Your dilemma this time of year is not whether to go fishing, but which venue to fish. You can run offshore for dolphin and tuna or perhaps deep dropping for swordfish and snowy grouper. Or, venture to the wrecks for amberjack, mutton snapper and grouper. Perhaps sit on the reef for yellowtail and mangrove snapper.
One way around this dilemma is to double up. Many of the charter captains will often begin the day offshore in search of dolphin and end it with a couple of hours of either dropping on the wrecks or chumming on the reef. The ones who favor offshore fishing above all else will keep an eye out for dolphin on their way to and from the swordfish grounds. On their way home late in the afternoon, they will often make a couple of deep drops for grouper, snapper and tilefish.
The dolphin/snapper combo is especially popular as it gives you the opportunity to load the cooler with an abundance of tasty offerings. Start your day by leaving the dock at seven or so. Have your rigged ballyhoo at the ready with some 20-lb spin gear. Run offshore and look for birds, weeds or floaters. When you spot something, cruise up to it and begin trolling ballyhoo behind your boat. With any luck, you’ll have dolphin within minutes. Be sure to take plenty of chunk baits with you. I like to use sardines. Keep the schoolies around your boat by tossing small handfuls of freebies in the water. Attach a chunk to your hook and watch them gobble it up.
After a couple of hours of this or when you’ve decided you have enough dolphin in the box, make your way back to the reef and anchor up for some yellowtailing. The yellowtail lately have been found anywhere from 60 to 80 feet. Be sure to have plenty of chum on hand. These fish are spawning now and are extremely aggressive. The more chum you put in the water, the more ‘tails you are likely to catch. Cut any of your unused ballyhoo into small pieces and flat line the bait back in your slick. I recommend 12-lb tackle and 15-lb fluorocarbon leaders with small #4 hooks. If you happened to take live bait with you, such as pinfish, drop one to the bottom in search of grouper. Be sure to have lots of muscle as some of these grouper can approach 40 pounds and up.
If yellowtailing is not your game, you can always explore dropping on the wrecks and artificial reefs in search of amberjack, mutton snapper and grouper. Leave your 12-lb tackle at home and bring out some 25 to 30-lb class conventional outfits and live bait. You can power drift or anchor up on some of these spots and hang on for some serious excitement as many of these fish are 15 pounds or heftier with the amberjacks averaging 40 pounds.
The dolphin/swordfish deep drop excursion is a bit more complicated and is best accomplished by utilizing one of our many local charter boat captains. They have the equipment and expertise required to tackle this highly technical fishery. The rewards are quite often large and tasty.
If you prefer fishing during the cooler times of the day, try early morning dolphin fishing followed by evening tarpon fishing with an air-conditioned nap sandwiched in between. Fishing for the silver kings has been excellent at all of the local bridges, such as Bahia Honda, 7 Mile and Long Key. Live mullet or crabs are your bait of choice.
I encourage you to get involved with the expanded Father’s Day Dolphin Derby on June 19 and 20. In its 23rd year, the popular tournament benefits Marathon High School Athletics. All festivities will be held at Sombrero Resort and Lighthouse Marina. There is a Pro/Semi Pro Division as well as an Amateur Division and there will be a prize for top Father/Son combo. Overall cash prizes and awards will top $12,000. To register or become a sponsor, call Big Time Bait and Tackle at 305.289.0199 or surf over to www.BigTimeOutfitters.com.
Pittsburgh buddies Greg Chemerys and Rich Viscomi spent a day of fishing with Capt. Chris Johnson and SeaSquared Charters out of Marathon’s 7 Mile Marina. They started yellowtailing in 80 feet of water and they never left. They caught a limit of flag ‘tails up to five pounds with most fish averaging three to four pounds. While sitting on the anchor, a beautiful 28 pound cow dolphin swam up. They quickly hooked and caught her on a live pinfish on 20-lb spin tackle. They also caught a schoolie size dolphin on one of the 12-lb yellowtail rods. Shown back at the dock are Greg and Rich with their catch.
Marathon local, DRC and Dog Park Diva, Mary Stella, hosted her friends for a Memorial Day outing with Capt. Chris Johnson and SeaSquared Charters out of 7 Mile Marina. They went yellowtailing on the reef and caught a nice mess of fish ranging in size from throw-backs to one weighing in close to five pounds. Conditions were perfectly calm and hot, sure signs summer is here. L-R: Mary Stella, Janet O’Connell, Victoria Bonnito, Konstantino Lazaridis, Simone Castro and Johnathan Campbell.
Capt. Chris Johnson has been involved in the charter fishing business since he was 12 at the Jersey Shore. He now specializes in offshore, gulf/bay, bottom, wreck and reef fishing with SeaSquared Charters out of 7 Mile Marina. You can reach him at 305.743.5305 or www.SeaSquaredCharters.com. SeaSquared now also offers tarpon trips on either our skiff or comfortable 28-foot center console.