Local Expert: Capt. Jimbo Thomas
Fishery: We use vertical, metal jigs quite often in South Florida, and one of the most exciting and productive methods involves jigging over the many wrecks that litter the bottom off Miami’s beaches. Big, bottom-dwelling grouper are the primary target, but most of the catches come at middepths, as hard-fighting amberjacks, almaco jacks and other species smash jigs. This is a year-round fishery, but the prime time is during winter, as bait migrations move through, frequently stopping along the wrecks and attracting a host of game fish. Use your depth finder, but don’t fret if you don’t immediately mark fish — they are often orbiting the outer areas of the wreck, just waiting for you to drop!
Primary Species: Black, gag and red groupers, amberjack, almaco jacks, horse-eye jacks, cobia and occasional blackfin tuna.
Favorite Depths: Most of the productive wrecks are in 180 to 250 feet. We’ve got lots of wrecks, probably 40 off Key Biscayne alone. But over the years, I’ve narrowed it down to about eight that are really productive.
Favorite Jig Design/Type: Jigs in the 6- to 8-inch range seem to perform best. Originally, we used jigs with the red Dacron hook connections, but as we lost hooks to kingfish and ’cudas, we started making our own assist hooks with short-shank Mustad 4/0s, crimped to 150-pound mono connections.
Preferred Rigging: We generally use 50-pound braided line, connecting the doubled braid to 8- to 10-foot mono leaders in the 60- to 80-pound class. In the beginning, we tried connecting the hooks on the bottom of the jigs, but the results are definitely better when hooks are attached to the top.
Tackle: Both conventional and spinning outfits, including Daiwa Saltiga LD50HS conventional reels matched to 7-foot rods. Also Daiwa Saltist 6500H spinners matched to 7-foot rods.
Deployment Tricks: We generally have a north drift with the Gulfstream current, so we factor that in with the wind, drop our jigs and drift the wreck. Bites generally come on the drop. If we make it down to the bottom, we’ll jig it up a third of the way, then drop it back down again.
Extra Nugget: Don’t waste a lot of time on any given wreck. If you make two drops without a bite, it’s time to move on. You’ll know if fish are there: They’ll nail the jig immediately.
About the Expert: A Miami native, Capt. Jimbo Thomas (www.thomasflyerfishing.com) has been leading clients to game fish of all types aboard his 42-foot Post, Thomas Flyer, since 1981. Photo by Doug Olander
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