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Another Christmas has come and gone. Hopefully this was a great Holiday for everyone filled with laughter and good cheer. We were fortunate enough to have a special visitor drop in and see us for Christmas Eve this year. My sister Lisa came down from New York to have a warm Christmas in the sun. We had a great time fishing for Spanish macks in the Gulf of Mexico and sunning by the pool. We are very blessed to live here in Islamorada. It is truly an amazing and wonderful place to be. If you are down here on vacation this week, then good for you! Have a great time and enjoy some fantastic restaurants, and world-class fishing.

The Sailfishing is still off the charts. This has been one of the best seasons in many years. Many of Islamorada’s finest are still posting double digit days. Take a drive around town and look at all of the flags flying. From Smuggler’s Cove to Caloosa Cove everyone has been successful. Along with the great Sailfish bite, King mackerel are swarming on the wrecks and reef edge from Conch reef to Sombrero reef. All that is required is a livewell full of cigar minnows, which have been plentiful. The Kings have been running from 6-12 pounds on average but there have been some 30-45 pound fish mixed in too! A large Wahoo is always a possibility this time of year so high speed trolling or dragging around big live baits will produce a monstrous result. If bottom fishing is your desire then drop one of those cigar minnows down deep to the bottom on the reef edge and you may tangle with a Black Grouper or a nice Mutton Snapper. You can also add a deep rig to your spread easily while kite fishing for Sails. Drift out off the edge with a few kite lines, a few flat lines, and a deep rod and you may end up catching Sailfish, King Mackerel, Tuna, Dolphin, Snapper and Grouper all in the same trip. The fishing has been fantastic so get out and give it a try.

The Gulf of Mexico has been great for Spanish macks and Cobia. The Cobias are migrating through our waters now so look for them on all of your favorite debris piles and wrecks in the Gulf. The Spanish are thicker than ever so bring lots of bait and chum, and get ready for some sore arms! The forecast for this week looks great. We all have plenty of openings so head down to your favorite marina and get out on the water fishing this week. It is sure to be another Holiday season for the record books!

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Islamorada is still the place to be for excellent weather and red hot fishing. The reef edge has been the best bet for consistent rod bending action. Plenty of sailfish are still working around the reef edge and can be easily had with either a live ballyhoo or blue runner. On the windy days I like to fly the kite for excellent results. On the calm days a spread of ballyhoo slow-trolled over your favorite hot spot will work fine. The key is to have lots of patience. The good news is that you will get the bite if you put in the time. On the better days you may be into fish steady for the whole day. If you are looking for fast action and good smokin’ then the recent run of king macks will make your day. They are swarming up and down the reef from Molasses all the way to Sombrero. Live cigar minnows will always get the job done, however; you may want to put them down near the bottom with either a downrigger or an 8-16 ounce lead. The standard ha ha rig with a pair of #2 treble hooks joined with a piece of #3-#6 wire will always work wonders for most species. The rig was named for short biters who would have made off with the tail end of your offering but instead got a mouthful of hooks and eventually the gaff. There have also been some wahoo moving through with these kings so be on the lookout.

Yellowtail snapper are always biting well and this week was no exception. They were plentiful especially in the beginning of the week as the water was still dirty from the big winds last week. The deep water snappers are also on the move and will be getting better and better as the winter progresses. Leave the dock armed with plenty of frozen squid for best results. Nothing can be easier than that. Some hawk channel patches are still holding plenty of keeper mangrove snappers. I still think the mangroves are one of the ocean’s best eating fish. Look for coral heads and chum them up with a block of sardine chum and use live shrimp for bait. A 3/0 3407 Mustad still works great for me but the VMC 4/0 circle hook works great sometimes too. It depends on the current. If you have a strange current, then try the circle. It can work very well in this situation.

The Gulf of Mexico is still producing record numbers of Spanish macks. I can’t stress this great fishery enough. It is just too much fun. The fish literally are jumping in the boat. It is almost impossible not to catch all you could ever want on every trip out. If you need to catch something, then this is for you. It is also great practice for fly anglers and new fisherman alike. Nothing will teach you to catch fish like catching a lot of them! Merry Christmas to everyone, and, remember that Jesus is the reason for the season and rejoice!

