Captain’s Blog – June 1, 2010 – Marathon Florida Keys
The month of June offers Florida Keys fishing opportunities to satisfy all tastes and desires. We have some of our best snapper, grouper, dolphin and tarpon fishing of the year. Already on fire, shark fishing gets hotter as the mercury rises.
Yellowtail, mangrove and mutton snapper congregate on the reef at the height of their annual spawn.
Successful snapper fishing requires, first, finding the fish and, second, using the right bait to attract them. This time of year they are typically found anywhere from 40 to 110 feet of water. Due to the 80-plus degree water, chum flows at a rapid pace. Therefore, you need plentiful amounts to get the snappers feeding aggressively in your slick. I use at least three cases of chum.
Once you have attracted the snappers, use fresh baits such as ballyhoo, blue runners or live shrimp. Frozen baits will work as well – ballyhoo, silversides or glass minnows. The snappers are in such a frenzy they are not terribly fussy about the bait, but it pays to have a variety available in order to determine their preference of the day. I recommend fluorocarbon leaders of 15 to 20-pound test with a number four hook on 12-pound tackle.
Beat the heat with night fishing.
A summer favorite is night snapper fishing. During the spawn, all variety of snapper tend to be more active at night, but especially mangrove and mutton. Small live baits are best for these aggressive night feeders. Often pilchards will show in your slick at night. Use a Sabiki rig to snag some and then return them right back into the slick with a hook in them. Also small to medium size pinfish work very well.
The mangroves are quite often in the five to ten-pound category, and the muttons can reach 25 pounds or more. Because they require a bit more muscle to land, I like to use slightly larger tackle. They are also less line shy at night, which allows you to get away with heavier leaders and larger hooks such as 30-pound fluorocarbon and a 2/0 hook on 20-pound spinning gear. You may need a small split shot to get the bait down, although frequently the snappers are found at or near the surface right behind your boat. Be sure not to shine any light into the water, as that will spook the fish. I usually keep a waterproof lantern on the deck for just enough illumination to see what you are doing.
Grouper on the bottom.
On the bottom, there are plenty of black grouper and the occasional gag, which are attracted to the spawning snapper. Large live baits such as blue runners, grunts or large pinfish will do the trick. Be sure to be equipped with stout tackle as some of these fish approach 40 to 50 pounds and require quite a bit of muscle to get the grouper out of the reef before they break you off.
The dolphin pour through the Florida Straits during June.
You will find dolphin anywhere from eight to 20 miles off the reef edge, depending on the Gulf Stream location. Look for weed lines, floating debris or birds to indicate their presence. The majority are schoolies averaging in the five to eight-pound class. Slammers at 20 pounds or more are also caught on a regular basis, and a few lucky anglers land massive bulls that tip the scales at 35 pounds and greater.
The favored techniques for catching dolphin are either trolling lures and rigged ballyhoo or the run-and-gun approach. The latter entails searching for birds dipping at the water surface or a piece of floating debris if you are lucky enough to find one. Approach either of these with a rigged ballyhoo on a 20-pound spinning rod, throw directly toward the birds or object and hang on. The dolphin are usually quick to respond. Should they not respond to a ballyhoo, a live bait such as a pinfish or a small jack like a blue runner will most likely entice a reluctant fish to bite.
Floating objects such as buckets, baskets, uprooted trees, pieces of wood and so on also attract tripletail, many of which approach eight to ten pounds. These denizens of the deep may appear prehistoric but they are indeed tasty. You can tempt them with pieces of shrimp or cut ballyhoo. I like to use a one-inch Berkeley Gulp peeler crab on a small jig head. The tripletail find this irresistible dropped directly in their face.
Tarpon fishing continues to be excellent at the bridges and channels.
The tarpon we have this time of year range in size from 70 to 100 pounds and some well beyond. Morning and evening outings are both productive.
I highly recommend hiring a professional charter captain as tarpon fishing requires extraordinary boating skills and knowledge of local waters. When one is hooked up and the chase is on, you best stay out of the way or pay the price.
Gulf and bay action.
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 quantity and size are attracted to the tarpon and permit.
If you are yearning for a knockdown, drag-out fight, try a catch-and-release Florida Keys shark fishing adventure. Most often, you will encounter lemon and blacktip sharks. But, every now and then, you will come across a few outsized tiger, bull and hammerhead sharks.
Here again, an experienced professional is your ticket to a great day of shark fishing. He will be equipped with the 50-pound stand up gear needed for these beasts as ell as an abundance of temptations to elicit a feeding frenzy in the waters surrounding the boat. Not to mention the calm demeanor required to de-hook and release the fish once you’ve brought it to the boat.
The ideal Keys iron man fishing experience in June is to combine a full day offshore or reef trip with an evening tarpon trip. A shark encounter is tons of fun for families and kids of all ages. And, nothing spells “Florida Keys vacation” better than a half day on the reef with tasty snapper and grouper rewards for dinner.