Fall Fishing Frenzy!

Capt. Charlie Ellis with a Miami Sailfish

Fishing in the fall off the coast of Miami, FL isn’t normally this good. We’ve been fortunate that our last few trips aboard the Marauder have been excellent – big mahi mahi, kingfish, and an early arrival of sailfish have kept our anglers busy the last few trips.

The cigar minnows have been THICK at the bug light and we’ve been catching eight to nine dozen on every trip with flourocarbon sabiki rigs and tournament master double ground fine chum.  Amidst the swarms of cigars and blue runners, we’ve even managed a few sardines which are always an excellent addition to the mix. With bait plentiful, we’re able to live bait effectively on the edges of reefs, current rips, and floating debris.

Fall is typically a slower time of year for fishing in Miami, which has forced us to push farther offshore in search of dolphin and farther North in search of current. The conditions during our last few trips haven’t been ideal – weak or non existent current and dirty water out to several hundred feet deep.  To keep the rods bent, we’ve been focusing on fishing the edge – covering the entire water column.  We’ve been flying Bob Lewis ultra light kites while flat lining and bottom fishing.  The bottom rod has produced some decent muttons, yellowtails, and the occasional red grouper, while the mid water rods have produced a steady kingfish bite, mixed with a few bonitas.

On Saturday the 12th, we had Dale and Zak join us for a full day trip in search of “the big one”.  Dale got in touch with us about a month ago with one request- to catch a fish so big he could hardly hold it up for a photo, preferably something edible so he could frustrate two friends who backed out on the trip. We knew going into the trip that our best bet at a big edible fish would be pushing offshore in search of a big school of Mahi. After the edge produced a few kingfish (one of which actually JUMPED in the boat while evading a larger king), we pushed offshore to 1050′ and started trolling with our all time favorite lures – the R&R mahi magnet. We trolled out to 1100′ then back to 1000′, slowly working our way south.  After 30 minutes of criss crossing decent current, our Penn 30 on the starboard gets CRUSHED and the line starts flying off the reel.  A BIG cow goes leaping into the distance, furious from the sting of the mahi magnet.  Zak was quick to pick up the rod and went to work subduing the fish.  After a 23 minute battle, we had the big 47″ cow in the boat.

Zak fighting a big

big Cow dolphin caught aboard the Marauder

Rosher Mahi Magnet

Big Cow Mahi Mahi

Now that we had won the battle with “the big one” we trolled our way back inshore looking for a few gaffers and schoolies to add to the list. We found decent grass in 600ft but only this little dorado came out to play.

small mahi mahi caught by Dale

Needless to say, Dale and Zak went home happy. Turns out the fresh fish dinner was successful!

Caught aboard the Marauder of Miami, FL

Our crew on Sunday were some of the most energetic anglers we’ve had in a while – genuine Australians who came to see what fishing in Miami, FL was all about. We started off the day right – catching  a few kingfish, bonitas, and snappers before headed offshore in search of mahi mahi.  Our friend’s from Australia had some tough luck fishing down there and had yet to catch a mahi mahi in any ocean!  We just couldn’t let that stand and had to make it happen.  In between kingfish cutoffs and triple bonita hookups, the radio squawked that a few charter boats found their way into some schoolies around 800′, so we made our way offshore looking for anything floating.  After an hour, we found a single grass line which held a small school of throwbacks, but it was enough to break the curse and put the Aussie boys on their first mahi mahi!

The bite on the kite was slow for the remainder of the afternoon, until a lonely sailfish plowed into the spread and began going ballistic behind the boat.  Having never caught an Atlantic Sailfish, our Aussie’s got all fired up  and the energy came roaring back after two hours of slow fishing.  The fight went smooth and we boated the fish for a quick “Huey” pic after a 27 minute battle.

Aussie sail caught in Miami, FL

Monday was one of those 1/2 day trips where everything came together just right.  I was joined by Ryan and Jessie from NYC who came down to Miami in hopes of catching their first sailfish. We made our way our to the bug light early and had the place entirely to ourselves.  We loaded up on FAT cigar minnows until the well was brimming with bait, then trotted out to the can.  We were greeted by a stiff 12 knot wind right out of the NE, perfect kite fishing conditions. I’d been touting how awesome the sailfishing can be in Miami when the weather cools off and the current is strong, doing my best to prepare Ryan and Jessie for what was to be an epic morning. Our first drift produced a double header sailfish hookup.  A third fish came up, but the pandemonium spooked him before he could reach the bait.

double header sailfish hookup

Ryan’s fish made a dash south while Jessie’s fish pushed offshore. With plenty of fresh 20lb suffix on our 12v internationals, we had enough leeway to catch the southbound fish first. The fish made a few dashes around the boat once we caught up with him, but we were able to grab the leader and snag a quick shot before reviving him for the first release of the day.

sailfish about to be released off Miami, FL

Ryan reviving and releasing a Miami sailfish

We pushed onwards to chase down Jessie’s fish which was a “classic” size Miami Sailfish.  The fish was frisky at the boat,  so we made a quick gentle landing for a photo op then turned him free for the second healthy release of the day.

