Welcome to a list of commonly found middle keys fish, provided by the best place to buy bait in Marathon! New to fishing in the middle keys? This is a great place to start your journey! While our list is not all inclusive, it is growing- we appreciate your patience and understanding as our site grows!
Bait fish of Florida
Pinfish are one of the most hardy and ubiquitous baits found in Marathon and the Middle Keys area. These fish are small, and silver with yellow bands and a black spot near the gill. The name pinfish comes from the pins running along the entire dorsal fin of the fish. Pinfish are great bait for Grouper, large snapper, Mahi, and generally any larger fish. Pinfish are found in grassy flats and areas in the ocean and gulf in 5 to as much as 20 foot of water.
Pilchards are known around Marathon as one of the best baits around. There are many species of pilchards in the world, but in the Marathon area there are two main types known colloquially as “sandys” and “razer bellies”. Pilchards are not as hardy as pinfish and must be kept by themselves and handles as little as possible. They are excellent bait for Kingfish and and pretty much anything that eats. Large pilchards, or razer bellies, can be caught on hook and line or netted and their smaller and more fragile counterparts sandys are most often netted.
Mullet are larger, non-carnivorous fish that feed off algea. They are commonly found swimming in groups in canals, and do to their speed and great eyesight can only be caught with extremely large cast nets. Mullet are a Tarpon fisherman’s best friend in season, as tarpon spawning is set around mullet spawning do to the increase in food. Mullet can range from 3 to 4 inches to as much as a foot in length, and some species of mullet are even edible.
Ballyhoo is another Keys favorite bait. It is used whole or cut into chunks, and is excellent for catching all types of fish. Rigged ballhoo is often trolled for Mahi and Wahoo in season, and it is said to be one of the best snapper baits when. the bite is on. Ballyhoo is found in large schools in the gulf and the ocean around the entire Keys area. There are several ballyhoo fisherman out of 15th St. making it a great place to buy bait in marathon.
Blue Runner Bait
Blue runners are fast fish in the jack family. They are found ubiquitously throughout the Marathon area from Canals to blue water and like fast moving currents and weed lines. Blue runners are only caught by hook and line do to their great speed, sharp dorsal spine and hard fins. They are mainly used as billfish bait.
Goggle Eyes Bait Fish
A premium baitfish in some places and a nuisance fish in others, the Big eye Scad or “Goggle Eye” is a long slender fish used who for billfish bait. In the Keys, it can only be found out on the reef on dark nights. Here, Goggle eyes are commonly sold frozen or live, but in some areas of Florida even fresh dead.
Sand Perch are Members of the wrasse family commonly found in rubble along sandy bottom in the Marathon area. They are one of the more uncommon baitfish, and are mainly used for grouper bait. Sand perch can not be caught on hook and line or nets, and are only caught in traps. The efficacy of sand perch is hotly debated, but it is said to be good grouper bait.
Snappers of Middle Keys
Mangrove snappers are known to be one of the best eating fish around. While they are mainly found inshore in and around- as their name would suggest- mangroves large specemines can be found all the way out to the reef and further. Mangrove snappers bite best on squid and shrimp, but can bite on anything in an frenzy.
Yellowtail snapper are an ocean fish popularized by the restaurant industry. They are a staple of Marathon cuisine, a very popular fish both around the bridge and on the Sombrero Reef. Yellowtail snapper are found in large schools and are known for frenzying on shrimp, ballyhoo, and squid.
Hogfish or Hog snapper is the undisputed best fish meat by Keys locals. Hogfish has extremely white delicate meat that lacks a strong fishy taste. The fish are notoriously hard to catch by hook and line do to their small mouths but can occasionally be caught on live shrimp. The regulations for hogfish have recently changed, and can be found here.
Mutton Snapper, as the name indicates, is one of the fishier types of snapper. What it lacks in taste it makes up for in size, as it is also one of the biggest snapper. A more rare catch around the Marathon area Mutton snapper can be found around wrecks and bridges in deeper waters.
Lane snapper are another favorite and widely found fish in the Marathon Florida region. Lane snappers are small fish, reaching barely a foot. A staple in cuban cuisine, lane snapper is commonly scaled, gutted, and fried whole. These fish love to eat squid. Make sure you visit Keys Specialty Bait, the best place to buy bait in Marathon!