Many anglers come to the Florida Keys during warmer months with their mind set on fishing offshore for dolphin. And I can’t blame them. The waters off the Florida Keys provide some of the best mahi-mahi fishing in the world. But what happens when the dolphin fishing is slow, or you were able to load up your coolers early in the day with tasty mahi fillets? Fortunately, offshore fishing in the Florida Keys offers much more than just dolphin fishing.
To start, summer is a great time to head out to the Marathon Humps in search of blackfin tuna and many other pelagic species. For targeting blackfins, prepare a variety of fishing techniques. Some days the fish will be on the surface and trolling or live baiting will produce the best results. Other days the fish can be as far down as 400 feet. To target the fish that are deep, drift a live bait at various depths, or drop down your lucky vertical jig. My personal favorite method for catching blackfin tuna is live bait chumming. The ideal bait to use with this technique is pilchards. By chumming the waters with live bait, you can attract the tunas that are down deep up to the surface. Recently, the blackfin tuna bite has been outstanding, with many fish between 10-20 pounds being caught. In my opinion, the best way to enjoy blackfin tuna is sashimi style with a little wasabi and soy sauce. Don’t get discouraged if you’re catching a lot of skipjack tuna at The Humps. While I wouldn’t recommend eating them sashimi style, they’re just as delicious as blackfin tuna when cooked.
But don’t focus only on tuna. The Humps offer a chance to catch a variety of other fish, too. On the bottom you can catch queen snapper, snowy grouper, tile fish, and more. To target these particular fish drop a multi-hook rig with squid strips and a heavy lead that can get your bait all the way down to the bottom. If you’re interested in testing your strength on a 100-plus pound amberjacks or 40-pound almaco jack, drop a live bait, such as a small tuna, on a single hook with plenty of weight to get it to the bottom. Wait for that rod tip to bend and wind away, or for those of us that like to take advantage of today’s fishing technology, press the button and let the electric reel do the hard work for you.
It’s not uncommon to see a billfish while out fishing The Humps. I’ve had a few blue marlins come up and slam a tuna right next to the boat that one of my anglers was reeling in. If you’re planning on heading to The Humps have a rod rigged for big game fish. You can hook a marlin or sailfish on the troll, or be ready to throw one of the small tuna you’ve caught on a hook and pitch it to that hungry billfish.
Another fun species to target offshore are sharks. A wide range of species inhabit the waters surrounding The Humps, most commonly silky sharks, but also makos, hammerheads, and tiger sharks during the right time of year. Similar to being ready to pitch to a marlin or sailfish, have your heavy gear rigged with wire and ready to grab. When that big shark comes up and tries to eat your tuna or amberjack have a chunk of bait ready to pitch. Let the shark eat your bait and hold on!
If you run a few more miles outside of The Marathon Humps, (because let’s face it, at that point you’re already 30 miles out, you might as well keep going a few more) you‘ll be in prime swordfish territory. During the daytime, anglers target these monster fish at depths from 1,200-2,000 feet. When a swordfish is hooked the action is intense. Especially since these fish can weigh between 100-700 pounds! Swordfish are not particularly picky eaters. You can use a variety of different baits to catch them; squid, tuna, chunk of meat, anything!
If you want to go inshore, the snapper bite is still red hot with big catches of Mangroves, Yellow-tails, and the occasional Mutton and grouper. So give me a call, and let’s get out on the water! Mention this article and receive $50 off your charter during September and October.