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Marathon-area basics for keys first-timer?

ZthomasZthomas Posts: 186 Officer
A while back, I asked for advice on a March family trip to the keys or SWFL and got lots of great advice (http://forums.floridasportsman.com/showthread.php?177519-Advice-on-March-upper-keys-or-SWFL-trip).

Having a big dog and a small budget limited our options quite a bit, but we got a place at the Blackfin in Marathon for 5 nights in mid-March. We'll trailer a 23-foot bay boat down from Orlando -- wife, six year old boy, baby, dog, and my early 70s folks. It's going to be a scene, and obviously not a serious fishing trip.

We'll still get out on the water, though, so I'm looking for some basic tips on fishing the area.

First and foremost, I'm hoping to find some relatively fast-paced, non-technical fishing that doesn't require long runs that the kid would enjoy. To be honest, he's happy catching pinfish and baby jacks as long as the action is fast, but some snapper or mackerel or something else to go in the cooler would be great.

I gather yellowtail probably fit that description, but we've never fished for them. Any particular tips, or do you just anchor up, start a chum line and freeline cut baits?

How about if my dad and I get a chance to go out "grown-up" fishing? What would our best bet be with the bay boat (assuming we get a calm-ish day)? We rarely get to do much offshore stuff up here, so we'd love to get a shot some pelagics.

Any good backup options if it's blowing the whole time?

Anything else neat to do or see on the water that we should check out? We're hoping to get out to snorkel around Sombrero, but are there any other neat spots to snorkel/swim/picnic/wildlife watch/dock and dine, etc?

Thanks in advance for any advice. We're pretty excited to go...

Replies

  • ZthomasZthomas Posts: 186 Officer
    Forgot, anywhere we're likely to see sharks? Not geared up to fish for anything big, but the kid and the wife would get a thrill out of seeing some in clear water. Is there somewhere they congregate?
  • twirptwirp Posts: 1,128 Officer
    We were met with high winds down there last May, so that limited us to bridge fishing for several days. Sharks are a plenty around there, as for keeping the kids rod bent, chum, chum, chum and chum some more. It's pretty cheap at the K-Mart there on the island...and they have a surprisingly impressive tackle inventory too! We got bent over at the local tackle shop on chum the first day we were there...it's like they knew we were "outsiders". Get a chum bag or two, I don't fish like that ever, so I managed to pull off a spot a time or two with it still in the water, which tears them up pretty good. We don't have any "spot" there, but we did better at the bridge heading off of Marathon, rather than the one at Vaca Cut, coming onto Marathon.
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  • ZthomasZthomas Posts: 186 Officer
    Cool, thanks. Yeah, the whole chumming thing is new to me too. Will definitely remember that about K-mart. And I hear you can just use an old landing net mesh for a bag?
  • twirptwirp Posts: 1,128 Officer
    I know the girls had a blast messing with the little ballyhoo that came into our chum slick, I'm sure your kids will love that! We didn't have much success, but we had fun. We did slip up on the edges of some flats and catch barracuda on artificials as well as some small tarpon. We went into the Gulf cruising around looking for sandy bottom amongst the rocks, when you find that there is almost always a grouper or 3 around and some other nice eating fish, check the regs and season though. My buddy had great success with pitching live pinfish into those holes, tackle up and hang on though, as you never know what's in there. We came across a HUGE jewfish on one of them, I'm 6'4" 260 and he probably could have swallowed me.
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  • KlingerKlinger Posts: 2,001 Captain
    Zthomas you have PM
    In my many years, I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame,two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress.-- John Adams
  • hossmosshossmoss Posts: 1,322 Officer
    go to the Keys Forum section and read the stickys at the top. There's a great wealth of information that will help you.

    for yellowtails... anchor up on the outside of the second reef and chum, chum, chum for maybe a half hour. Then send a yellowtail jig tipped with a couple silversides drifting back in the chum. Keep your bail open and allow your line and jig to flow out naturally along with the chum. When your line starts to peel off, close the bail and reel.

    Keep the chum flowing.


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  • smooth movesmooth move Posts: 478 Deckhand
    we anchored on the gulf side between two mangrove islands on a incoming tide. we were about 25 yards out from the mangroves, not exactly between them, on the down current side. we caught grey snapper, pompano, grouper and sharks, large sharks. action was fast enough to keep my nephew and i busy tending to the girls. we used cut bait, but started out with dead shrimp. the sharks were farther out, i'd bait a bigger rig up with a fish finder or carolina rig and let the current carry it out about 100yds. hope this helps. we made a couple trips out on the Atlantic side, but it was too windy while we were there in the 2nd week of May.
    le se' bon ton roulet
  • fsustevefsusteve Posts: 96 Greenhorn
    hossmoss wrote: »
    go to the Keys Forum section and read the stickys at the top. There's a great wealth of information that will help you.

    for yellowtails... anchor up on the outside of the second reef and chum, chum, chum for maybe a half hour. Then send a yellowtail jig tipped with a couple silversides drifting back in the chum. Keep your bail open and allow your line and jig to flow out naturally along with the chum. When your line starts to peel off, close the bail and reel.

