School’s out and it’s time to go fishing!
June heralds the peak of the dolphin run in Marathon and the Middle Keys.
There are enormous numbers of schoolie size dolphin for the taking. These are fish in the five- to ten-pound category. While not quite as plentiful, slammers – fish over 20 pounds – are mixed in and a great bonus for your efforts.
Unlike our reef and wreck dwellers, dolphin cruise the open sea in a continuous hunt for food. Look for them in the vicinity of floating debris, weed lines or under birds – particularly frigate birds – working the surface of the water.
Techniques for dolphin fishing vary. While many charter Captains are content with trolling along rather aimlessly in the hopes their baits encounter a school of fish, I prefer the run-and-gun method. As we travel offshore, we scour the horizon for any indication of dolphin and, thanks to my twin Yamaha 225’s, we run to the area quickly and pitch baits for immediate action.
There are also numerous wahoo hanging under the floaters and thicker weed lines. Most are in the 10- to 15-pound range, with the occasional ‘hoo coming in over 20 pounds. One of the fastest of all gamefish, wahoo give a wild fight characterized by several sizzling runs.
Snapper of all variety
The wrecks off Marathon are holding ample numbers of mutton snapper in the five- to ten-pound class. Butterflied ballyhoo and live pinfish are your baits of choice. And, there are plenty of jack crevalle on the same wrecks to provide an exciting battle between mutton bites.
The yellowtail bite on the reef is excellent, and we see some of the largest flags during May and June. There is a good mix of grouper on the reef as well, with loads of blacks to keep things interesting.
June marks the start of the night mangrove snapper bite. Thousands of mangroves amass on the deeper edge of the reef for their annual spawn, and they bite very aggressively at night. Most weigh in at two to four pounds, with a few tipping the scale at eight pounds. They cannot resist live baits or chunks of ballyhoo drifted in the chum slick.
Fishing at night is a great way to beat the heat, but be cautious. Have the proper lights, emergency equipment and communication tools and be aware of pop-up storms. Never leave the dock without sharing your plans with someone on shore.
Tarpon season winds down
Tarpon season in Marathon and the Middle Keys winds down in June as the fish continue their migration up the west coast of Florida. Although there’s never a guarantee, often there are still enough tarpon at the bridges – Long Key, Seven Mile and Bahia Honda – to keep anglers busy and fulfill their dream of catching the Silver King.
Shark season continues well through the summer
Shallow-water shark fishing continues to be excellent in June, throughout the summer and well into the fall as long as the waters remain warm. This catch-and-release fishing on light tackle is a ton of fun for anglers of all ages and abilities.
Capt. Chris Johnson is a member of the Yamaha National Fishing Team and specializes in offshore, reef/wreck, gulf/bay, shark and tarpon fishing with SeaSquared Charters out of the 7 Mile Marina in Marathon. You can reach him at 305.743.5305, SeaSquared@bellsouth.net and www.SeaSquared-Charters.com.