Trailered the MARC VI down to Marathon in the Florida Keys last Monday, to fish the
offshore reefs for yellowtail snapper and the patch reefs for mangrove snapper. We were
shooting an episode for my 2011 TV season, with local captain Jimmy Gagliardini as my
We (myself and production team members Rob “Swede” Greene and Carl Grassi) stayed
at the new Holiday Inn Express in Marathon, whereas Kevin Tierney stayed at his
Ramrod Key home (he was always the unsociable type!). The MARC VI was tied up to
the new docks behind the hotel.
On Tuesday, our first fishing day, the wind was blowing 15- to 20-knots from the East.
We picked up Jimmy and headed offshore. We dropped anchor in 80-feet of water, only
to discover the wind was opposing the current. To compensate - so our baits would drift
back within the chum slick - we re-secured the anchor line to the boat’s mid-ship cleat.
All was well. We dispatched four blocks of Captain Mark’s Pure Sardine chum in a large
mesh hoop, and hung it overboard. The yellowtails came up, in large, golden/yellow
balls. Just how many ‘tails were here was revealed on the Lowrance Structure Scan,
which showed literally hundreds and hundreds of them 20- to 35-feet off to starboard of
the MARC VI, and running the length of the boat!
Using No. 6 hooks baited with pieces of shrimp, 12-pound test fluorocarbon leaders
and Penn Conquer and Battle spinning reels spooled with 15-pound test Sufix Superior
monofilament, we free-lined our baits - along with a handful of a chum supplement made
from oats, thawed chum and sea water. This supplement creates a “cloud” around the
baits, exciting the ‘tails while making our leaders less noticeable.
The bite was off the charts, as Jimmy and I bailed large yellowtail – several cracking five
pounds. After catching many more fish the traditional way, we began live-chumming
with pilchards, to get the big ones feeding at the surface with the intensity of jack
Crevalles. And we did exactly that! Seizing a fabulous opportunity to catch these fish on
artificials, we’d toss out a serving of live pilchards and proceeded to cast Rattlin’ Rapalas
at the feeding blitzes. And catch them we did! The lures yielded our five heaviest
yellowtail, two of which were over five-pounds!
The next day (Wednesday), with an East wind at 20-knots, we anchored over a patch
reef in 25-feet of water, and put out one block of Captain Mark’s Pure Sardine Chum.
Here, we used spinning outfits rigged with 30-pound test fluorocarbon leaders and boxing
glove-style jigs. We’d impale a live pilchard onto the jig (under the lower jaw and out
the upper) and cast into the chum slick. As soon as the jig hit bottom, we’d hook up with
a fat mangrove snapper. After we bailed several big mangroves on the jig/pilchard rig,
I wanted to try live-chumming these fish and catching them on lures. Talk about wild
action! We had the big mangroves busting at the surface, where they eagerly ate the
Rapala lures! In fact, our biggest mangrove snapper – one in the seven pound class, was
caught on a lure!
Later that afternoon, after an incredible snapper bite and with a big thunderstorm
closing in on us, we headed back to shore and put the MARC VI on its Float-On trailer.
Thursday morning, in between rain showers, we shot our conversation pieces. We ate
lunch shortly after noon, and headed back for home in northern Broward County.
Being far down on the island-chain, Marathon doesn’t have the fishing pressure like the
upper Keys, and the reefs here are alive with big snapper. Just wait until you see this
Production team members “Swede” Greene (left) and Carl Grassi share a light
moment alongside the MARC VI, the afternoon before the shoot.
The long boat dock behind the new Holiday Inn Express in Marathon, and the close-
to-being-finished Tiki Bar. This place will be a fisherman’s paradise!
Jimmy Gagliardini with a lure-caught yellowtail.
What they were eating – Rattlin’ Rapalas.
Some of the big fellas!
Jimmy and I show off the four largest, lure-caught yellowtails.
My monster mangrove snapper, caught on a lure!
Jimmy removing the hooks from a mangrove. Look at how thick this fish is.
Jimmy with a mangrove taken on a live pilchard.
Our four largest, lure-caught mangroves.