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Islands of Marathon
Islamorad Florida, Village of Islands

The Fish
 

Skipjack tuna are fairly common, usually caught while fishing for dolphin or blackfin tuna and are like little submarines. They usually are 3-15 lbs., possible up to 30 or so. They have darker meat than blackfins and as such, are not highly prized by most but, if taken care of properly, can be good, especially raw & some people really like them. If you've ever eaten canned tuna, you've probably eaten skipjack, since a certain percentage is allowed in cans of "yellowfin tuna". Many are used as bait, either as cut bait or whole for marlin, sharks, amberjack etc.

Yellowfin tuna are not common in the keys, they come through sporadically in late winter and early spring; usually in the 20 to 80 lb. range but it is possible to find larger specimens, maybe up to 250lbs. Possibly the hardest fighting of the tunas as well as perhaps the best eating, they are very highly prized.  

 

Permit are pretty, speedy & tough members of the jack family that are fun to catch & are highly prized. Flats anglers often pay $1000s to catch 1; when they move to wrecks in spring, it's possible to catch several. The day of this photo, we caught 14 of 18 bites, a stellar day. Caught mostly by casting live crabs to a sighted school, they run 5-40+ lbs. & are almost always released.

A small cobia. They are caught mostly in winter and early spring, usually on live bait, either over medium depth wrecks or migrating on the surface or following rays, a situation which turns the tuna tower into the cobia tower. They are hard fighting, good eating fish that are usually under 50 lbs., sometimes to 90 and I've seen them over 100.

 


Blackbelly rosefish are deepwater, non-poisonous members of the scorpionfish family that are caught while fishing for barellfish and would be considered a colossal nuisance if they didn't make such good tacos. They are generally under 7 lbs.

 

 

 

These are blueline or grey tilefish, we catch them while targeting queen snapper, snowy grouper or barrelfish in about 500-1100'. They range 3-15 lbs. & are good eating.

 

 

 

 

Barrelfish are caught in 900-1400' and grow to 25 lbs. or more. This one would've been a world record had it not been caught with the aid of an electric reel; I am not a masochist, however. They have very tough flesh & are the only thing I've found that is better AFTER freezing.

 

 


Queen snapper are fabulous eating fish that we sometimes target with electric reels in about 700', on the bottom. Ranging from 3 to maybe 25 lbs., they are somewhat mysterious, coming and going fairly unpredictably.

 

Snowy grouper are deep water fish that we target with electric reels on the bottom in 600-800'.

Very good eating, they are currently legal prey when our shallower groupers are closed, albeit with an exceedingly small limit.  

 

 

Amberjack, also known as wreck donkeys or reef donkeys are one of the most brutal fish to catch, at least in larger sizes.

They're a bit like trying to reel in a big biker on a Harley. They can be encountered on the deep edge of the reef but are mostly found on deep wrecks from 100-400' with the biggest coming from places such as the 409 hump.

They range from 10 lbs. in shallow to possibly well over 100 over the deep humps; the biggest will make you black and blue and most people do not want more than 1. They are decent eating, either smoked or grilled.