Right now we’re holding in a transition pattern. The winter pelagics, such as the sailfish and large kingfish, have yet to arrive in steady numbers, but they should be here any moment now. Also, a slight drop in water temperature should force the dolphin (mahi mahi) into the shallows and move them towards the west as they feed on large schools of ballyhoo.
Over the past week we’ve seen dolphin anywhere from 10 to 30 miles out. Most of the fish we’ve been finding have been feeding on bait beneath weed lines and floating debris. Lately, there has been a ton of stuff floating out in the ocean, which makes finding that school of dolphin even easier. You might even find some summertime wahoo or triple tails hanging around these floaters, if you’re lucky.
Pursuing dolphin is one of my favorite types of fishing because you not only get to search for and chase after the fish, but you also get to fight them on much lighter tackle then you would normally use offshore.
On the reef, we continue to catch large flag yellowtails, up to 20 inches, and on the wrecks, the mutton snapper bite remains consistent, with the kingfish becoming more and more prevalent each day.
When targeting the yellowtails use the lightest fluorocarbon leader you can get away with, and pitch your free-lined bait back as far as possible to keep the rainbow runners and other chum bag gatherers from eating your bait before it can get to the yellowtails. As for fishing the wrecks, drop down one of the live ballyhoo you caught, with a large splice of fluorocarbon to target the muttons … or a stretch of wire if you encounter the kingfish.
For those of you who would like to venture out to the Marathon Humps in search of dinner, you’re in luck. The tuna bite has been outstanding! There’s only one possible tangle in the line …. the sharks! The shark bite has been just as active as the tuna bite.
I have a couple tips for trying to land these tunas when there’s a shark hot on its tail.
- First, live pilchards are the ideal bait for this situation. With pilchards, you can live chum and get the tunas feeding close to the boat. The closer to the boat you can hook the fish, the better chance you have of catching him before the shark takes a bite.
- Chumming the tuna closer to the boat, gets the fish in a feeding frenzy, which allows you to use heavier tackle. By having heavier tackle, you can put more drag on the fish and get them in to the boat as fast as possible.
- Finally, fish the Humps when there are tons of boats fishing there. (I know, surprising, right? I promise I’m not pulling your leg on this one.) If there are multiple boats in the area, then most likely the sharks are spread out between the boats, so you’re chances of landing a few nice tunas increase. These sharks will probably be around during the fall months, so you need to plan accordingly when you head out to the Marathon Humps.
Inshore, the bait is starting to show up in the shallow water. With all this bait swimming in the shallows, there will normally be predator fish, like tarpon, snook and redfish in the area. On the flats, we continue to hear good reports of bonefish and permit being caught in the mornings and evenings, with the falling tide often being the best time to pursue them.
I’ve gotten reports that the swordfish bite has been on fire up and down the Keys. If you’ve been wanting to test your strength by reeling up one of these tasty giants from the deep, now is the time to go.
Capt. Ariel Medero is the captain of Big Game Sportfishing, located at the Hammocks of Marathon, MM 48. For more information, check out his web site at www.biggamesportfish.com or email him at [email protected]. Friend him on Facebook, too!