Opening day of lobster season has finally arrived. If Mini Season was any indication, good things lay in store for Florida Keys bug hunters this year. Many who participated in the two day lobster rush had no trouble limiting out on big tails, and reports say that plenty more keeper lobster are still out there for the taking. Hopefully the weather and economy will cooperate this season and our commercial friends will have a productive year—they deserve it!
As far as the fishing goes, the inshore, reef and offshore fisheries can be summed up in one word…outstanding! Inshore, the big three shallow water species—bonefish, tarpon and permit—are all making their presences known throughout the Middle Keys. In the past week I’ve seen numerous schools of permit cruising outside the flats, as well as good numbers of big tarpon still hanging around the bridges and in the cuts. On the flats, reports of excellent bonefish catches continue to pour in. On Sunday Middle Keys residents Drew Dinan and Jeff Reilly saw over 40 fish in only a couple of hours. Congrats to Jeff for catching his first two bonefish ever.
On the reef, the mangrove snapper bite has been incredible. Quality fish in the three-to-five pound class have been slamming live baits on the patches, and it hasn’t been uncommon to reel in a few slobs over six pounds. In fact, the mangroves have been biting so well that even a group of Great Lakes walleye fishermen were able to limit out this past week. Sorry guys, I had to say it.
While fishing the patch reefs keep your eyes open for barracudas that seem to have taken residence—likely because of all the mangroves around. We had more than one snapper get chomped in half by angry cudas up to five feet in length, so try and get those mangroves to the boat as soon as possible. If you want to mix things up and catch these toothy critters pitch out a large baitfish or snapper head (if the cudas ate the rest) rigged with number five wire. Big barracudas provide quite the exciting battle on light tackle.
Offshore, the dolphin bite seems to be steadily improving. Last week we caught several nice gaffers as well as quite a few large schoolies. Hopefully this is a sign that we’re finally going to have a push of big fish, and that we won’t have to waste any more time weeding through those undersized peanuts that have been driving everyone mad this summer.
Out deep, the swordfish bite is also heating up. Several nice swords were brought back to Marathon docks over the last few days, so expect good things for the upcoming Islamorada Swordfish Tournament which kicks off the Florida Swordfish Series.
Your Best Bet for the Week Ahead: Have a safe and successful lobster season.
Please be careful while out diving for lobster. Every year we have numerous accidents that could have been avoided if people would have taken the proper precautions. Also don’t forget to take a few rods along while out collecting lobster. If you limit out on spiny tails you can always spend a few hours reeling in quality fish.
Grassy Key resident Jeff Reilly with his first bonefish.