The dog days of summer are upon us here in the Keys as daytime temperatures attempt to reach into the 90s. Fishing on a whole remains good, but an early start is recommended.
Lobster season begins Aug. 6, so after a great morning of fishing you can cool off by diving for lobster in the afternoon.
Offshore, the dolphin bite continues to be the main focus for the fleet with the action varying from week to week and day to day. A good majority of the fish caught have been in the 2- to 10-pound range with larger fish caught every week pushing 40-plus pounds, just not as often.
Getting off the dock early has been key to successful trips, with bird activity the best way to find the fish fast. The best reports have come from boats trolling in and around 400 to 600 feet with naked ballyhoo or feathers/plugs colors green/yellow and blue/white.
There have been reports of blackfin and skipjack tuna caught around the offshore humps but most fall into the 2- to 8-pound range.
Other than the dolphin and tuna, there have been a few wahoo and billfish caught, but these tend to be accidental bycatch as most boats primarily target dolphin. Deep dropping seems to be the thing to do when the bite slows during the middle of the day for tilefish, snowy grouper, black bellied rose fish and yellow edge grouper on cut squid and bonito.
On the reef, the snapper bite has been consistent in 70 to 120 feet depending on the current, which can vary from day to day. Yellowtail snapper has been the most reliable bite with fish averaging two to three pounds the norm. Mixed in have been varied numbers of mutton and mangrove snapper. The occasional black or red grouper is also a possibility, caught with live baits fished on or near the bottom while chumming for yellowtail.
In the backcountry, the snook and seatrout have been the most reliable bite going in and around Flamingo and the Cape Sable areas. Most of the snook have been zeroed in on smaller baits, as there have been big schools of very small mullet found all around the area. Three-inch Gulp shrimp colored “molting” and “root beer” have been perfect artificial lures for this.
Along with the snook have been smaller tarpon five to 15 pounds, tripletail and a few random redfish.
The seat rout have been congregated in mullet muds all around Flamingo, mixed in with ladyfish, jacks and the occasional catfish. You may have to put in some time fishing for legal-sized trout as most muds contain mixed sizes, and remember to release the larger trout, as they are usually females that are carrying eggs.
Finding larger tarpon is still possible, however, their numbers have diminished from what they were a month ago. Areas like Snakebite as well as the outer banks of Florida Bay are known areas to target silver kings in the summer. Most of these fish average 40 to 60 pounds caught with fresh dead baits like mullet of ladyfish fished on the bottom of channels and passes.
Those of you who know me, know that to me, fishing is more than just a game, it is a way of life. So fish hard and fish often.
Capt. Mike Makowski is a backcountry fishing guide and owner of Blackfoot Charters in Key Largo. His column appears biweekly. To send him fishing reports or photos, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (305) 481-0111.