Offshore, target tuna and hope for dolphin this week. The tuna bite at the humps remains consistent with most fish in the five- to ten-pound range. Live baits, butterfly jigs and trolling are all proven tactics.
Dolphin fishing, on the other hand, has been sporadic of late. Some Captains are putting excellent catches together while others struggle on the very same day. The dolphin that do make it in the box are of decent size with quite a few slammers added to the catch. A few lucky anglers have been rewarded with a bonus sailfish during their pursuit of dolphin.
The mutton snapper bite is very good on the wrecks in 120 to 180 feet of water. The higher profile wrecks are providing first-rate catches of amberjack and jack crevalle. This week’s full moon will trigger the last of the mangrove snapper bite on the reef. In their place, however, are yellowtail snapper. Fishing in 60 to 80 feet of water is producing excellent hauls, with abundant flags mixed in with the average ‘tails of 16 to 18 inches. As always, copious amounts of chum and a variety of baits will put you on these delicious snappers. Large baits presented on the bottom are attracting respectable black grouper, along with the occasional gag and red grouper.
The go-to venue has been Florida Bay, where you’ll enjoy a calm alternative to the Oceanside on a blowy day. Some of the mangrove snapper have made their way back to the inshore wrecks and grass banks. Fresh ballyhoo or small, live pinfish are your baits of choice and, again, plentiful amounts of chum. Large cero mackerel reside in the same areas and will respond to live ballyhoo caught in your chum slick. The small pinfish work for them as well. If all else fails, the Goliath Grouper are always biting and provide good sport on your light tackle. Just remember not to lift them out of the water for their picture opp and release them unharmed.
For more good sport, try your hand at catch-and-release shark fishing on the flats and shallow banks in the gulf. The majority of the sharks seen now are lemons and small bulls, but a few blacktips also make an appearance and will provide quite a show with their aerial acrobatics. Your bait of choice is chunks of barracuda, jack crevalle or bonita. Sharking is great family fun fishing with the kids enjoying non-stop rod-bending action up close and personal with very toothy critters.
If you are going to partake of lobster season, which opened on Thursday, just be cautious of the commercial gear that now dots the waterways to create an obstacle course worthy of the best NASCAR drivers.
Capt. Chris Johnson has been involved in the charter fishing business since he was a kid at the Jersey Shore. He now specializes in offshore, gulf/bay, bottom, wreck and reef fishing with SeaSquared Charters out of 7 Mile Marina. You can reach him at 305.743.5305 or SeaSquaredCharters.com. Follow him on Facebook: SeaSquared Fishing Charters, or Twitter: MarathonFishing.
Ryan Simmons, the Tampa area rep for Pure Fishing, caught this nice 40lb. amberjack in about 200 feet of water on a butterfly jig. I met Ryan at ICAST, where he told me he had never caught an AJ – mission accomplished. A silky shark made a guest appearance about midway through the day. We hand fed him for a while before tossing him a chum-sicle, which he enjoyed thoroughly.
Bob Keeney, from St. Louis, treated his boys Bob III and Christopher, to their very own shark adventure. We fished the calm, shallow waters off the 7 Mile Bridge and caught 12 sharks – a couple of nurse, a small bonnethead and lemons up to 8 feet long. All were released unharmed. Both boys agreed it was way better than any video game!