Captain’s Blog – April 28, 2010 – Marathon Florida Keys – Grab a large cup of coffee. There’s so much to report this week, you’re going to need some time to take it all in.
We are entering my favorite time of year for fishing in the Florida Keys. There is a myriad of species overlapping, and the fishing is superb no matter which venue you choose.
Offshore, the dolphin run is coming on strong, there’s good blackfin tuna fishing at the humps and there are wahoo popping up everywhere. On the wrecks, the permit, mutton snapper and amberjack are beginning their annual spawning rituals. And, we have the long-awaited opening of grouper season on May 1. The reefs are holding a mixture of yellowtail, mutton and mangrove snapper. There are still plenty of sailfish on the reef and all the way out some 20 miles.
In the bay and gulf areas, there are cobia, permit, grouper and snapper to keep you busy. The bridges and channels are producing excellent tarpon fishing. On the flats, there’s bonefish, some permit and, of course, sharks galore.
If it’s dolphin you’re yearning for, go offshore and look for the telltale indicators. Frigate birds and terns working the surface, perhaps a school of flying fish taking off for no apparent reason, weed lines or floating debris. Troll a rigged ballyhoo and see who takes it. As you’ll read in Capt. Dave Schugar’s report, sometimes there’s more than dolphin and wahoo hanging around the floaters.
To entice the wahoo, either troll a plug past any wreckage or rubbish or use a large, heavy jet head type bait rigged with wire to prevent bite offs.
If the dolphin and wahoo action isn’t happening, we in the Middle Keys head to the humps where the blackfin tuna roam. These fish can be trolled, live baited with pilchards or butterfly jigged, depending on your preference and abilities. The humps can be a tad congested this time of year, so please be mindful of others.
Wrecks and artificial reefs
On the wrecks and artificial reefs, the mutton bite is good and getting better everyday. Pilchards, small pinfish and live ballyhoo are providing the best results. Mixed in are quite a few amberjack. As we all know, Saturday marks the opening of grouper season, so we’ll no longer have to throw back all those keepers we’ve been catching all winter.
Florida Keys Grouper Tournament
To celebrate the opening of grouper season, there’s a new Keys wide tournament taking place on Saturday, May 1. Captain Hook’s Marina and Dive Center and the 7 Mile Marina have joined forces to create the Florida Keys Grouper Tournament. The event includes an Angler Division and a Spearfishing Division. The heaviest grouper – red, black or gag – in each division wins a cash prize.
If you’re an angler or an underwater hunter, this is the tournament for you. You know you’re going to be targeting grouper on opening day anyway, and it’s very inexpensive to enter. For more information, please visit their website.
Permit are spawning
Also beginning their spawning tradition, permit are being found on some of the higher profile artificial reefs throughout the Keys. The primary bait and tactic for catching these silver beauties is a small blue crab fished on a HookUp Lures ¼ to 3/8 ounce jig head.
Locate the fish either visibly or on your bottom machine and position yourself up current or up wind of it (or both). Cast out your jig with the crab attached, allowing it to sink to the depth of the fish. When you feel the bite, set the hook and hang on.
Since these fish are spawning, please release them unharmed. If you find you’re losing the permit to the sharks, move on to something else as chances are you won’t be able to land them. I recommend switching to amberjack, grouper or muttons.
On the reef
The snapper fishing on the reef remains very good, with many larger flag size yellowtail moving in everyday. Nice size muttons and the mangroves that have been prevalent all winter are also in residence.
These snapper are in pre-spawn mode and seem to take baits with abandon without being particular about what they eat. It’s very important to use large amounts of chum, as he with the most chum wins! Always show courtesy not to anchor in another boat’s chum slick.
There are good numbers of grouper in the same areas as the snapper. Drop larger live baits, such as grunts and blue runners, to the bottom to lure the big blacks and gags. Set your alarm for 12:01 am on Saturday to beat the rush to the grouper grounds! Check the state regulations for changes in possession limits. It’s all spelled out on myfwc.com.
Bay and gulf
In the bay and gulf, if you’re lucky enough to have the GPS coordinates for a couple of wrecks, head out for some awesome permit and cobia fishing. For the permit, use the same tactics you would on the artificial reefs. For the cobia, live baits, such as pinfish and small grunts, are the ticket.
On the bottom, you will find gag grouper, possibly some reds and the occasional black. Plus jumbo size mangrove snapper.
The tarpon fishing is in full swing at the bridges and channels. There are abundant reports of hook-ups with more than a few landings. Up on the flats and backcountry areas there are plenty of tarpon and bonefish and still some permit being taken. As the waters continue to warm, this fishery will get better and better.
There are copious sharks marauding the bridges and flats in pursuit of the tarpon. For some exciting catch-and-release shark action, use dead baits, such as bonito, jack crevalle or barracuda, or live blue runners.