Captain’s Blog – May 26, 2010 – Marathon Florida Keys – A phenomenon greatly anticipated by Florida Keys anglers every year is expected to occur with the full moon this week.
This exceptional event is the Palolo worm hatch.
No bigger than your index finger, these little red worms emerge by the millions from the underwater coral rock each May and make a b-line for the reef. On their way, the worms tend to concentrate at the bridges, where the tarpon cannot resist their allure and feed on them with gusto.
Masses of crazed tarpon tumble and roll to gulp the worms into their bucket mouths. Their resulting behavior is something reminiscent of a long night at the Brass Monkey.
Not only are the tarpon lured by the Palolo’s charm, but all sorts of snappers join the party. Even the groupers come out of their holes to partake.
On the day it happens, the hatch begins in earnest at sunset and continues through the dark of night. Some years the hatch lasts many days, while other years it is more short-lived. The reality is no one truly understands the wonder of the Palolo worm hatch other than to know it elicits a fish feeding frenzy.
To witness this spectacle, on Thursday take a walk at dusk on the old Seven Mile Bridge from the east end to Pigeon Key. Chances are the waters below will be chock full of charter boats anxiously awaiting the sight of little red worms dashing about.
In other fishing…
The dolphin bite remains strong. We received reports of fish caught anywhere from the 200-foot depths out to the edge of the shelf at 1,000 feet and more. Once you clear the reef line, start looking for birds, weed lines or floating debris.
Charter boats are returning to the docks with very respectable catches of dolphin. Most of the schoolies are a good size – 5 to 8 pounds – and there are plenty of slammers going 20 to 40 pounds.
The blackfin tuna fishing at the humps is very good these days. Most of the tuna are being taken on butterfly jigs.
On the inshore wrecks and artificial reefs, there are sufficient mutton snapper to keep everyone entertained. There are also good numbers of nice size grouper in the same areas. Jack crevalle and amberjack are hanging on the higher profile wrecks and there are plenty of permit on the artificial reefs. These permit are at the peak of their run and should stick around for at least another month.
The yellowtail fishing has been excellent on the reef. When the proper conditions exist (current and wind in the same direction), the fishing is even better. There are lots of fish in the 15- to 18-inch range, with good numbers of flags spicing the catches. As always, he with the most chum wins. You will have solid grouper action there as well.
The mangrove snapper are plentiful in the 30- to 40-foot depths on the reef. This fishing will improve as June approaches and the snapper begin to spawn.
Mangroves can be caught during the day by using live pinfish on jig heads presented on or near the bottom. But, the best action is at night when they will take all variety of live or dead baits. You may want to beef up your snapper gear as many of these fish are in the 5- to 6-pound category.
The patch reefs are rendering red and gag grouper, all species of snapper and hogfish. Shrimp is the bait of choice, but you’ll need pinfish for the grouper.
The near shore wrecks and rough spots in the Gulf are supplying a wide variety of panfish. Grouper, snapper of all kinds, porgies, fair numbers of Florida pompano and a variety of other species, such as jacks and ladyfish.
Gulf and bay fishing is great family fun with lots of sore arms and loads of tasty fillets for the table at the end of the day.
The shark fishing in the shallows has been simply fantastic with lots of lemons in the 5- to 7-foot range. With summer vacation time just around the corner, catch-and-release shark fishing affords a fun, eco-friendly adventure guaranteed to entertain anglers of all ages and abilities.