With much calmer winds the last few days, more charter captains have been getting offshore, where they're finding a good dolphin bite, with blackfin tuna and wahoo mixed in. Weed lines are holding the most fish.
There's also been an uptick in the sailfish action, especially in the Marathon area. This fishing will continue to gain momentum as the sails begin to migrate toward Mexico for the annual spawn.
Yellowtail snappers are biting well in the 30- to 50-foot depths on the reef. And there are five- to 10-pound mutton snapper frequently showing in the slicks. Kingfish are plentiful, as well.
The channel humps and patch reefs are producing a wide variety of edible species, including all the snappers, hogfish, porgy, Florida pompano, sheepshead and more. Hawk Channel and the nearshore patches are your best bet in these windy March conditions. And shrimp on a jighead is your ticket to success every time.
There are massive numbers of grouper of all variety in all the nearshore venues. It's practically impossible not to catch one these days, especially when you're yellowtailing, as grouper love a snapper dinner as much as we do. While it's great fun to land these fish on light spin gear, it's heart-breaking to have to release them. But release them we must until the season reopens on May 1.
We're beginning to see a few tarpon around the bridges and on the flats. These are not the large migratory fish we have later in the spring but, at 30 to 60 pounds, they're enough to get your juices flowing. We did receive one report of a 90-pounder landed at Long Key.
The bridges are also holding quite large mangrove snapper to four pounds and more. Plenty of sharks, primarily blacktips, spinners, bulls and even some lemons, are there for entertainment once you have your snapper limit. SeaSquared Charters practices catch-and-release shark fishing, and we encourage all anglers do the same.
Further out in Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, there's a good bite on cobia, mangrove snapper and still plenty of Spanish mackerel. Jacks and bluefish add to the fun on light tackle.
The week's best catches
The SeaSquared boats have been jam-packed with families and groups enjoying Spring Break in the Keys. We've been fishing all the reef areas, including the patches and Hawk Channel, as well as the Seven Mile Bridge and the bay. Our anglers brought back hefty catches of snappers, hogfish, porgy, yellowjack and more. We released more legal-size grouper than we care to remember.
A few groups chose our catch-and-release shark fishing adventures and had fun wrangling lemon sharks up to 8 feet long. Bulls and hammerheads near the boat added to the action.
John Teigman and Aubrey Hoffman fished the early-season arrivals of the tarpon migration with Capt. Chuck Brodzki. Using teacup-size crabs drifted in the currents on a moonless night off Long Key, the duo caught three tarpon up to 90 pounds.
Capt. Ariel Medero of Big Game Sportfishing in Marathon reports a great dolphin run last week, with fish up to 25 pounds, plus tuna and wahoo in the mix. The reef is still active with mangrove, yellowtail and mutton snapper. There's plenty of action on the bayside for mangroves, jacks, sharks, mackerel and a few cobia. And the tarpon are starting to show in big numbers at the bridges and on the flats.
Capt. Bob Brown, of Sundance Sportfishing in Marathon, got offshore Monday with his clients from New Hampshire. They caught a sailfish, a large dolphin, big blackfin tuna with some smaller ones mixed in and some jacks.
Capt. Chris Johnson specializes in offshore, gulf/bay, reef/wreck, sailfish, shark and tarpon fishing with SeaSquared Charters in Marathon. You can reach him at (305) 743-5305, http://SeaSquaredCharters.com and http://Facebook.com/MarathonFishing.