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The sailfish continue to reign supreme here in Islamorada. We are right smack in the middle of sailfish tournament season. It has already been one for the record books as the number of releases soar. The Captain’s Cup sailfish tournament was a huge success with 129 releases. The MAIN ATTRACTION and Capt. Marty Lewis ended on top with 17 fish and the 20,000 prize. Close behind was THE REAL MCCOY and Captain George McElveen with 16 fish and second place. Watch for Capt. George and crew to win a big tournament this year like the World Sailfish Championship. They are always on top and overdue for yet another victory. Good luck George we all hope to see you in the winner’s circle this April.

From Conch reef to Tennessee reef the sails are on fire. There are also many other reef species biting well at this time. King Mackerel are thick on many of the wrecks and reef edges. Cigar minnows or speedos will work the best for them. The best bite has been coming from the bottom so drop them down for best results. Mutton snapper have also been strong on the same structures so fishing an area well will result in a great variety of high quality species. This time of year a great trip will include sailfish, king mackerel and several species of snapper including yellowtails and muttons. You may also catch a wahoo or amberjack while working the wrecks. The best bite is on the reef edge just a few miles out so take advantage of this great time of year. The business is usually slow these next two weeks so you may get out and be all alone on one of the many “hot” spots. A full day is always better but a half day will still give you plenty of fishing time right now. The winds should come down this week making it more comfortable to be on the water. Get out and enjoy the red hot reef action.

The Gulf of Mexico is getting better and better. The Spanish mackerel are still swarming and many other species are starting to show up. More and more cobia and king mackerel are moving into our waters. This will improve steadily throughout the winter. The kings like something big to eat like a ladyfish or bluefish and the cobia like a pinfish or shrimp. They will rarely turn down a crab too so it is a good idea to have a variety of live bait to present to any willing fish. The cobia will also be moving on the rays Oceanside this month so be on the lookout.

Merry Christmas to everyone and have a Happy New Year. Remember to enjoy your families this holiday and most importantly let’s remember the reason for the season, Jesus Christ.

Till Next Week – Capt. Joe

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The 45th annual Islamorada Sailfish Tournament has come to a finish with team RELENTLESS led by Capt. Paul Ross and angler Jimmy David topping the charts with 30 sailfish releases. Capt. Paul took a commanding lead after 15 releases on day one and never looked back until midway through day 3 when THE REAL MCCOY Captained by George McElveen was coming on strong. Capt. George took second place with 26 fish in a very strong finish. We all knew it was going to be close when Capt. George started his day off with five fish minutes into “lines-in”. This was an exciting tournament with record catches. This confirms that we are having a wonderful sailfish season this year. Balls of sardines were being chewed-up by ravenous sails and tuna all up and down the reef edge. The frigate birds have been buzzing around like flies, or as my customer put it best this week, “they look like mosquitoes”. The reef edge is full of life. It looks like it is just going to get better with the coming week so plan your sail-fishing adventure A.S.A.P!

The snapper bite has been good with the off-colored water moving into the reef. Plenty of yellowtail, mutton, and mangrove snapper were there for the taking this week. With the fantastic sailfish bite it is almost guaranteed to have an exciting day on the anchor catching ‘tails, grouper, kings, and a sailfish or two. Bring plenty of chum and live shrimp for best results with the snappers. When the ballyhoo show up behind the boat, catch a few with “hair” hooks and send them back out with some #5 or #6 wire and a single hook. This will do the trick for kings or dolphin or whatever else may show up. I like the single hook in case I hook a mahi mahi or sail. The single hook will work much better than a treble, just give the fish time to eat.

The Spanish mackerel are totally on fire in the Gulf of Mexico. If you like fast fishing or more like non-stop-reel-‘til-you-drop then you will love the Spanish bite. It is easy livin’ fishin’. All you have to do is get plenty of chum and all the shrimp you can afford. I like #3 wire and a 4/0 3407 Mustad hook. Tie this into a 40lb leader of 3 feet and a 10lb or 12lb light spinning rod, and hold on for some awesome action. The Spanish macks are also great table fare so save a few for dinner. They are excellent blackened with Cajun seasonings. They are also very plentiful and a great renewable resource. Enjoy one of Islamorada’s best fisheries and take a trip out to the Gulf of Mexico.

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The 45th annual Islamorada Sailfish Tournament will start the sailfish tournament season this week. This year’s event should be one for the record books as the conditions look to be ideal. Sailfish are dominating the reef edge throughout Islamorada waters. This past week was a great one for sails as most of the fleet caught sailfish on every outing. The best catch in town this week went to Capt. Bill Bassett on the SACHEM from Bud & Mary’s marina. Capt. Bill was working a pod of sails near the reef edge in 75 feet. He called me in to join him and I raised the pod of fish catching and releasing two. While I was landing my fish, Bill and his team of anglers and mates caught and released 7 fish! He then chased the pod of fish into 35 feet and caught another fish as he was spraying bait. His total on the day was 13! Capt. Bill has been around for a long time and that display of skill was sure a treat to watch. I had more funwatching the SACHEM from point blank range showing her stuff than catching fish myself. Hats off to the SACHEM.

