Warm southeast breezes; the beginning of baseball season; turning our clocks ahead an hour; the influx of college students to the Keys equipped with fake IDs and beer bongs- it could only mean one thing…that spring has finally arrived.

Unfortunately, I have nothing to share in regards to Spring Break 2009. However, I did fish several trips aboard the Best Bet over the past couple of weeks, and I have some spectacular catches to report.

Offshore, the edge of the Gulf Stream has moved near shore of Marathon and brought the pelagic (migratory) species within a stone’s throw from the reef. Those of you that don’t normally fish offshore now have a great opportunity to catch sailfish, dolphin, cobia, wahoo, blackfin tuna, and kingfish within just a few miles from the dock.

All of these species can be caught in the same vicinity at any given time, so be prepared to have a rod and bait ready for each type of fish. Just last week we caught several blackfins in the 10 to 15 pound-class while out live bait fishing for other pelagic species.

The downside of the Gulf Stream being in so close is that the opposing wind and current often make fishing the deep reef difficult. If you’re searching for the grouper and snapper species I recommend skipping out on the deep reef and moving in to fish the patches or Hawk Channel.

The patch reefs and the channel continue to produce great catches of snapper, grouper, mackerel and more.

Inshore the sailfish bite remains hot and we’re still seeing good numbers of fish in the area. Look for sailfish spraying ballyhoo in the shallows for your best bet to hook up with one of these beautiful and exciting fish.

Over in Florida Bay the warming water temperatures have put the mangrove snapper into a feeding frenzy. Captain Mike “Papa Moose” Long and Captain Kevin Goodwin both reported limiting out on quality two to three pound mangroves within just a few hours.

Look for the warm days ahead to heat up the bite even more, and keep your eyes open and rods ready for the cobia which are moving in closer to shore.

In the skinny water, Captain Chris Morrison of Marathon www.captchris.com , reports the headline on the flats is: “game on- the waters are warm and the fish are here!”

Chris says the tarpon are starting to show back up and that he’s been catching great numbers of permit, bonefish and the silver kings on the flats and in the backcountry. Chris expects the fishing to remain solid over the next few months, but I suggest you don’t wait too long to book your trip with one of the Keys’ best flats and backcountry guides.
Your BEST BET for the Weeks Ahead: Fish the Gulf Stream
With the edge of the Gulf Stream in close to the reef, now is a great time to take advantage of the hot pelagic bite right outside your front door. Troll the current edges with ballyhoo and feathers and also consider putting out a deep diving plug while you’re out there. You just never know what you’re going to catch this time of year.

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