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I have said many times,

I like fishing with live bait when I can. There has been a decent amount of Ballyhoo, (baitfish) on the reef in the last few days. We’ve had just enough “cool” weather to push it out from the shallow inshore waters. Still not as cool as normal for this time of year, so I don’t know if it will stay or not, but while the live bait is still here,  I’m going to take advantage of it.

One of the reasons I like fishing with the live ballyhoo

so much is we use lighter tackle and get more bites. Both are more fun for my customers. And (almost) anything that is more fun form my customers, is more fun for me. I’m all for it.

Today’s trip was a full day

and we did get the bait. but it was a bit of a struggle. The bait was behind the boat and I was covering it with the net, but my age and bad back are catching up with me, (2 back surgeries over the years). I don’t throw a heavy net anymore. The net I throw is a 10 ft net, (20ft diameter), so it is big enough, but it does sink a bit slow. I may have to get a little heavier one but for now, this one will have to do.

So we did get the bait,

but I had to throw the net about 10 times. Needless to say, I will sleep well tonight.

Once we got our bait,

we started bumping around the reef looking for whatever would bite. It was pretty steady with Mackerel bites. These were Cero Mackerel. Fun to catch and very good to eat. Cero is the “tropical” cousin of the King and Spanish Mackerel. It is usually bigger than the Spanish mackerel, but smaller than the King mackerel. It is better eating than both. Not oily at all. It has firm white meat and we hesitate to call it a Mackerel because too many people have a bad impression of eating other mackerels. This one is delicious.

We got plenty of Mackerel

on light spinning tackle and decided to look for a Sailfish. When the Ballyhoo are on the reef, it is not uncommon to see a Sailfish come up shallow to feed. There had been a couple of sailfish already caught today and most had been on the reef edge. But after working the reef for a good while and not seeing one, I decided to move out deeper.

We went out to about 115 ft of water,

still slow trolling our live ballyhoo. The difference between fishing for bites on the reef with live ballyhoo and fishing for Sailfish offshore with live ballyhoo is the leader you use. On the reef, almost everything has teeth, so you use a steel leader. Sailfish will hit a steel leader, but your chances are better with monofilament. We kept our steel leader on the deep line because Mackerels, Kingfish, and barracudas are more likely to hit that one. Sailfish usually come up and hit the surface lines.

27lb Kingfish caught in Key West fishing on charter boat Southbound

27 lb King Mackerel caught in Key West on the Southbound

Unfortunately, we never saw a sailfish.

The few that were caught today were all caught early. We did get a couple of Kingfish out deeper. One was 27lbs. That is a good one any day. We finished up back on the reef with a big barracuda. I’m not sure how long the Ballyhoo will stay, but as long as the live bait is still here, I plan on catching it and using it.