If you need a tournament team, Capt Bill would be a good choice for the win. He has been in the thick of it all week. Of course the CATCH 22 run by Capt. Scott Stanzyk also from Bud & Mary’s had many successful anglers this week too with plenty of flags flying to prove it. If you are interested in doing battle with one of the ocean’s greatest game fish, they are here now. Of the many fish available in the oceans to catch, the sailfish is probably the most fun and thrilling on light tackle. They possess spectacular speed; capable of reaching 70+ mph. They also expend much of their energy leaping and vaulting high into the air in an attempt to throw the hook. Capt. Bruce Anderson on the CAPT. EASY from Holiday Isle also had a spectacular week releasing sails on every trip out with one day in the double digits. Capt Bruce likes to target big wahoo along with the sails and his best season for this is around the corner. If you want a big ‘hoo then look him up at Holiday Isle.

The Gulf of Mexico is on fire with mackerel. On the last trip out I had a family of five catch over 200 fish. The best bait is live shrimp. As soon as the bait hits the water, BAM, you’re hooked-up! I like to use 6-10lb light spinning outfits. The Spanish have been running up to 8lbs, so the light tackle will be tested. Make sure you have enough line on the spool as you will soon need it when an 8 pound Mack hits your shrimp and heads for Key West. The long range wrecks have been very slow. Save the wear and tear and wait until the water warms up a few degrees. As soon as it does the cobia should start to show up along with bull sharks and rays. The permit will also fire up too, so make sure to bring a few crabs with you if you go. As is the norm in the sport fishing capitol of the world, the fishing is off the charts! Come on down and enjoy some fast fishing and good times here in sunny Islamorada.

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Sailfish . . . Sailfish, sailfish, and more sailfish are pouring through the reef edge in sunny (and windy) Islamorada. The fresh northeast breezes and cool temps have the sails on the move. The bait has been abundant and the fish are here working on the shoals of baitfish. The frigate birds have been following the marauding spindlebeaks into the shallows to feed on ballyhoo fleeing for their lives. Many of Islamorada’s finest were out on the edge participating in the fast sailfish action. Capt. Steve Leopold on the YABBA DABBA DO from Holiday Isle has been successful on every trip out this week with his best day capturing and releasing nine sails. Capt Alex Adler on the KALEX from Bud & Mary’s had thirteen sails one day and ten on another. Of course he also loaded up on cobia and king mackerel too. Capt. George McElveen on THE REAL MCCOY posted several double digit days along with Capt. Scott Stanzyk on the CATCH 22. Both of these guys and many others who can put you on the fish can be fo und at Bud & Mary’s marina at mm80. The sails are coming to the boat by the kite and by running showers. The best baits seem to be ballyhoo and pilchards. In other words; the usual suspects are still doing the job. The bite has been from Conch reef all the way down to Tennessee reef so just about anywhere in Islamorada is a good place to start. When you do connect with that first sailfish and you want to remember it forever; think of a Gray’s taxidermy release mount. They are the largest and most trusted taxidermy service in the world and they have a wide range of styles and sizes to choose from. They can make an exact duplicate of your trophy and you can still let ‘em swim. Ask your mate or captain what you need to do before you catch that fish so they can be ready in case that special fish presents himself.

The gulf of Mexico fishery is under full swing due to the cold fronts. The Spanish mackerel are moving in well with many fine fish up to 8 pounds being taken on shrimp and cut bait. The fishing for these guys will steadily improve over the next month or two, however; it is already wide open. It may take a little longer for your chum to start working so be patient. Once the dinner bell is rung, hold on to your hats. It is wise to make a bunch of rigs before going out to your favorite haunts. It is much easier to tie them up in front of the T.V. instead of when your hands are covered in slime from the frenzy. Bring plenty of live shrimp with you if you plan to enjoy some quality time. I usually go through 250-500 shrimp in an outing. If you need live shrimp, either Islamorada outfitters, Able’s, World Wide Sportsman, Bud & Mary’s, or Caloosa Cove will be open early and have what you need. Have a great Thanksgiving Holiday and remember to thank God for your life, family, and friends, and whileyou’re at it, thank a Veteran too!

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