will be in Marathon 4/2-4/9...the last time I was in the keys was about 10 years ago. I was in Big Pine key and fished the back country exclusively (My Uncle was very prone to seasickness and was afraid to go out on the reef, lol)...anyway, I seem to remember bouncing small home made bucktail jigs, tipped with cut fresh shrimp, along the bottom for snapper. We caught trout and many other fish as a bycatch but were targeting snapper.
I have a box full of 1/4 - 1/2 ounce jig heads, and am sitting here getting very frustrated tying buck tail onto them. I've never done this before. Is the hair necessary for catching the snapper in the backcountry? Or could you just tip a bare jig head with shrimp and catch just as well? Is Marathon backcountry fishing as good as the lower keys? I am happy with a cooler full of just legal sized snapper.
Thnks for the help!!
I took a back country trip with a guide and we just tipped the jig head with shrimp and it worked fine. I believe we used pink and chartreuse heads. Also used gulp shrimp as well as frozen shrimp. They both caught fish. A chum bag helped us to lure them in.
Good luck and tight lines!
I've only fished in the lower Keys backcountry, but I don't think snapper will be that different up the Keys. We have been to Key West the past few years, and will be there in April (can't wait).
We use plain jig heads with Gulp shrimp (3" New Penny), 1/8 oz to 1/4 oz for grass flats up to 8 ft or so.
We also use yellow pompano jigs 1/2 or 5/8 oz, which get down deeper like in the channels, and I think the yellow helps if the water is a little murky. They work on the deeper flats also, but get a bit more grass on them since they're heavier. We also tip these w/ the Gulp shrimp. Bass Pro sells the pompano jigs. A couple of the reviews on Bass Pro web site say they fall apart easily but that has not been my experience...maybe they got a bad batch.
Of course you can tip the jigs with real shrimp too, but I find it more convenient and less messy to use the Gulp, and they eat it like it's real, but they'll tear it up so it gets expensive. It's best to find jig heads with good retaining barbs, because they will pull your Gulp down on the hook, and you want it straight so it doesn't twist in the current.
We also use 5" chartruese Gulp jerk shads on 1/4 oz jig heads, which works well for jacks, groupers, and larger snappers, and maybe a cuda or two...although everything could hit the jigs, a faster bait works better for jacks and cudas.
We don't use chum...we drift to cover more water, but use the trolling motor to control the drift. If you don't have a trolling motor it might be easier to anchor and chum.
This year is warmer than normal so the cooler water species such as pompano, ladyfish, and bluefish will probably be long gone. Not sure about trout. If it's anything like the lower Keys, mangrove snappers will be very plentiful. Mangrove snappers relate heavily to structure so if you find any mangrove root shorelines, shallow water wrecks, rocks, bridges, ledges, they will be all over it. May even luck into a mutton snapper especially around the mouths of channels. Although groupers are out of season, they're still fun and you may catch blacks, gags, and/or goliaths if you find any good structure. Red groupers will be more scattered like on the floors of the channels. This warm season should be great for tarpon too, if you're into that.
Way more info than you asked for, but as you can tell I'm pumped to go down there.
Opening night and chartreuse 5" Bass Assasins or BKDs work work fine on plain jigheads. Cheaper and last longer than Gulp baits.
SO MANY FISH, SO LITTLE TIME
Thanks for the replies and the detail of your info. It is much appreciated!! Stay tuned for lots of pics!
I've fished in the Keys once, and that was with flies.
This won't answer your question, but what problems are you having with tying bucktail? I've been tying for a long time. Perhaps I can offer some tips to help you. If you have other uses for the bucktail dressed jigs, it's not a bad thing to learn.