A school of Yellowtail Snapper. Some of the other fish we catch in the Florida Keys areTuna, Wahoo, Blue & White Marlin, Sailfish, Wahoo, Dolphin (Mahi Mahi), Sharks, Kingfish, Mutton Snapper, King Mackerel, Grouper, Cobia, Tarpon and more.

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How-To Series

Fall in for Fishing!!!
by Captain Waldo "Double Treble" Tejera
Staff Writer

      As summer ends and fall sets in, fishing in the Keys and South Florida begins it's seasonal changes as well.  The ever-present Dolphin schools will be moving on and other species move in.  Mullet schools have already been spotted in our areas.  As water temperatures continue their descent so will baitfish and the predator fish that we enjoy catching so much.  Bluefish, mackerel, kingfish, blackfin tuna and other pelagics will start showing up in our fishing territory.  A couple of months down the line sailfish will be busting ballyhoo on the reef dropoffs.  Are you ready?  I am.

     Actually I haven’t done as much fishing as I would have wanted this summer (not my wife’s opinion), but it seems that as I get older I enjoy fishing more in the fall, winter and spring than in the summer.  I don’t know if its getting hotter in the summer every year or if my tolerance for heat is gradually decreasing.  It could also be that through the years I’ve been lucky to go out fishing with people who have taught me how to catch fish other than dolphin.  Fishing in cooler weather is a lot more comfortable than 95 degrees.

     Anyway, now that cooler temperatures are on their way, I’m getting ready for some intensive fishing.   Being primarily an offshore guy myself, my primary targets are kingfish and sails.  For these guys, drifting with live baits is what I’ll be doing most of the time.  It simple (I love simple), it’s cheap (my engine isn’t wasting gas), I can listen to some music (Billy Joel or Screaming Drags), and I can cover lots of ground.  Kings are usually found off inlets, cuts, channels and any area where nutrients are being carried from inshore to deeper water by current.  Fish outgoing tides in water between 80 to 200 ft.  Try to fish areas directly out of channels and bridges in deep water such as the Channel 2 bridge in the Keys. Many baitfish and nutrients are carried out to sea by the current from the Gulf side.  The fish will be waiting for them out in the deeper water.  Kings also love deep wrecks.  Locate wrecks on your charts and drift fish them.  When you locate a wreck stop your boat and see where the current and wind takes you.  Start your drift in an area where the wind and current will take you over that wreck.  If possible drop a marker buoy on the wreck and use it as you wreck locator.  If you are drifting in an area you feel has good possibilities (wreck, nice current, baitfish, etc.) and you have a kingfish hit your line, mark that area on your GPS or toss out that marker buoy so you know where they’re at.  Be sure to remember what bait and at what depth you got the hit.  Chances are you’ll get lucky again at that same spot and you can drift over it again.

     My rigs are simple as well.  I’ll have 4 lines out at different depths and with different leaders.  All rigs will be baited with my largest live bait (finger mullet, ballyhoo, pilchard, herring, blue runner, goggle eye, jack, pinfish, mojarra or whatever I can get my hands on) and my main line will probably be pink or clear 20# Ande line.

     My top, freelined, unweighted bait will have 15’ of 50lb. test mono.  Could be fluoro but will probably be plain mono.  My hook will be a 5/0 Circle Hook and depending on its size I’ll hook it in front of the dorsal fin (large bait 4-10”) or through the nose (small bait 2-4”).   Again, no swivel or sinker will be present.  Sometimes I’ll attach a balloon to keep the bait up or so the wind takes it in a direction I want it to go to.  I’ll double line my main line and tie the 50# test directly to it with either a spider hitch or a blood knot (don’t hold me to these names because I tend to forget the names, fortunately not the knots).  If you have outriggers, this line should be attached to it.  It gives you an automatic drop back so the sail can eat the bait.  If not use a light drag.  This is my Sailfish line and that’s why I’m using a circle hook.  Releasing a sailfish is a lot easier if its hooked on the lip and its chances of survival are better.

     Two other lines will be my mid-depth baits.  One will be in about 30’ and the other at about 60’ of water.  I’ll have a short 10” trace of #3 coffee colored wire with a 2X Coffee Colored Treble.  Or maybe a Double-Treble as my boat is called.  I’ll tie my main line directly to the wire with the smallest black swivel I can get.  Don’t get the cheap swivels.  They’ll break and you’ll lose fish.  I’ll hook the bait through the nose, freeline about 30’ of line and attach a 2-4oz. Bank sinker with a rubber band to the line.  Don’t drop that sinker down quickly or your bait will wrap around your main line.  These are my kingfish rigs.  I learned this from a Commercial Kingfisherman in Miami and it’s the most reliable method for me.  The larger the baits, the larger the fish you’ll get.

     My last line will be at the bottom for snapper and grouper.  I’ll have a 5/0 Circle hook attached to 10 – 15 ft. of 50# mono or fluoro which will then be attached to my main line via a larger swivel.  Sometimes I’ll use 30# for this rig but 20# is ok.  I’ll attach a sinker (whatever size I need to get my bait down) not far from the swivel with a rubber band.  If my sinker gets stuck on a rock the rubber band will break when I pull on it.  Also I can quickly convert this line to a shallower line by yanking off the sinker.  I don’t have as much distance from the hook to the sinker as I do for my kingfish rigs because I want my baitfish to be as close to the bottom as possible. Try to keep the sinker just a few feet of the bottom. You must keep an eye on your depthfinder so that if you get in shallower water you can reel up some of that line so that your rig doesn’t get snagged.  If you are in deeper water (over 100’) you may choose not to use this rig.  There are some guides that are bottom fishing deeper water with lines other than mono such as Fusion line that doesn’t stretch as much as mono. This is a method I heard from Capt. Ralph Delph of Key West. They are usually a lot thinner diameter so you can spool up more line than with mono.  A lot of reeling is involved but the payback is usually a nice dinner table fish.  There are big snapper and grouper in these depths that most anglers have traditionally not fished without an electric reel of some sort. 

     By the way, remember that there is a daily bag limit of 2 Kings per person of no less that 24” from the mouth to the fork of the tail.  If you do catch one cut them in steaks, bread them and put them in the frying pan.  Great eating.

Good luck and Tightlines from Waldo Tejera Jr. “DoubleTreble”

 PS.  Our prayers go out for all those who perished in the recent terrorist attacks to our country.  At times like these it makes us appreciate the times we spend with our loved ones and how precious our freedom is.  Fish on America, we will get through this!!!!



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