Key West Fishing Report - (Archives)
You can't always catch what you want!
This time of year in Key West it's not uncommon to leave the dock with high hopes of blue water - and the dream of hooking a Sail or a Dolphin only to run to 500 feet of water and still find nothing but green, green, green.
Worry not: there are other fish to fry! If you're looking for good action and a tasty dinner, you needn't look further than the shallow reefs off Key West. Cero Mackerel are the mainstay of the half-day charter boats in the winter months. No, they aren't as big as the mighty Kingfish, but are often more plentiful and found closer in the shallow water.
Scale down your tackle to 8-12 pound spin or a light 20-pound conventional reel. Clip on a spoon (drone) and drop it back about 100 feet behind the boat. Troll the same speed you would for schoolie Dolphin - think of it as a brisk walking pace -- to give the spoon a little "action."
Mackerel are usually short strikers and seldom cut off the spoon from the mono line so don't worry about adding wire to the spoon. It can happen, so you should keep several spoons on hand in the tackle box, but the increased strikes will make up for the occasional lost rig.
Don't run the spoon in the rigger, just straight out the back with no drop back. If you have children on board, give them the rod; it's great fun for them when the mackerel strikes. Mackerel only needs to be 12 inches long, but why keep one that small?
The spoon makes for an easy "shake off" release. Be sure to ice your catch as you land it - that will make the meat firmer and easier to fillet at the dock.
Many anglers will steak a Cero Mackerel and leave the backbone in while grilling the fish. Only a minute or two will sufficiently cook this delicate fish. Think of it as a snapper fillet. It can be filleted and sautéed, don't overdo the seasoning… it's fresh as it gets!
Remember! If it swims, we can catch it!
Mr. Z Charters
C/O A and B Marina
700 Front St.
Key West, FL 33040
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