Middle Keys Fishing

The Slate family, from Mount Airy NC, caught mahi with Capt Alex Bell and SeaSquared Charters.

By Capt. Chris Johnson

The wait is over! Lobster season is here!

It opens August 6 and continues through March 31.

Lobstering is a great way to get wet and have fun with family and friends, with a tasty spiny lobster dinner as a bonus at the end of the day.

Rock holes located anywhere from one to ten miles or more out in Florida Bay provide plenty of spiny lobster for everyone. Your limit is six per person, per day. Be sure to follow the regulations as provided on MyFWC.com, as you can be assured, they are strictly enforced by agents on and off the water.

Mangroves and a bonus mutton for the Bland group, from Ocala FL, with Capt. Alex Bell and SeaSquared Charters.

August is a great time for snapper fishing on the reef, where the mangroves and yellowtails respond well until mid-morning. When the sun gets high in the sky, the fish easily see your line, and the bite can slow a bit.

This time of year, you’ll need to use abundant quantities of chum, as the snappers on the reef are spawning and react best to copious amounts of food. We supplement our block chum with YellowtailUp and ChumDrop.

Muttons for the Donnelly family, from St. Johns FL, on their second outing with Capt. Alex Bell and SeaSquared Charters.

We concentrate on the hard-hitting mangrove snappers as they are more aggressive and easier to catch. You’ll find them in the shallower, 35- to 50-foot, depths. They average two to four pounds, but we’ve seen them as big as ten pounds!

Live baits do the trick most often, including pilchards, small pinfish to about three inches and small ballyhoo. Some days, the mangroves prefer a chunk bait, such as a slice of pinfish or ballyhoo, or even whole dead pilchards. Drift these baits back in your slick the same as yellowtailing, or fish them on jigheads at or near the bottom.

Slightly heavier leaders are required for the mangroves, as their teeth can cut through the lighter leaders rather easily. And, with these bigger baits, we like to use larger Owner SSW hooks in either 1/0 or 2/0 sizes. Jigheads ranging in size from ¼ to ½ ounce will cover all current conditions.

The yellowtails are less aggressive, so it’s best to use light 15-pound leaders, small #4 to #6 hooks and small chunks of cut bait, such as ballyhoo, to mimic the pieces of chum drifting in your slick.

Summertime snapper fishing is great family fun! The Nowak family, from Elmhurst IL, had a great time with Capt. Jason Bell and SeaSquared Charters.

Our typical setup for mangrove and yellowtail fishing is a 7-foot Star Stellar Lite 12- to 20-pound rod with a Penn Slammer III 5500 reel spooled with 12-pound Berkley Pro Spec and 20- to 25-pound Seaguar fluoro leaders.

Combo reef and offshore fishing bounty for the Fuller group, from Homosassa FL, with Capt. Jason Bell and SeaSquared Charters.

While you’re fishing on the Atlantic side, check out the deeper wrecks and artificial reefs for nice size mutton snapper and very large black grouper. The Marathon area sees muttons up to 20 pounds this time of year, although the majority are in the 12- to 14-pound class. Live ballyhoo, pinfish or cigar minnows are the baits of choice.

Whether you fish on top of the water or underneath, we hope you have a great August in Marathon!

Whole bunch of mahi plus some hefty muttons for the Halinski brothers with Capt. Jason Bell and SeaSquared Charters.

Capt. Chris Johnson
Specializes in offshore, reef/wreck, gulf/bay, saifish, shark, tarpon and lobster fishing with SeaSquared Charters. For daily fishing reports with pictures, please click over to Facebook.com/MarathonFishing.

305-743-5305 | SeaSquaredCharters.com