Over the past few weeks, Mother Nature gave us a nice gift. The weather was pleasant and warm and the waters were extremely calm. It was absolutely beautiful in the Florida Keys. For those of us lucky enough to get out and go fishing, we were rewarded with ideal conditions. Out in the blue water, goodies included large schools of early season dolphin, sailfish, some hard-fighting cobia, and deep-water tunas.

On several trips over the past few weeks, we caught quality dolphin 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 don’t get caught off guard while trolling lures or ballyhoo, or pitching live baits.

Recently, the gulfstream current has been very strong with a 3 to 3.5 knot current. This strong current can work in your favor or can work against you. A strong gulfstream current will always bring new fish to the area. So if you had a slow morning, don’t worry, things could be very different in the afternoon. A whole new “shipment “could be arriving. A strong gulfstream current could also wipe out those beneficial weed lines and floating debris that we often look for when catching pelagic fish. So if you find a hot area one day, take advantage of it early in the morning, because by the afternoon, it will most likely be long gone.

There has also been an influx of springtime cobia and sailfish into the offshore waters. Look for sailfish in waters as deep as 250 feet out, and cobia feeding in the 50- to 200-foot range. Large kingfish 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 kingfish bite.

The wrecks and deep reef continue to produce excellent catches of yellowtail snapper, muttons and cobia. Large numbers of amberjacks and kingfish are also moving in to the wrecks. You can target any of these fish on the wrecks with vertical jigging or dropping a good sized live bait down to the bottom. On a few of the shallow wrecks, between 100-150 feet, big schools of permit are starting to arrive. These game fish are usually found in the flats and gulf, so it’s always a nice surprise to see them out in blue water this time of year. And they are always fun to catch on light tackle. On the shallow and deep reefs, the snapper and grouper bite has also been very active. A reminder that grouper season is still closed for about another month, so you can catch them, but you must release them.

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 typically fish either 7 mile bridge or Bahia Honda bridge for tarpon. Even though these bridges are fairly close to each other, there is a big difference in how you fish each one. When fishing 7 mile bridge the primary bait to use is mullet, big pitchers and big Pinfish, and it’s best to use these baits on a 50-60 pound fluorocarbon leader. On 7 mile, I like to fish around the pilings or in between the old and new bridges. Always keep an eye out for rolling fish so you can get an idea of where to pitch your baits. At Bahia Honda, you can use the same baits as 7 mile, but the preferred meal there is small blue crabs. Normally, I like to drift these baits out on a 50 pound fluorocarbon leader with a small circle hook. At Bahia Honda, you won’t have any trouble figuring out where to pitch your bait, as tarpon are very active there, and are constantly rolling up on the surface.

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]

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