bugs found at the Seven Mile Bridge and nearby areas. We expect that to continue into September.

The fishing opportunities span the offshore humps and bumps in to the inshore reef and wrecks. Toss in shallow-water shark fishing, and you have lots of options for any given day on the water.

Offshore, we’ve experienced one of the best dolphin (mahi) seasons in recent memory. Sargasso grass mats are plentiful, and there should be multitudes of dolphin hanging under them.

Winnie and her friends limited out on lobsters with Capt. Chris Johnson and SeaSquared Charters.

During September we expect a wide variety of dolphin sizes, from sublegal schoolies up to slammers at 24-plus pounds. As always, look for birds working the grass. They’re picking away at the baitfish that the dolphin are pushing up through the grass.

Dolphin tend to congregate in like-size schools. Small fish will be with more small fish; big fish with others of the same size. So, don’t be afraid to leave a school of small fish to hunt down larger ones.

Use the usual array of trolling lures to find the fish. Once you’re on them, throw a bait at the bigger ones. A rigged ballyhoo or live baits, such as pinfish or small jacks found under the grass mats, all work well.

Keep your eyes peeled as you’re dolphin fishing as there’s been a fair amount of blue marlin out there feeding on the schoolies. These guys make for quite the surprise on the end of your line.

On the inshore reef and wreck areas, there’s still plenty of snapper action.

Yellowtails dominate this time of year, with a fair number of mangroves mixed in. The wrecks hold an assortment of muttons plus amberjacks, jack crevalles and even the occasional African pompano or big black grouper.

It’s best to fish the reef and wrecks in low-light conditions in the early morning or late evening. And, be sure to take plenty of chum.

The Burden family, visiting from the UK, caught a nice mutton snapper, along with a limit of mangroves, with Capt. Alex Bell and SeaSquared Charters.

For success with the mangroves and keeper-size muttons, use an assortment of cut baits, shrimp and live baits, such as pinfish or small ballyhoo, fished on jigheads near the bottom.

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.

Free Fishing Seminars

We will present a monthly series of free fishing seminars at the Hyatt Place at Faro Blanco Resort and Marina in Marathon. Our first seminar will take place December 4, and the topic will be Fishing the Reef from Top to Bottom. Keep your eye on our Facebook page for announcements.

Capt. Chris Johnson specializes in offshore, reef/wreck, gulf/bay, saifish, shark and tarpon fishing with SeaSquared Charters, docked at Faro Blanco Resort and Yacht Club in Marathon.

For daily fishing reports with pictures, please click over to http://Facebook.com/MarathonFishing.

305-743-5305 | SeaSquaredCharters.com