One of the Florida Keys most redeeming qualities when it comes to fishing is the incredible variety of fish that we have an opportunity to catch on any given day. You’re never limited to fishing for only one species, and you always have the option to move on and target another fish if your first choice isn’t biting.
Case in point is the recent dolphin fishing. While we are catching fish, the dolphin fishing isn’t as productive as many of us might wish. However, that shouldn’t deter you from heading out and catching any number of other delicious and hard-fighting game fish. From the backcountry waters of Everglades National Park to the deep Atlantic, the Florida Keys fishery is red hot, and there are loads of fish out there waiting to be caught.
Inshore, tarpon fishing is as good as ever. With the recent worm hatch, tarpon are actively feeding at the bridges and in the channels. There’s no better time to do battle with these prehistoric silver kings. Just keep in mind that the tarpon run won’t last forever, so take advantage of the excellent bite now before these fish move out.
Out back, Captain Pablo Rodriguez of Slamtime Charters reports that he’s been catching good numbers of cobia, permit, and sharks on the deep Gulf wrecks. If you’re looking to mix it up a bit, don’t hesitate to make the run into the Gulf and take advantage of the excellent fishery that we often overlook this time of year.
On the reef, we continue to experience a phenomenal snapper bite, both for mangroves and large flag yellowtails. Mangroves have been actively feeding both during the day and well after dark on the patch reefs out to the inshore side of the deep reef (20- to 50-feet of water). For yellowtails, head a little deeper. Bigger fish are being caught in water anywhere from 50- to 110-feet deep.
Out on the wrecks, we’ve been consistently catching quality mutton snappers with a few nice surprises mixed in—including a 33-pound cubera snapper landed by Captain Josh Gilmartin this past week. Look for the mutton snapper to spawn over the next few weeks, and also be aware that a deep thermocline has produced significant algae down deep that can foul your bait while out dropping. If you’ve gone a few minutes without getting a strike, it’s probably not a bad idea to reel your line in and make sure your bait is clean.
Offshore, as I mentioned earlier, the dolphin fishing hasn’t been as great as we’d like. We are catching fish, just not with great consistency. If you’re dead set on dolphin fishing, your best bet is to cover a lot of water and keep an eye out for floaters, birds, and large weed patches. There just aren’t enough fish around to spend the time blind trolling.
Speaking of dolphin, it begs repeating that there is a size limit on dolphin. Dolphin must be 20 inches or larger measured from the fork. So, it’s not legal to keep those small peanut dolphin we’ve been seeing just past the edge of the reef. If you come upon a school of small fish and catch one or two that do not meet the size requirement, it’s best to move on and try to find another pack. The entire school will likely be undersized.
On the Marathon Hump, the tuna fishing has been excellent if you have live bait. Jigs have not been producing as well as normal, and while trolling is yielding decent numbers of fish, they have been smaller than the ones we’ve been catching with live baits. Before heading out, try to load the wells with pilchards, threadfins or whatever live baits you can get your hands on.
Your Best Bet for the Week Ahead: Always have a plan B!
Don’t be stubborn. If you’re having trouble locating one species, don’t hesitate to move on and fish for something else. If the dolphin aren’t biting, fish the reef or wrecks. You won’t be disappointed.