Of all the fishing tournaments that take place throughout the year in the Florida Keys, some of my favorite ones to fish are the family fun tournaments. That’s because these tournaments give me an opportunity to fish with my family and friends, and because events like the Marathon Father’s Day Dolphin Derby, and the Burdines Dolphin, Blackfin & Wahoo Tournament, allow anglers of all skill levels to come together and compete on the same level for the same prizes.
Family fun tournaments give you a feel of what tournament fishing is like, without forcing you to dig deep into your wallets. Many of the events have nominal entry fees, and all it takes is one big fish to pay for your entire trip and go home a tournament winner. If you don’t have your own boat, or just would like to be shown the ropes of tournament fishing, get in touch with me or one of the great charter boat captains throughout the Keys-we’ll do whatever it takes to put you on a winning fish.
I’d like to congratulate Best Bet captain Josh Gilmartin for winning the Marathon Father’s Day Dolphin Derby a few weeks back. Josh, fishing with his girlfriend Krista Hillman, and her father and uncle, took first and second place honors, with a 30 and 29-pound dolphin.
I would also like to congratulate Donnie Roberts for winning both the dolphin and the wahoo categories in last week’s 9th Annual Burdines Tournament. Roberts caught a 36-pound dolphin and a very impressive 68.4-pound wahoo. I’m proud to say that Team Best Bet took home top prize for catching the largest blackfin tuna, with a 30.3-pound fish reeled in by my father Mike Long. Pretty work dad.
I’d also like to recognize the anglers fishing aboard the Excavator who would have won the top dolphin prize in the Burdines Tournament, with a 44-pounder, and would also have come in second place in the tuna division, with a 26-pound blackfin. Unfortunately, the fish were caught by junior anglers who were not eligible for the cash prize. Keep an eye out for these kids in the future though – we’re definitely going to hear about more impressive catches from them.
Offshore, the dolphin fishing remains solid with the fish being been scattered anywhere from 12 to 30 – plus miles out. When conditions are overcast like they have been lately, your best bet is to give up searching for birds and spend your time trolling. Look for current rips and grass patches and put the trolling baits out for a shot at catching a 50-plus pounder.
Also offshore we’ve been slamming the big blackfins out on the humps. Over the past few weeks we’ve caught our share of fish in excess of 30-pounds. Again, vertical jigging and live baiting with white baits has produced the best results.
On the deep reefs and wrecks the mutton snapper fishing continues to be excellent with a consistent bite of fish in the 15 to 20-pound class. If you load up the coolers with enough meat and want to try something different, don’t be afraid to do some jigging on the wrecks (between 140-250 feet), and test your strength against a monster amberjack.
For those heading out to pursue yellowtails at the reef, be prepared to use heavier tackle in the dirty water (15 to 20-pound mono). The bull sharks have returned and you will need to get those fish in the boat as soon as possible. Despite the presence of the toothy critters the yellowtail fishing has been superb and on one trip alone last week we caught 35 nice fish up to three pounds, with a few keeper muttons thrown in for good measure.
Inshore, the tarpon fishing remains productive and is an excellent way to get out and spend the evening. Look for the tarpon to be the thickest around the bridges, in the channels, and on the edges of the flats.
Your Best Bet for the Week Ahead: Have a happy and safe 4th of July.
Have a wonderful Independence Day weekend and please remember to be patient and safe while on the water boating. We’ll see you at the sandbar!
PHOTO 1: Randy and Krista Hillman with the winning fish from the Marathon Father’s Day Dolphin Derby (30 and 29 pounds).
PHOTO 2: The Dorne’ family came down from the Orlando area to enjoy a nice day of offshore fishing for dolphin and tuna.
PHOTO 3: Head to the reef for big yellowtails.