For you out-of-towners reading the Florida Keys fishing report online, as well as for you visitors just arriving in the islands, I wanted to ease any concerns you may have about the Gulf oil spill by informing you that our waters are as clear and as blue as ever. There is no oil in the Keys, and life goes on as normal. I wish to address this issue because we get many calls and emails from concerned friends and family on the mainland asking if we have been affected by the oil spoil. The answer is no. So please, pass the word along that the Keys are open for business, and there’s no better time than now to head down and enjoy the wonderful weather, fresh seafood, incredible fishing and all around good times!

Speaking of incredible fishing, the reef is as active as it gets. Whether fishing during the day or at night, the patches and deep reef are providing endless opportunities to bend the rod and catch quality fish for the dinner table. For targeting mangrove snappers anchor up on good lively bottom in 25 to 60 feet of water. Quality fish in the three to five-pound class have been aggressively feeding both during the day and after the sun sets on small pinfish fished on ¼-ounce jig heads. Flat-lined chunks of shrimp and fresh ballyhoo have also produced, but the live baits have been the meal of choice for the larger fish. Because the water has been clear, we’ve had to drop as low as 15 pounds on our leaders. Don’t be afraid to lighten up your fluorocarbon if you’re having trouble enticing the mangroves to eat.

From 60 to 100 feet of water the yellowtail snapper fishing has been superb both early in the morning and later in the afternoon. Big flag tails up to five pounds have been thick in the deeper water (90-100 feet), but they’ve also been difficult to land on the 10-pound stretches of fluorocarbon we’ve been forced to use because of the clear water. If you head out to the deep reef to target these larger fish, be prepared to break off a few in the process. However, don’t get discouraged. The big flags will test your light-tackle skills, and when you do get a few to the boat, you’ll be rewarded with thick and tasty fillets.

On the wrecks, the mutton snapper fishing has really heated up. The green moss that snagged our baits and hampered bottom fishing over the past few weeks has disappeared, and we’ve been catching our share of big muttons in 115 to 250 feet of water. Live baits have produced the best results fished on as light of leader as possible. Muttons are a notoriously skittish species and with the water as clear as it is you need to present your bait without them spotting your line.

Offshore, not much has changed over the past week. The dolphin fishing remains spotty with loads of small dorados but not many large fish. Sources from the mainland inform me that we should be seeing a push of big dolphin over the next week or two so be prepared to head offshore and finally get an opportunity to catch a few slammers. While we wait, now’s an excellent time to make the run out to the Marathon Hump. The blackfin tuna fishing continues to be superb, with quality fish being caught trolling, vertical jigging and on live baits.

Your Best Bet for the Week Ahead: Fish the Reef

The summertime reef fishing continues to be outstanding for yellowtails, mangroves, grouper and more. Whether you choose to fish during the day, or wish to head out under the cooler conditions at night, you’re sure to catch a variety of hard-fighting and delicious species. Stop by one of the Best Bet boats located on the Sadowski Causeway at the Key Colony Beach Marina and we’ll be happy to set you up with an unforgettable Florida Keys reef-fishing trip.


Large blackfin tunas are still plentiful on the humps


Captain Josh Gilmartin and first mate Wayne Burre led this family from central Florida to a great day of reef and wreck fishing



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