Offshore, the dolphin (mahi mahi) have been scattered, but I have had some reports from fellow charter captains that there were a few quality fish in the 20- to 30-pound class out in the blue. Captain James Simcic of Spearcrazy Fishing Charters had to travel quite a ways to find his fish, but he was able to put together a great catch of dolphin and wahoo a few miles outside of The Marathon Humps. Most fish this time of year are caught under frigate birds, so if you’re heading offshore this week have a ballyhoo rigged and ready to pitch if you see a frigate working the deck. I wouldn’t necessarily spend an entire day searching for dolphin this time of year, as the fish aren’t as thick as during the summer months. However, you still have a good shot at finding a pack of fish while on the way to and from the Humps, or while targeting other pelagic species. Always be prepared, and you may just hook into a springtime slammer!
Speaking of the Humps, the tuna bite has been very good lately with some boats catching a bag of mixed sized blackfins and skipjacks. I recently ventured out to The Humps on a charter, and when I finally arrived, I was greeted with … nothing. No birds circling, no fish busting, and no current moving through. Even though conditions were not ideal, I had reports from fellow captains that the fish were there and not to be fooled. I began by trolling tuna feathers and after a few minutes the tuna bite got active and we were able to catch some smaller torpedos. I was marking a nice amount of fish about 200 feet below the surface, so we decided to switch over to live baiting a vertical jigging. We ended up catching four blackfin tunas between 15-20 pounds, a 30-pound amber jack, and a beautiful yellow-eyed snapper. Moral of the story is even if it doesn’t look like the best conditions out there, put some lines in the water and give it a try!
On the edge of the reef we’re seeing more and more of our springtime fish every day. Live baiting on the edge is a great way to spend the day because you can catch any number of these fish, including sailfish, kingfish, wahoo, dolphin, and more. For live baiting, load the well with pilchards or live ballyhoo and put out a spread fishing your baits at different depths throughout the water columns. I also like to have a few baits rigged with fluorocarbon leaders, and a couple with wire in case we get into a school of kingfish or wahoo.
On the reef, the water has been a bit murky lately, which actually helps the snapper bite. Most of the mangrove snappers seem to have moved back in to the bayside, but the yellowtail and mutton snappers are still plentiful in the area. There are tons of groupers swimming around all areas of the reef; patches, shallows and deep. Even though you can’t keep them until May 1, they’re still fun to catch and release.
In Hawk’s Channel, the Spanish and king mackerel have been the most popular fish to target. Most captains have been catching them using live baits on the flat line as well as up on the kite. I know I sound like a broken record when I mention this, but always make sure you have a steel leader when hunting these fish. If you don’t, they will bite off your line and swim away with you hook.
Inshore, the bridges are starting to load up with tarpon. In this same area, you can also fish for jack crevelles, multiple species of sharks, barracudas, snappers and groupers. March can be a windy month, but that shouldn’t deter you from getting out on the water. The bridges of the Middle Keys are always a great place to cast a line if it’s a little choppy or the fish aren’t biting offshore.