A school of Yellowtail Snapper. Some of the other fish we catch in the Florida Keys areTuna, Wahoo, Blue & White Marlin, Sailfish, Wahoo, Dolphin (Mahi Mahi), Sharks, Kingfish, Mutton Snapper, King Mackerel, Grouper, Cobia, Tarpon and more.

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Find Your Niche

By Waldo "Double Treble"  Tejera Jr.
Islamorada Sport Fishing Online Contributor

Most successful businesses have one thing in common.  They sell or do one thing and do it well.  They focus their efforts on one particular product or service and specialize in it in order to differentiate themselves from all the other guys; in business lingo this is called “finding your niche”.  Well what works in business works in fishing too.  Most fishing guides and charter captains target specific fish or fishing areas.  They have one or two species of fish in mind when they set out and they employ methods and styles they know will catch a certain fish.

I’ve heard too many “rookie anglers” go out on a days worth of fishing intent on bringing home whatever bites.  Veteran anglers, however, have one fish in mind and they prepare for that fish. They become familiar with the habits of their “target species” and they know what bait, line, water depth, water temperature, tide phase, moon phase, and time of day will be most productive for that fish.  Sometimes not every condition specific for that fish will be present but making sure as many are will improve your chances of finding that fish at the other end of your line.

I am primarily an offshore fisherman and have my target species.  Through the years I’ve become familiar with the habits of those fish and the methods that will catch them.  In the wintertime I’m set up for Kingfish and Sailfish.  When summer comes around I’m after Dolphin and Yellowtail.  I will, of course, catch other fish while seeking my bounty.  More often than not, however, the fish I’m catching are the ones I’m expecting to catch.  When I plan a fishing trip I always decide what fish am I going after.

Kings and Sails will often hang around the same areas.  The both like water depths of between 80- 220’ and enjoy cooler water between 65-75 degrees.  Kings have very sharp teeth and will cut your line unless you have a wire leader.  When I’m fishing for Sails I will always have a flatline with 15’ of 50lb. mono leader and no wire.  I’ll also use treble hooks for kings; a live bait or circle hook for sails.  I’ll use some type of sinker to get my line down a bit for kings.  When I’m in the Miami area, the bait of choice for Kings are Pilchards or Threadfin Herrings.  A goggle-eye or a blue runner is probably better for Sailfish.  When I’m down in the Keys, live ballyhoo is my bait of choice for Sails.  There are a million other details that are specific to these fish that I concentrate on.  You can be sure that I will try to have as many of these items checked off on my checklist to improve my chances at them. The fish also fight in completely different ways when hooked. This can get as complicated as you want it to.

Dolphin are particularly fun and maybe not as difficult as other species to catch.  Water depth is not as important although they won’t usually be found in water shallower than 75’.  They love open water and are constantly moving and traveling looking for food.  When I go after Dolphin I “run and gun”.  As soon as I see the water turn dark blue I’ll start looking for signs that my target fish is around.  Most fisherman are familiar with Dolphin Signs:  weedlines, birds, floating debris, etc.  All these hold true.  Again there are many different techniques, baits, and conditions that will improve your chances.

“Tailing” (Yellowtail Snapper Fishing)  as many of these fisherman call it is a “whole ‘nother ballgame”.  I usually fish wather depths of 60-90’ but you can catch fish in much shallower water.  Chumming and freelining are the methods that are used for Yellowtails.  Islamorada Party Boat Capt. David on the Caloosa is probably one of the best Yellowtail fisherman I’ve ever known.  He uses a “sandballing” method that is very effective.  Chum and sand is mixed and made into a ball around your baited hook.  The sandball is released and will slowly dissipate into a school of yellowtail.  The fish go into a feeding frenzy and eat up all the pieces of chum and your baited hook will surely be gobbled up by an unsuspecting “flag tail”.  Flags are the term for large yellowtail and if you’ve ever had a whole fried yellowtail you’ll appreciate your meal a lot more if it’s easier to find meat than spines.

Whole chapters are written on different fishing methods for different fish.  I’ve only touched the surface on the species I’ve discussed to demonstrate how important it is to have a fish in mind before you set out on a day of fishing.  Plan ahead and prepare you tackle for that fish.  Know the conditions that are favorable for that fish.  Read as much as you can on that specific fish and make a goal of catching it.  The more times you catch that specific fish the more familiar you will become with it.  The more specific and detailed you become the more consistent you will become at catching that fish.  So, find your niche; and you'll find your fish!!!




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