Captain’s Blog – April 14, 2010 – Marathon Florida Keys – It’s a big week in the Keys for big time sport fishing.
Billed as the world’s richest sailfish tournament, the 8th Annual World Sailfish Championship got underway last night with a kick-off party and concert featuring country artist Randy Houser. With an expected purse at over $1 million, the event attracts a host of elite anglers, corporate moguls and celebrities to Key West every April.
After the day’s fishing, there are evening events and entertainment at Mallory Square and many Duval Street hot spots. It’s a great time to visit the southernmost city and hobnob with some of the world’s finest fishermen.
Tournament fishing commences today. If meteorologists are correct with their predictions of easterly winds at 20 to 30 mph, conditions should be ideal for tailing, which should translate to impressive catches of sailfish.
You can check the schedule of events and keep track of the action on the live scoreboard by surfing over to www.WorldSailfish.com.
Offshore fishing for dolphin is improving everyday as this annual fishery comes into its own.
Most of the fish reported have been on the small side (less than legal size). But the schools have been quite large, containing 50 to 60 fish. It always pays to hunt around these schools as the heftier bulls and cows have a propensity to feed on their diminutive brethren.
Trolling large dolphin-colored lures will most likely reward you with slammer size dolphin (fish over 30 pounds). Look for weed lines or bird action and troll your baits through the area. Be sure to have a couple of live baits at the ready in case the dolphin refuse your artificial offering. If you can visibly see the fish, pitch the live bait directly to it.
The blackfin tuna are biting aggressively at the humps. Mostly small footballs of 8 to 10 pounds, but there are a few approaching 20 pounds. The chief technique for culling the larger fish from the crowd is vertical jigging. A few fish are being taken on live baits as well as by trolling small feathers or cedar plugs.
In the same areas, take advantage of the snowy grouper bite, the only grouper you are allowed to keep at the moment. There are also rose fish and gray tilefish in the depths.
On the Marathon reef, the yellowtail bite remains decent, with most fish cruising the 35- to 45-foot depths. Quite a few mutton snapper are there too, and it pays to fish a 20-pound spinning outfit with a large whole bait drifted back in the slick as you would for the ‘tails. The muttons generally find this hard to resist.
There have been impressive numbers of grouper caught and released in the same zone. I’ve said it nearly every week. When the grouper season reopens on May 1, those fish better look out!
On the reef edge and around the shallower wrecks, there is still a fair showing of king mackerel. Your baits of choice are live pilchards or ballyhoo, if you can find them.
The patch reefs are producing excellent catches of mangrove snapper. Large fish in the three- to five-pound range are going into the fish box on almost every trip.
It’s a good idea to be selective in your harvest of mangroves as there are extraordinary quantities of small- to mid-size fish mixed with the large ones. Go for the big boys with large live baits such as pinfish or pilchards, which the little guys can’t handle. If you’re just looking to bend a rod, use shrimp bait as any size fish will eat these tasty crustaceans.
Among the mangrove snapper are good numbers of yellowtail in the 14- to 15-inch class plus numerous cero and Spanish mackerel, the occasional hogfish and plenty of grouper.
The tarpon bite is strengthening everyday at the bridges and in the Key West channel. The fish are hitting crab and mullet at the bridges but prefer pinfish in Key West waters.
Although I’ve heard of a couple of tarpon hitting the 130-pound mark, most are in the 70- to 100-pound category. This is another spring fishery that is just getting started. Nothing beats the excitement of the silver king’s shear strength and acrobatics at the end of your line.
In the gulf and bay, there’s plenty of mangrove snapper action as well as grouper. As the waters continue to warm, we should begin to see more cobia and permit around the wrecks and rough bottom patches.