    Keep the chum flowing.

    This is basically how we do it, use light leader too 10lb fluro and a lot of it, if the current is ripping use some weight. Generally I have one shark/barracuda rod set up with a steel leader for when we catch a grunt, toss them out while snapper fishing and inevitably you'll hook up.
  • ZthomasZthomas Posts: 186 Officer
    Thanks again too all for the posts and PM. Can't wait to get down there. Fingers crossed for calm weather. Will check in when we're back.
  • fsustevefsusteve Posts: 96 Greenhorn
    March is windy down there, pick your days, if the ocean side is rough, check the bayside, just kind of work around the conditions.
  • ZthomasZthomas Posts: 186 Officer
    Thanks again for all the help. It was a great trip, and we learned a lot. We also hit the lottery on the weather -- flat calm water, light to no winds, sunny and 80 degrees the whole week.

    Fished the dropoff the first day in about 40 feet of water. Wide-open yellowtails, which the kid loved. Took a half dozen home for dinner.

    Took my folks offshore the second morning. It was flat as a farm pond. Ran straight out past the Sombrero light and started trolling in about 650 ft when we saw flyers and lots of jellies and scattered weeds. Trolled for about two hours, lost two dolphin, got one, about 12 or 15 lbs. Turned back toward shore at about 22 miles out. Also got a nice tripletail under a lost crab buoy we came across.

    Third day took wife and son out. Tried the dropoff again, but couldn't get the yellowtail going. Got one, plus an assortment of weird reef fish, which the kid probably enjoyed more than the YT. Then went and snorkeled at Sombrero, which was awesome.

    Last day snorkeled some more and went to the beach at Bahia Honda, which is incredible.

    Never did fish the bay side. Just ran out of time.

    The Blackfin was kind of bare-bones and utilitarian, but it served the purpose very well. Affordable and dog-friendly, with an on-site ramp and slips with freshwater and power, nice cleaning tables, grills, free ice, pretty grounds, and a dive shop, bar and grill all on the same property.

    Here are some pics.

    Any questions from others planning similar trips, I'd be happy to try and answer.


    Ramp and marina at Blackfin
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    Headed out to the reef the first morning
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    Yellowtail
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    Kid hooked up
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    Dolphin
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    Grandpa, kid, dog
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    Weird catch 1 (Dory?)
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    Weird catch 2 (kid was going, WTH is that thing?)
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    Chip crumb frenzy at Sombrero Key Light
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    Light
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    Feels kind of like flying
    IMG_5021w_zpsd6lxrqvd.jpg

    Kid, baby and mama at Bahia Honda.
    photo-15w_zpsu6rw2hqp.jpg

    Dog watching for dolphins. Hates them more than cats.
    IMG_4937w_zpsrtya4qng.jpg

    Low morning clouds over the light
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    Sunset over Pretty Joe Rock from the Blackfin
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  • davidgiddavidgid Posts: 250 Deckhand
    Thanks for the update! We are going to marathon in late June. I am looking to rent a boat while we are down there. The place we are going to stay has a nice dock/slip for each condo. I found a place that will rent boats for $125 a day if you rent for 3 days. I am going to mark this thread and will most likely hit you up with some questions in the weeks before we leave.

    Great pictures by the way!
  • tankardtankard Posts: 7,031 Admiral
    Great pics.

    That is a filefish.
  • KlingerKlinger Posts: 2,001 Captain
    Looks like you had a good trip! Love getting the youngsters onto fish!

    First looks to be a Parrotfish & the other one is as mentioned a Filefish.
    In my many years, I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame,two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress.-- John Adams
  • jcanracerjcanracer Posts: 4,344 Moderator
    Great pictures! Looks like everything worked out perfectly.
    Hobie Kayak angler for life!
  • Grouper GeniusGrouper Genius Posts: 1,482 Officer
    You did hit the weather lotto. That's a nice dolphin there too.
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  • fsustevefsusteve Posts: 96 Greenhorn
    Free ice?!? Lol I blow so much on ice during mini season, that could be a really great deal.
  • Cut runnerCut runner Posts: 948 Officer
    Wow you did a great job! And hit the weather lotto!.
    I stay at the banana bay right next to the black fin. Great central location. Can't wait to get back down there!
  • dave44dave44 Posts: 11,549 AG
    Great pics. Signing in for reference.
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