Ryan and Jessie with a Miami, FL sailfish

After a quick water break, we set up again in 135′ directly off the yellow can and the short bait gets slammed by another sailfish.  This time it was a pee wee sized sailfish which Jessie fought for 13 minutes before bringing him boatside for  a quick release. The little sail tailwalked away from the boat after I pulled the 6/0 demon circle from his mouth. We pulled in the lines and reset on the same drift, hoping another sail would make an appearance.

We deployed a fresh spread and within 15 minutes a huge school of flying fish starts blowing up just off the starboard side. Not two minutes later a gaffer slams the long bait, then plows for the short.  Jessie and I went to work fighting the mahi with two hooks in its mouth, while another fish grabbed Ryan’s short bait and went bounding to the east.  After the frenzy, we gaffed the “double baiter” …followed shortly by Ryan’s fish.

Mahi Mahi fishing charter Miami, FL

Today we had one of our favorite  customers come down from NYC to get in on some Miami fishing before headed back up the road for Biketoberfest in Daytona Beach.  Greg fished with us a little over a year ago and caught some BIG blackfins.  He was stoked by the report of some early sailfish action and was amped up to land his first Miami sailfish. We got a late start from the dock, but fortunately I had saved all the extra bait from three previous days of fishing so we bypassed our normal bug light routine and went straight for the fishing grounds.  We set up just north of the yellow can but the current was dead.  With a 12knt wind from the NE, we just weren’t covering the area effectively.  The water was dirty green, which didn’t bode well for the early sailfish bite.  We pushed north in search of better current and found a few frigate birds circling like maniacs just off fisher island. We stopped and deployed our baits but couldn’t get a bite. Instead of waiting around for the frigates to guide us to what was likely a large school of skipjacks or bonitas, we set up just south of Government Cut with another fresh spread of fat cigar minnows. George was watching the starboard kite lines while I was deploying a mid water rod when just out of the corner of my eye I saw a bill slashing the surface!  A sail erupted on the long bait and made two nice jumps before spitting the hook.  That was just enough excitement to get our hearts racing and morale back on track. We set up again, this time in slightly deeper water, with a full spread of cigar minnows.  Patience paid off 25 minutes later when a sneaky sail ate the port side long bait and then erupted in a frenzy.  George was ecstatic and went to work on the fish. We pulled in the kites and chased the fish, just to increase our odds of catching George’s first Miami sail.  After a bit of maneuvering, we were able to get the fish boatside and up for a quick glory shot which will hang in George’s custom bike shop for years to come:

George with a Miami sailfish

After releasing George’s fish, we set up again just off the cut. Next up it was Tom’s turn to test his strength against a Miami sailfish. On our second set of baits, another sneaky sailfish gulps the starboard short bait, but went deep.  It wasn’t until an entire minute later that Tom’s fish erupts in a tailwalking fury.  It was an awesome sight hearing the reel scream while a sailfish was leaping into the air with Miami Beach as the backdrop. Tom’s fish went into “shark mode” and circled the boat all the way to the leader.

Capt Charlie Ellis of Miami, FL wiring a sailfish

Tom with a Miami sailfish We ended the day with two first time sailfish catches and i’m sure we could’ve picked off another few if time had allowed.  It’s an awesome feeling to see people come from all over the U.S and abroad go head to head with the fastest fish in the sea. While it’s still way too early in the year for the sailfish to start showing up in large numbers, there’s definitely a decent push of fish moving through the area right now. As long as the NE winds continue to blow and the temperature keeps cooling, these fish should stick close to the edge and continue to feed throughout the day.  If the current picks back up, i’m sure an early sailfish season hot bite will take place.

If anything, the past few days were a reminder that Miami fishing is always spectacular.  Seeing sailfish leap and thrash in the spread – three days in a row – gets me fired up and even more anxious for the impending sailfish season.

I can’t wait.

Capt. Charlie Ellis

Capt. Charlie Ellis

Captain at Miami Fishing Charters LLC
Capt. Charlie Ellis of Miami, FL has 25 years experience fishing for big game species like Bluefin Tuna, Sailfish, Swordfish, and Sharks. Capt. Charlie is also an avid scuba diver, world traveler, writer, and entrepreneur.
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