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Sail fishing remained strong this week as cold north winds continued to blow. As the wind moves around to the north east this week, expect more awesome sail fishing to continue. We are enjoying an awesome season of bill fishing here in Islamorada. If you want to catch more or get out for your first one, then this week should be a good choice. The sailfish love the cooler temps and northeast winds. This will cause them to migrate through the surface of the water column feeding on any reasonable offering along the way. My favorite bait is a blue runner or goggle eye on the kite. If you can catch some fresh ballyhoo, then this will also be a great choice to work the reef edge. While out on the reef, a king mackerel or wahoo may also come up and eat your live baits so an eighteen or twenty inch trace of #5 or #6 wire will help to catch one of these guys. If you are only targeting billfish then 30 or 40 pound fluorocarbon leader will be a better choice. A VMC 7/0 or 8/0 circle hook is a must and will help hook more fish. The winds will be fresh next week around 15-20 knots so it is the perfect time to go fly a kite! Get out on the reef edge and enjoy the perfect sail fishing conditions.

If calmer waters are your preference then you can head out to the Gulf of Mexico and enjoy some fast action with Spanish mackerel, snapper, grouper, sharks, king mackerel, and cobia. The gulf season is at it’s peak and the fishing is awesome. If you want to bend the rod, then the Gulf will always deliver. The biggest problem is bringing enough bait to last eight hours. It is not uncommon to go through 500 shrimp in a day with three anglers. The end result is three sets of very sore arms and three completely restored souls. Nothing improves your outlook on life like catching a whole boat full of fish! Give one of Islamorada’s finest a call and book that trip of a lifetime.

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The winter temps are cold but the fishing is red hot in Islamorada. We have had many cold fronts this winter. They have been exactly what we need to spark the fish to migrate south and spend the winter here in the keys. The reef edge has been excellent for sailfish, king mackerel, snapper, grouper, and cobia. We have not had a bad trip this year. Every trip out has been great. The sailfish have been center stage on the catch list. They have been holding here in good numbers all season. Every tournament has been successful with plenty of fish to go around. The RELENTLESS team led by Capt. Paul Ross has been dominating the scene day in and day out. They are in good shape to take the Gold Cup win this year with only the Islamorada Fishing Club tournament left to decide the winner. Not ever out of reach is THE REAL MCCOY led by Capt. George McElveen. They are close behind and very dangerous if you are in the lead. Capt. George is sure to show up with a big finish so this one is not over yet. The KALEX captained by Alex “Cappy” Adler is always ready to take the victory and so is the CATCH 22 and Capt. Scott Stanzyk. This has been an exciting tournament season and it will be a great grand finale when the Gold Cup finishes with the IFC event. If you have not had a chance to get out and catch a sailfish yet then treat yourself to a day on the water and do battle with the fastest fish that swims. They truly are the best light tackle fighter in the fish world. The fish are plentiful this year and ready to please.

The king mackerel have also made a strong showing this year for similar reasons to the sails. They have been on all of the wrecks and reef points from Molasses to Sombrero. The cigar minnows work the best but ballyhoo will also work well too. The bait has been much tougher this week. Hopefully this will improve in the weeks to come. If not, a butterflied ballyhoo on the deep rod will catch plenty of kings in a pinch. It works even better from a downrigger if you have one. If not, a dropper loop system can be employed with the same success. The fish have been concentrated from 40-140 feet. Keep an eye out for a wahoo while fishing the edge this week. They are also moving through the keys reef system.

There have also been some nice mahi mahi in town this week. Focus on debris with life. Find a triple tail and you will probably find a wahoo or two and some dolphin. We landed several slammers and gaffers this week during our travels to and from the hump and sword fishing. There are also a few medium tunas out there willing to bite a feather trolled way back. Get out on the water and enjoy the beautiful cool weather that makes wintertime so wonderful in south Florida.

