As I write this column the temperature hovers around 60 degrees outside my window. It is likely that this will be one of the last cold fronts of the winter which influences the southerly and westerly migration of fish into the lower Keys area. Sailfish remain scarce in our area, with much greater numbers just east of us in Islamorada and Key Largo. March however often brings our first “tailing conditions” to the local area with a big improvement in the number of Sails around. Tuna have also been somewhat scarce, we’ve been catching one here and there- best chance for Tuna currently would be the 200’ water 20 miles and more west of Key West. King fishing remains our bread and butter “go to” fishery for dependable action. Plenty of Kings remain on both the Southside and up in the Gulf, with most of the larger fish (30-40 pounds) located in the Gulf. These big Gulf fish will readily eat trolled ballyhoo rigged just as you would for Wahoo. Frustrated Wahoo fishermen might have an enjoyable day by heading into the Gulf on a day which features South or Southeast winds and very lumpy conditions in the Gulf Stream. Not only will they find much calmer water, they may find the big Kings offer faster action and a similar exciting fight to Wahoo. Smith shoal and the Edmund Lowe are both close by and well known areas to try.

Out on the south side reefs, Yellowtail action is up and down. Several times of late we’ve anchored down and watched huge schools respond quickly to the chum and rise right to the surface 15 yards behind the boat. On other days in the same location the fish seem absent. A little patience often pays off, if you’re not getting bit, stop fishing for a while, get your lines out of the water and just feed the fish. When you resume fishing, try just one line at a time. Sometimes less results in more.

For those who might be entertaining friends and family from up north and looking to satisfy the request to catch something BIG, I’ve got two suggestions- Sharks and Amberjack. Almost anywhere you anchor from the patches to the reef edge will produce Shark bites if you put a slab of cut bait or butterflyed Yellowtail on the bottom. Use a stout outfit with a piece of #8 – #10 wire and strong hook on the terminal end. You may also want to admonish your eager shark angler to “be careful what you wish for” as you lower the bait to the bottom. Amberjack will begin spawning in March and their numbers will increase dramatically around all the local wrecks, drift live bait or work a butterfly jig to get results. Good luck and tight lines.

Capt. Brad Simonds