According to the US Census, In July of 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was signed by the Continental Congress, there were approximately 2.5 million people residing in the 13 newly independent colonies. Today, the US population is estimated to be around 309.6 million. Just interesting facts to toss around as you flip the burgers and take in the fireworks display at Sombrero Beach this Fourth of July.

For those of you hitting the water this weekend please take extra care while operating your vessel. The waterways will be packed with boaters celebrating America’s Independence Day and it is imperative that you obey the laws of the sea and practice safe boating while out fishing or cruising around.

Fortunately, it looks like the strong winds we experienced this past week will subside by the weekend, allowing those of you with smaller boats an opportunity to get out and enjoy the fantastic early summer fishing we’ve been experiencing here in the Middle Keys.

Offshore, the strong Southeast winds have pushed the dolphin to the surface and we’re catching nice gaffers and the occasional slammer in as shallow as 400 feet of water.

There are still loads of small fish hanging around scattered weeds just beyond the reef, so as I’ve pointed out before, don’t forget that dolphin must be 20 inches from the fork to be of legal size to keep. If you find a school of small peanuts and catch one or two fish less than 20 inches, there’s a good chance the entire school will be undersized as well. In this event, move on and search out the larger fish—they are out there, you may just need to cover some ground to find them. Keep an eye out for birds, weed lines, floating debris and current edges and you should have a great shot at landing some keeper dorados for your Fourth of July cookout. As we enter into July we should have a second push of big dolphin moving through soon, so look for the fishing to only improve over the weeks ahead.

Also offshore, the lack of fishing pressure on the Marathon Hump has really turned on the blackfin tuna bite. Captain Josh Gilmartin braved the elements last weekend and made the run to the hump, catching quality blackfins that earned the Best Bet team their fourth straight tuna division title in the 10th Annual Burdine’s Dolphin & Blackfin Tuna Tournament. Josh also took home second place in the dolphin division, rounding out an impressive showing in this year’s event. For those of you looking to get in on the red hot tuna bite you should have no trouble catching fish trolling feathers, Billy Baits or small ballyhoo. Vertical jigging and live baiting will also produce, but if you get out early enough this weekend before the masses arrive you should also have great success trolling.

While the winds made it difficult to get offshore many boats stayed inside the reef and took advantage of a consistent yellowtail snapper bite. From 50 to 110 feet of water the yellowtails continue to produce and we’ve been loading the coolers with big flags as well as nice keepers over 16-inches. The current has been ripping out on the deep reef so don’t hesitate to tie on a small jig head if you’re having trouble getting your baits down to the fish. Also, it’s not a bad idea to go a little heavier than normal with the fluorocarbon leader. Good numbers of mutton and mangrove snappers are also congregating in the chum lines and you’ll need a stronger leader to get the fish to the boat. Start out with a 15 to 20-pound splice of fluorocarbon and adjust accordingly. Also be prepared to take advantage of what should be a phenomenal nighttime mangrove bite over the next few weeks. With the recent full moon the mangroves should be loaded up on the reef and near or at the peak of their spawns. Fish live bait after dark and you should be able to load up on some big fish.

Your Best Bet for the week ahead: Have a wonderful and safe Fourth of July

Please be extra safe on the water this weekend as you enjoy the fireworks and celebrate America’s Independence Day. Happy 4th!


The Rockey family spent an afternoon deep dropping with Captain Josh Gilmartin and landed several nice mutton snappers and a 33lb cubera snapper.



There are still plenty of quality size tarpon around as Ian and Jason can attest to.



The yellowtail bite on the deep reef has been phenomenal. Earlier this week, the Petersons returned to New Jersey with plenty of snapper and grouper caught aboard the Best Bet.




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