THE FISHING TRIP: Fishing in the Alligator Reef Light House Area
Aboard a friend’s boat. Yellow Tailing
The Spot : Alligator Reef Light House Area close to Tavernier and Islamorada Florida
Weather : Saturday night ESE up to 10 to 15 knots, Sunday morning ESE up to 17 knots, some rain
Water: Up to 4 foot seas in the cloud covered area is my guess. Up to 2 feet in the outside of the rain clouds. Water color clear and barely any current
Fish catches: Yellow tail snappers, mangrove snappers, mutton snappers, groupers, and the usual bait fish
Biggest size Type : 24.25″ Gag Grouper
Techniques : Live bait, dead bait and unfortunately no Vertical Jigging
Well, it’s been a while since I last went fishing I think that was August 6th. so I was itching for a fishing trip, The Reward Fleet in Miami called me and told me there was an Ironman trip scheduled for the 28th but unfortunately it did not happen. A couple of friends called me and told me they wanted to go yellow tail fishing and so here another fishing trip was well on the way. Jeff one of them owns a double wide trailer home on the water in Tavernier Key and as he is updates his vacation home and converts it into a weekend rental home he goes fishing on the weekends when he has no plans to work on the trailer) so I went on my way in the afternoon, I stopped at Jacks Bait and Tackle where I saw some not so fresh threadfin herrings you know if they are fresh when the scales are visible and their eyes still have white around them, when these are too long in a brine solution (more than a couple of days) and people constantly move them they loose their scales and become very greyish. Well it was a big NOOOO on the threadfin herring I then looked to right and saw another cooler with so called fresh scaled sardines and I liked the color of the eyes and the fish still had scales on the, so I sifted through as many scaled sardines that I could find. I ended taking about 24 or so. I also got two blocks of tournament chum (the brand) and a dozen or fresh ballyhoo. The fresh ballyhoo at Jacks are always a surprise because you don’t see them until they give them to you. So I will tell you, be courteous to the attendants and put something on the tip jar and ask them to give you some fresh ones and they will pick them for you, very quickly but you will get a few fresher than the rest. I got a dozen of them. I kept driving on my way to Tavernier Key and stopped in Key Largo at this new bait shop called Captain Bad, they had a sign that read fresh speedos that caught my attention and so I went there and asked for 5 speedos ($3.50 each as if these were gogs!), guy walks in to the freezer where they had a cooler filled with ice and says “never been frozen just brined and kept in ice” I told him “don’t worry these are just backup baits anyways.I walked around the shop and looks like they have all the basic need for real fishing situations. I did like the place and the people were very friendly. I will go back again. My friends called me and asked me what they should add to the chum they were making, they already had cracked corn and glass minnows so I told them to get menhaden oil and oats. As I got there Jeff had started the mix in a 5 gallon bucket and the proceeded to use a power drill to finish it off. I told him not to use all the glass minnows and add a block of them at the end. The mix looked good and smelled like fish and not a rotten mix to attract all sorts of sharks and thrash fish. Some people love nasty smelly chum, I rather use menhaden oily chums, a few dollars more to make or buy but it is worth it in my opinion. We had some time left to finish setting up the rods and catch some bait at the dock. There were a few dork jacks (tiny jack crevales) and a couple of pinfish that were not so plentiful this year. I remember a couple of years back there was an outbreak of pinfish to the point that they were caught just about anywhere they would normally not be and all of a sudden they went back to the same old numbers and almost vanished in some areas.
So off we went and arrived at the spot being careful to stay as far away as possible from that dotted line in the GPS that marked the imaginary sanctuary line. We sure did not want trouble with the authorities. Looking at the depth finder we chose an area with some fish markings near the hard bottom and we were lucky that the current was taking some of the chum all over the place. We could see the chum slick zigzagging all over the area. We started using the scaled sardines and then the ballyhoo, when things slowed down I decided to break out the speedos. I took the first one out and crap! It was a freaking popsicle, LOL I still remembered the guy saying “never been frozen just brined and kept in ice” LMAO!!! WHAT HAPPNS NEXT? NO FREAKING KNIFE IN THE BOAT!!!! Oh no, had to cut the frozen speedos with my bait scissors!!! Jeff was like but you always bring one in your bag, I was like, not this time! Not good, not good, but got over it. Fishing was steady the yellow tails were cooperating one after another kept coming in, I let my line out every time we threw a scoop of the glass minnow mix and in came a yellow tail, Jeff did the same and then worked the bottom catching some mangrove snappers, Victor was freelining and got some tails but many were small. We put out a regular chum bag that was kept in the water at all times. Unfortunately some remoras came to visit but left, then it was ladyfish and we got some of them and used them for bait and they worked quite nice. I put a head out and got the grouper and then some tails and mangrove snappers like the lady fish as well. Every time the bite died down we switched our baits, sardines, ballyho, speedo, ladyfish, dork jacks and picked more fish but it all became a sifting process. So many 12 inch yellow tails, we only kept 12.5 inches and above to ensure that when these shrunk in the ice they would still be a bit bigger than 12 inches and so the same we did with the mangroves even though those only had to be 10 inches. Yeah, I know fish weren’t flags but to Jeff and Victor it would be a nice weekend meal. In the end we went back to shore got more supplies and a knife. Daylight was here and the day looked very promising but the bite was not there so we moved to 150 feet with no luck and decided to try the ledge in 96 to 100 feet. We anchored in a sandy spot away from the hard bottom and let our line on top of the drop. We set out the chum and almost immediately a swarm of speedos came by. I ran to get sabikis but left the bigger ones at home since I wanted to downsize and not take everything with me. I always keep thinking “don’t do it, every time you do it you leave something you will really need” and I did, I left the right size sabikis at home. Well tons of ballyhoos joined the party so I cast the net and landed a few but the speedos were like, well, speeding out of the way of course. I tried the small sabikies but the ballyhoo were nailing the sabikis hard and would not let the speedos even look at it. The dam ballyhoos ended wrapping themselves so quick in my sabikis that I lost three of them. We prepared small hooks with bait and let it drift in the water and the dam ballyhoos would eat it all, LOL sometimes I wish I had fresh ballyhoos. This time I had too many. Well I tried a few live ones and a few plugs, then a few chunks but no bites it was mostly small fish under us. Jeff was the only one that hooked a mangrove that was a keeper and we also hooked and released several baby mutton snappers and some 15 and 3/4″ muttons, not a single one was a keeper all of them were tiny muffins getting ready to grow in the oven. Midday came and we decided to call it the quits. In the end we got 15 yellow tails, 5 mangrove snappers, and a decent size gag grouper. We had not time to go jigging I wish I had tried but we were too shallow for doing so. Here are a few pics of some of the fish caught and some of the surrounding areas we navigated by.
Victor and a sifter yellow tail
A marker and Alligator Reef light.
Getting the bait close to the boat
Jeff and a throw back muffing mutton snapper
Jeff and his mangrove snapper
Well until next time, I hope to go fishing again very soon. If you have any questions feel free to ask in the comments