The Easter Hunt

First off, I would like to wish everyone a happy Easter weekend. In a lot of ways, Easter holiday rituals are similar to fishing. Both involve a hunt- one where we search for colored eggs hidden in the back yard and throughout the house; and the other for trophy fish- either tailing in the shallows or out in the waves, or swimming near weed lines or under diving birds.

For children, the prized find on Easter morning is discovering baskets filled with sweets and delectable chocolate bunnies. For fishermen and women, the treasured treat is catching a big bull dolphin and enjoying the tasty filets on the grill, or at one of the many great Keys restaurants (like Sparky’s Landing in Key Colony Beach) that will cook your catch.

This past week, both offshore and inshore anglers were given their Easter baskets early. For those fishing out in the blue water, goodies included large schools of early season dolphin, tailing sailfish, aggressive wahoo, and hard-fighting cobia.

On several trips aboard the Best Bet and the Best Bet II, we consistently caught quality dolphin in the 20 to 30 pound range, and got our fill of 10 to 15 pound fish. If you head offshore, look for color changes and current edges in 150 feet of water and deeper. There are large fish in the area, so be prepared to do battle with a 50-plus pound dolphin while trolling lures or ballyhoo, or pitching live baits.

There has also been an influx of springtime cobia and sailfish into the offshore waters. Look for sailfish tailing as deep as 650 feet out, and cobia feeding in the 150 to 200 foot range. Large wahoo have been attacking baits as well, so get out your deep diving plugs and vertical jigs (with wire), and fish the current edges to take advantage of the hot wahoo bite.

The wrecks and deep reef continue to produce excellent catches of yellowtail snapper, muttons and cobia. Because of the outstanding offshore fishing of late I have not fished the patch reefs or Hawk Channel much, however I have heard reports that the kingfish are hanging around the channel in good numbers, and the patches remain consistent for your snapper and grouper species.

On the other side of the islands, Florida Bay continues to deliver rod bending action for mangrove snapper, goliath grouper, mackerel and sea trout. Also look for a steady cobia and permit bite further back on the Gulf wrecks.

Inshore and around the bridges the spring tarpon run has begun and should continue to heat up over the next few weeks. I will be running tarpon trips aboard the Best Bet III (23-foot Dorado) this year, so don’t miss out on the exciting action as we fish from Long Key Bridge down to Bahia Honda. If you’ve never experienced tarpon fishing in the Florida Keys, all I can say is that you’re missing out. Give it a try and you’ll be hooked.

On the flats and in the backcountry, Captain Shelby Bentley of Big Pine has been tearing up the bonefish and permit, while also catching good numbers of tarpon, sea trout and ladyfish. To book your Middle or Lower Keys flats or backcountry trip, call Shelby at 305-797-3665.

Your Best Bet for the Week Ahead: Come show your support at the 4th Annual Nate Grill Softball Tournament held at Marathon Community Park, April 18 and 19. All proceeds benefit the Nate Grill Scholarship foundation which aids students throughout Marathon. For more information visit http://www.nategrill.com, or call (305) 395-1522.

Jason Long

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