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Sailfish was our target species today!

Conditions looked good and my 1st mate, Barbie always likes to catch Sailfish, as do I. They are one of the most exciting fish we see here in these waters. They never get boring and I always tell my customers that if you get on a boat and the crew doesn’t get excited when you hook a sailfish, find another crew as they are bored with fishing. once you’ve caught a Sailfish, you want to catch another…….always!

The average Sailfish is going to be 6ft -71/2ft long. Usually longer than the average angler catching them. It is not uncommon for a Sailfish to pull 200 yards of line out of more and they do it very quickly! They are known to be one of the fastest fish in the ocean and their agility is amazing! Generally speaking, Atlantic Sailfish are between 35 and 65 lbs. They don’t have the massive size of their bigger cousin, the Blue Marlin, but they are much more common in these waters. I’ve caught over 100 Sailfish in a year. I’ve never caught more than 3 or 4 Marlin in a year. Marlin are cool too! but you do much more Marlin fishing than Malin catching in these waters. I don’t consider this to be a great Marlin destination, but Sailfish we’ve got!

At certain times of the year

it is more common to catch Sailfish in certain depths. This time of year, the Sailfish move in closer to the reef to feed on the Ballyhoo baitfish that are pushed out as cold fronts cool the shallow waters. I’ve caught Sailfish as shallow as 10 ft of water in the late fall and early winter. They will come up shallow on the Reef and attack the schools of Ballyhoo, when this happens the Ballyhoo will scatter in what is known as a “bait Shower” They all start running and skipping across the surface running for their lives.

Other fish come in shallow to feed on the Ballyhoo too!

It’s not just the Sailfish. Basically, the Ballyhoo move out to the Reef to find the warmer water and all the other fish come in and kick their butts! Mackerel, Kingfish, Barracuda, Groupe, Snapper, Jacks, Bonito, Black Fin Tuna, and more all come to the reef for the “party” and the Ballyhoo take a beating. It is the natural circle of life and it happens every year. After a while, you can get an idea of what is chasing the Ballyhoo by how they jump and run. If they scatter in all directions, it is usually not a Sailfish, but if all the bait is running in one direction in what is commonly called a “Push”, then that is usually a bigger fish such as a Sailfish or a Tuna.

Live baiting can be very effective for catching Sailfish. If they are feeding on ballyhoo, then give them live ballyhoo to eat. Today we only had 6 hrs and I decided to troll dead bait instead of taking the time to catch live Ballyhoo. Some days you can spend an hour or more trying to catch the bait and it’s never a guarantee you will catch them. My customers didn’t want to spend the time so we went straight to trolling.

Our first Sailfish

was full-sized. Close to 7 ft long and around 45 lbs. One down! We trolled west and to be honest, there were not a lot of bites. We caught a couple of Bonitos. They are fun to catch but not considered good to eat. They do make great cut bait when anchored on the Reef and trying to catch other fish that are good to eat and they make great Shark bait as the meat is strong and bloody.

We trolled down to the “Sub”

There is a sunken Submarine wreck about 16 miles WSW of Key West. It sits in about 242 ft of water. It was there when I started fishing almost 40 years ago and I don’t know how it got there. Like most local fishermen, I don’t really care, I just know it holds fish. Any large structure will attract bait and smaller fish that are vulnerable out in the open waters and if it attracts small fish, it attracts bigger fish. As we trolled just west of the Sub, we got a bite and caught a nice Black Fin Tuna, and while we were fighting the Black Fin one fo our long baits got hit and we had another Sailfish on!

This Sailfish

was a smaller one. Probably only 6 ft. long and maybe 25 lbs. Even a smaller one puts up a good fight and there is no such thing as a “bad” Sailfish. Unless you count the ones that won’t bite or get away! This Sailfish didn’t take as much line but still put up a good fight, (they all do). We released #2 and kept on trolling.

Time was getting short

it was getting late in the trip and I needed to get closer to home. We trolled back toward Key West, basically just looking for more bites from anything. We were about 7 miles Southwest of Key West when it was time to wind the lines in and run back to the dock. I wound in the “Teaser”, which is a hookless lure that makes a commotion on the surface or the water to attract predators such as Sailfish.

As I was looking around

and my 1st mate Barbie was winding in the other lines, my customer pointed to the teaser, which was now right next to the moving boat. “What is that?” They asked and when I looked down, to my surprise there was the biggest Sailfish of the day! It was attacking the Teaser with it’s bill and trying to eat one of the plastic squids attached to it. I had a Ballyhoo rigged on a spinning rod on the bridge, so i dropped it next to the Teaser and the Sailfish inhaled it immediately. Game on Again!

We were only in 40 ft. of Water

and the Sailfish was about 3 ft. off the side of the moving boat. with both diesel engines running. They are not afraid of the boat! Because this fish was on a 20 lb. spinning rod, it took out a lot of line. I had to back down to avoid getting Spooled,(that’s when the fish takes all the line off the Reel and gets away). It took a while, but we released Sailfish #3 and headed for the Dock. A perfect ending to a great day on the Waters of Key West!

 

End of a good day of fishing

 

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