The offshore mahi bite may not be what most expected yet, but the Noreaster has still reeled in some solid black groupers. NICK BORRACCINO/Contributed

Summer is here, at least it sure feels that way. Let’s be honest: It’s hot as hell!

Summer means mahi here in the Keys, or at least it should. About two weeks ago there was a large body of fish coming through, which was promising. Lots of small ones, but plenty of keepers and few nice ones were mixed in. Then it was as if someone turned the switch off.  They seemed gone for about a week. 

It’s been very calm and hot every day, and there has been little to no current inshore and offshore. I started seeing pictures of huge mahi catches in the Carolinas and got nervous that they might have passed us by entirely, which did happen a few years ago. But I received a promising offshore report last week. The current was rolling, and there were some bunches of nice-sized dolphin out there from 650 feet to the wall, or as far as you want to go. 

As usual, look for birds, floaters and weed lines. Small live baits on 30- and 40-pound leader will get you the picky bites once you find a pack. The return of the current also prompted the tuna around the humps to fire back up and start hitting small trolling lures and jigs. 

Keep your eyes peeled out there for a big blue apex predator too. This is the time of year you’re most likely to encounter a blue marlin. I’ve heard of many being seen and a few being caught out here in the last week or two. Spending some time trolling the big stuff or live baiting a mahi or tuna just might pay off.

When the current was slow and the mahi were scarce, a lot of us turned to the electric reel for action and table fare. Look for blue line tilefish in 500 to 700 feet, snowy grouper in 650 to 950, queen snapper in 650 to 800, and rosefish, barrelfish and golden tiles in 900 to 1,200. (All of these are excellent eating.)

The reef bite for yellowtail has been tough as the water has been clear and not moving, but the big black groupers have still been biting. Don’t be afraid to drop a BIG bait on some HEAVY tackle to try to land one. You’ll need it, as they pull incredibly hard heading back to their house to break you off. At least half of the larger groupers I catch have at least one other hook and line in their mouths from someone else. 

Start checking some patch reefs for mangrove snappers that are starting to head out of the bay, too. If it’s clear, lighten up to 20-pound fluoro to get the bites.

Go get ’em!

Captain Nick Borraccino is the owner and operator of Noreaster Sport Fishing, based out of the Island Fish Co. in Marathon. A Massachusetts native, Nick grew up commercial fishing for bluefin tuna and striped bass. He has been fishing in the Keys full time since moving here in 2005. Noreaster offers everything from flats to offshore on boats ranging from 18 to 35 feet.