April heralds the start of my favorite time of year to fish here in Marathon.
With both air and water temps on a steady upswing, we begin to see more consistency in our fishing.
Fishery number one: Sailfish. It’s not unusual for April to deliver the greatest number of sailfish for the year in our Middle Keys waters. And, when the proper conditions are present to create good fishing, it’s really good.
Most of the sailfish action is found in 120 to 250 feet of water. Look for a prominent color change from a powdery blue to a deep purple.
Live baits are always the key to success when it comes to sailfishing. Pilchards, ballyhoo and goggle eyes are your prime choices.
Fishery number two: Dolphin, or mahi mahi. Further offshore from the sailfish, dolphin begin their springtime run. Typically, during April we see larger fish leading the way, with gaffers and slammers the first to arrive.
While you can expect to find the dolphin just about everywhere, we are apt to begin our search in about 300 feet of water. Look for frigate birds – and sometimes terns – working the surface of the water and flying fish spraying up in the air.
Dragging a rigged ballyhoo around the birds will quite often produce your initial dolphin hookup. Be sure to have a supply of live baits, such as pinfish and pilchards, to pitch to the other members of the school, especially for the larger fish. For the smaller, schoolie-size dolphin, trolling lures and chunk baits works best.
Fishery number three: reef and wrecks. Expect good-to-excellent action for mutton snappers and amberjacks on the wrecks. And, on the higher profile artificial reefs, our springtime friends, the permit, make their annual appearance.
To catch the permit, get yourself some small blue crabs at your local tackle shop. Attach one to a 3/8- or ½-ounce jighead and drop it right on the school of permit that you’ll easily see from the surface. This tactic should almost guarantee a hookup.
Fishing for yellowtail snappers on the reef heats up in April, as these fish are feeding aggressively in preparation for their upcoming spawn in May, June and July.
This action can be found just about anywhere on the reef, with the deepest areas holding the largest fish.
Large amounts of chum are necessary to hold the school of yellowtails behind your boat. And, nearly any small piece of bait will work, including cut ballyhoo, bonita belly, shrimp and glass minnows.
Fishery number four: tarpon. We generally begin to see tarpon in our waters in March, but there’s no real bite until the weather stabilizes in April. Tax Day and beyond is when you can count on dependable fishing for tarpon.
The baits, rigs and tactics used to catch tarpon vary widely, depending on fishing venue, so consult your local tackle shop. Better yet, charter a local fishing guide who has the experience and know-how to save you from wasting time and money only to end the day scratching your head and saying, “Well, that didn’t work. Now what?”
Capt. Chris Johnson specializes in offshore, reef/wreck, gulf/bay, sailfish, shark and tarpon fishing with SeaSquared Charters, docked at Faro Blanco Resort and Yacht Club in Marathon. You can reach him at 305-743-5305, https://seasquaredcharters.com. For daily fishing reports with pictures, please click over to http://Facebook.com/MarathonFishing.