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Welcome to another fabulous week of catching in the sport fishing capitol of the world, Islamorada. There were still sailfish around the reef edge but not as many fish have been migrating through. If you were diligent and stuck with the program almost everyone was successful at landing the trophy billfish. The goggle eye/kite presentation seemed to be the best method, however; the standard ballyhoo spread will always work to seal the deal on a spindle beak. A teaser can be deployed close to the wash to attract a hungry pack of sails to the transom of your boat where a live pitch bait can be tossed in front of the working fish. This is an exciting way to cat ch a sailfish. It can mean some slow time during the day, but when that fish shows up slashing at the teaser it will make the wait worth the effort. If you want to fill in some of the time between occurrences just put a rig with some wire down deep and take advantage of the numerous king mackerel that have frequented our waters lately. There have been plenty of kings from 6-45+ lbs out there on the reef edge waiting for your cigar minnow or ballyhoo. I love the way a big king mack fights. They give a reel smoking run or two and they can dig deep and work you hard like a tuna at the end. If you use the light 12 pound sailfish rods on them they can be a riot. Many an angler has left the boat impressed with the game qualities of a nice king mack. A smoked king mackerel is also about the best eating fish in the ocean. I like spicy hummus, a good organic toast, and a chunk of smoked kingfish. It is hard to beat. There are a few people in town smoking fish now so if you are going to be here for a few days and you are lucky enough to catch a nice king on the first day, you can have it smoked for the ride back home to the cold north. The reef edge is alive with snappers, kings, sailfish, wahoo, cobia, and grouper right now. We also had a nice push of mahi mahi this past week with several boats catching slammers and lots of schoolies. With the warmer east and south east winds the mahi mahi will pop up and feed. Look for them any time the wind blows from the south east this time of year. They love a cigar minnow so keep a few on hand. The yellowtail snapper are always biting in Islamorada so keep them in mind if you want a good dinner to go with that sailfish you released. They are fun to catch on light tackle and plentiful. Get out on the water this week and enjoy the great weather and fast fishing!

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Happy New Year! The annual Blessing of the fleet party took place this week on the First after an eventful evening at Cheeca Lodge. We are very sorry for the fire at the keys landmark. We hope that the lodge will be up and running as soon as possible to continue to serve the keys community. The blessing party was a success with a great turnout of friends and family to celebrate our fishery and a new year of hope and happiness. Thanks to everyone who contributed to make the party a hit. A special thanks to Whale Harbor for hosting the event and for providing excellent food for the occasion. We all had a fantastic time and we look forward to next year.

As for the fishing, I feel like a broken record; it is fantastic! The sailfish are here and biting well. Everyone has been enjoying multiple shots every trip out. They are good at getting away so remember, it is better to have loved and lost than to have not loved at all. Keep trying and enjoy the beautiful weather and the plentiful king mackerel that are more than willing to please. They have been swarming on all of the wrecks up and down the reef. Live cigar minnows work the best; however, a live ballyhoo with wire will also catch a lot of fish. There have also been wahoo mixed in with the schools of kings so be ready if they show up. The wahoo on the reef edge this time of year run big from 30-80+ lbs so if you get one you may be in for quite a ride. They also make my favorite sushi so brine them up well in a fish bag and enjoy some fantastic eating. A fish bag can be found and purchased at World Wide Sportsman and stashed away somewhere on your boat until needed. They work out great on those days when you finally catch that huge fish too long for the cooler. They run from $89.00-$200.00 depending on the size you need. I have a big one that will fit a swordfish or large tuna. I had a chance to use it this week on a nice sized 140 pound broad bill that anglers Mel, and Lucas caught from the deep during a recent day trip.

The Swordfish are biting right now. The Stanzyk brothers down at Bud & Mary’s marina have been doing very well all week on swords too. I know Scott Stanzyk on the CATCH 22 had landed several fish one morning and was on his way back to catch a few sails in the afternoon. These guys are the best at it and pioneered the sport here in Florida. If you want to go out and catch one now is a very good time. Many swordfish are being caught right now. They truly are a fish of a lifetime complete with an epic one-three hour sea battle. If you have not experienced the “Gladiator” of the sea, treat yourself to a day on the water strapped in to the most powerful big game fish that swims. When it is over and you have landed your trophy, have your captain or mate set you up with a Gray’s trophy replica mount and remember that fish for ever in full color. You don’t have to kill him to have it done. Just get a good measurement of the length and you are all set. You won’t regret it. Get out on the water fishing this week guys, it really is as good as it gets!

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