As I pray for Irma to dissipate, the fact remains that fishing was fantastic again both offshore and in the backcountry last week.
There has been a lot of big snook around and an incredible resurgence of tarpon in the 30-pound class back there.
Everglades fishing was very good last week, overall. You can expect to still see some trout in the northern parts of Florida Bay. Although, snook is what I am usually interested when I'm up there in that area and near Flamingo.
Pilchards took a leave of absence from where I usually could find them though as of late. The western edges of the park as well as on some of the grass flats afforded bites from a variety of jacks and mangrove snapper recently if you were jigging along the bottom with a Gulp bait or something similar.
I like to fish near my white pelican buddies around Sandy Key during the first part of September because you just never know what you may see out there where the Gulf meets Florida Bay around that often magical transitional area.
Tarpon and sharks are often found to be "willing" in that particular area.
Heading southeast from the Upper Keys and heading offshore, the yellowtail snapper did bite very well last week at the edge of the reef for many of the charter boats on half-day trips. While chumming for snapper, some of the charter boats reported experiencing cero mackerel in their chum slicks.
In order to score with these toothy critters, use a short shot of #2 wire and a quarter-ounce buck tail with a strip of bonita belly and jig it fast, or just use a tiny live pilchard and watch the explosion.
Cero mackerel, when eaten fresh, can fool you. They're just as good as some of the other snappers, in my humble opinion — so long as you take the skin off.
But the best part is, they are so fun to catch on 10-pound spinning gear. Most of the boats trolling offshore have been averaging 20 to 40 dolphin on full-day trips. There's a lot of "schoolies" in the 3- to 6-pound range, a good number of gaffers in the 8- to 15-pound category and, to top things off, some very nice bulls in the 30-pound class as well.
Those I usually classify as "bonafide slammers."
Hump activity was above average for the last two weeks, and by this, I mean the current has been ripping to the Northeast and the tunas have been gathered up in many of the rips.
Lots of birds in and around the Islamorada hump area can tip you off to a ball of sardines or other bait sometimes during September, so keep your eyes peeled for a focused grouping. I also love it when a hundred frigate birds show up seemingly out of nowhere. They can often be the best indicators of events to come.
Farther offshore, you can still make a drop for a sword and connect if you've got the right stuff. One of my favorite past times, bottom fishing in the deep water, has really caught back on and been one of the hottest attractions for offshore anglers in the last few years.
Again, you've got to have some advanced-level equipment to be able to succeed at it. The Gimme Jimmy charter boat pulled in to the dock and turned heads last week with their 39-pound snowy grouper and a giant 35-pound golden tilefish. To add to the variety, they also captured a nice barrelfish from the same lively area along the bottom.
The great thing about bottom fishing in the deep is that you can use almost anything for bait. Obviously, fresh is best. I like squid, bonita chunks, live bait, dead bait, but it seems like it just don't matter, man.
Whether you're going back in the back or headed to the deep woods have fun this week, catch 'em up, and let us know how you made out.
Capt. Donald Deputy covers the sport of fishing in and around the areas of the Upper Keys. Reach him direct at firstname.lastname@example.org with your personal fish tales and photos.