This week marks the 75th anniversary of the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, one of the most intense storms to make landfall in the United States, and definitely the most devastating hurricane on record to hit the Florida Keys. As we remember those who lost their lives that tragic September night, let’s take this opportunity to double check that we have made all the necessary hurricane preparations. As we’ve seen this week, late summer is an extremely active time in the Atlantic Basin.
Fortunately, the storms out there now seem to be turning away from the islands and heading north. Hopefully Earl, Fiona, and the recently formed Gaston all head out to sea and spare our friends on the midatlantic and northeast coasts. As it looks right now, the Florida Keys are forecast to have favorable weather conditions over the week ahead. So while other parts of the country are buckling down, we should have ideal conditions to head offshore and take advantage of the spectacular blue water bite we’ve been experiencing.
I’ll be the first to admit that this has not been the best summer for dolphin fishing in the Florida Keys. The fish have been scattered, and we’ve had to weed through undersized dolphin to find a few keepers to throw in the box. The bad news is that the fish are still spread out offshore, and you may need to put some time into locating them. The good news however, is that those pesky peanuts from the early summer have finally grown up, and when we are finding packs of fish, they’re generally quality gaffers in the 10 to 20-pound class. Once you hit the blue water keep an eye out for birds, weed lines, and floating debris. You should be able to land a few quality fish over the weeks ahead.
When you find a “floater” offshore, don’t hesitate to troll around your wahoo lures or plugs, or drop down a vertical jig. The wahoo bite has been fantastic over the past month, with reports of big fish (including a 70-pounder!) being caught throughout the Keys. Wahoo can also be found around the wrecks and on good hard bottom between 100-250 feet of water. In addition to trolling and jigging, another way I like to target wahoo is to fish live ballyhoo in the different water columns. Put a ballyhoo out on the surface, one about halfway down, and then another bait a few cranks off the bottom. This will allow you to find the fish no matter where they’re feeding, and you never know what other species may slam your bait in the process. While targeting wahoo don’t forget to use a stretch of wire. I generally start with at least #6 wire, and then work my way down if the water is clear and we’re not getting bites. Just keep in mind that the lighter the wire, the better chance you’ll have of getting bit off if you hook a big fish.
The Marathon Hump continues to yield excellent catches of blackfin tuna. Live baiting, vertical jigging, and trolling feathers are all producing quality fish averaging around 10 pounds. These are ideal size tunas as they yield meaty fillets, and are just small enough that you can generally get them to the boat before the sharks take notice. Speaking of sharks, if you’ve been planning on heading to the hump but have not yet made the trip, I recommend doing so over the next couple weeks. It shouldn’t be long before the silky and dusky sharks (just to name a few) take up residence and make it virtually impossible to get a fish to the boat.
Your Best Bet for the Week Ahead: Head to the Hump
Take advantage of good weather and calm seas and make the run out to the Marathon Hump. In addition to the fantastic blackfin tuna action, you’ll also have a shot at landing dolphin, wahoo, and maybe even a blue marlin if you’re lucky.