I hope you weren’t blown off the rock last week because the wind and weather predictions for the next few days are very favorable for fishing.
There is a major run of big dolphin throughout the Keys. I’ve seen and heard of many fish weighing 20 pounds and up along with no fewer than a half dozen in the 50- to 60-pound class.
Dolphin hunters have chosen to troll the 200- to 650-foot depths, mostly due to the rough seas of late. As conditions settle down into a slight breeze this week, anglers will be able to do more running and gunning. Look for birds, weed lines and floating debris.
A rigged ballyhoo is always the bait of choice. Be sure to keep some live offerings, such as pinfish, on the boat. At the very least, carry a couple of Sabiki rigs to snag yourself some small jacks found under floaters or in thick weed patches. Quite often, live bait makes the difference between looking at a slammer in the water and admiring it in your fish box.
Use chunk baits to hold the attention of the dolphin school around your boat. I like to use sardines.
Good numbers of blackfin tuna are out at the humps. Lots of nice fish in the 8- to 10-pound range are being taken on butterfly jigs. Trolling small feathers or cedar plugs is doing the trick early in the morning and late in the afternoon.
Snapper – day and night
Bumpy conditions last week kept many from fishing the reef and wrecks. Now that the winds are coming down, we should see some excellent yellowtailing on the reef and mutton snapper fishing on the deeper wrecks. Both species are getting ready to spawn.
The wind-stirred water will make these fish relatively easy prey. Use light line, small hooks and copious amounts of chum for success with the ‘tails. This is prime time for yellowtail fishing, and you should have lots of flags in your slick.
Ditto for the muttons. Fish in the 18- to 20-pound category are not uncommon. Live baits – pinfish or ballyhoo – work the best. A deboned frozen ballyhoo will work in a pinch if you can’t acquire any live baits.
The night bite for mangrove snapper is also heating up on the reef. Most are in the 3- to 4-pound range. As June approaches, we’ll have some of the biggest mangroves you’ll ever catch. Small live baits work best, but these fish are normally so aggressive they will take chunk baits as well.
There are still plenty of permit on the wrecks, both on the Oceanside and in the gulf. Blue crabs on HookUp Lures jig heads will serve you well.
Tarpon, snapper, sharks at the bridges and channels
The tarpon bite is going strong at the bridges and channels. The silver kings should be in full frenzy with the upcoming Palolo worm hatch. It is a sight to behold and a great time to schedule a tarpon trip with one of the many experienced Florida Keys charter captains and guides. We’ll have more on the phenomenon in next week’s article.
While you’re fishing the bridges, but your lines out for some snapper. There are plenty of keeper mangroves plus the occasional keeper mutton and hogfish. Shrimp is your go-to bait.
On the flats and around the islands, there are plenty of sharks to go around, with lemons and blacktips dominating. Around the bridges, the bulls and hammerheads are keeping the tarpon anglers on their toes. Shallow water angling for sharks is excellent sport on light tackle.