Captain’s Blog – May 5, 2010 – Marathon Florida Keys – Rather sporty conditions – 5 to 8 foot seas – greeted the opening of grouper season on May 1.
Nevertheless, anglers got out and groupers got caught.
Reports flowed in of grouper caught anywhere from 20 feet deep on the patches out to 100-plus feet. Many were caught trolling plugs while others were taken on live bait.
Mixed with the grouper are yellowtail snapper. Most average 16 to 18 inches, but there’s also good showing of flags over 22 inches. There are still plenty of mangrove snapper on the patches and the main reef. In the Middle Keys, cut bait works for the ‘tails, while shrimp has been the hot bait for the mangroves.
Wrecks and artificial reefs
On the wrecks and artificial reefs are good numbers of mutton snapper and amberjack plus some rather large black grouper. Live pinfish and pilchards are working for the muttons. The AJ’s and grouper are munching larger live baits, such as blue runners and grunts.
Permit are plentiful on the high profile artificial reefs. They will readily eat small blue crabs. As they are engaging in their annual spawning ritual, it is best to keep just one for the table and release the rest.
Offshore, the dolphin fishing has really turned on. There are lots of schoolies with plenty of gaffers and slammers mixed in. In the Middle Keys, the bite has been relatively close to the reef edge in the 300- to 600-foot depths at the color change.
For whatever reason, there have been multiple floaters in the Gulf Stream of late. These drifting treasure troves hold not only dolphin, but tripletail and wahoo too.
Wahoo and tripletail
To catch the wahoo, either troll a plug past the debris or drop a butterfly jig 150 feet under it and reel toward the surface as fast as possible. Make sure your stinger hooks are rigged with wire or you will surely be cut off.
It’s hard to beat a small shrimp on a jig head to entice the tripletail. If you have a problem with ocean triggerfish stealing your shrimp bait, try this trick. Use a Berkeley Gulp peeler crab in the 1- to 2-inch size on a lightweight HookUp Lures jig head. It takes the triggerfish a bit of time to take the crab, which allows the tripletail the opportunity to investigate your offering.
Tripletail are well worth the time and effort required to catch them. They are delicious. If you’re targeting this species for the first time, be sure to check the regs at MyFWC.com.
The tuna bite has been very good at the humps with abundant fish in the 8- to 10-pound range and a few approaching 20 pounds. Trolling or butterfly jigging re the best tactics currently.
After a slow start, the tarpon bite is in full swing at the bridges and channels.
The bridges in the Middle Keys (Bahia Honda, Seven Mile and Long Key) have really flourished in the last week or so. I’ve received many reports of fish ranging in size from 70 to 100 pounds and some well beyond. Morning and evening outings are both productive. Mullet and blue crabs are the baits of choice, but more than one tarpon has succumbed to the temptation of a pinfish.
Gulf and bay
In the gulf and bay, gag grouper are there for the taking, with some approaching 15 to 20 pounds. They find live pinfish irresistible. Just remember, circle hooks are mandatory in these waters. Decent numbers of cobia and profuse amounts of spawning permit are present in the same areas.
Sharks of an impressive size are attracted to the tarpon and permit.
If you are yearning for a knockdown, drag-out fight, give sharking a try. Most often, you will encounter hammerhead and bull sharks. But, every now and then, you will come across a few outsized tiger sharks. You’ll need 50-pound stand up gear for these beasts. Slabs of bonito or jack crevalle will elicit a feeding frenzy in the waters surrounding your boat.
Lemon and blacktip sharks are biting on the flats. All of the sharking activity will intensify as the waters continue to warm.