Is it finally over? For a little while any way. The winds diminish making for perfect fishing conditions all over the Keys this week.
And from what I can tell, just about everybody with a boat got out this week to enjoy it. Spring break is in full effect with lots of college kids taking to the water, and the weather could not be more perfect.
Offshore of Islamorada the Drop Back captained by Jon Reynolds and his crew out of the Post Card Inn and Marina has been very busy with tight lines and happy clients this week. He’s reporting lots of action off the reef with dolphin, some sailfish and good numbers of kingfish -- all caught with live baits like ballyhoo, cigar minnows and hard tails found in the morning at the typical bait spots.
They even limited out on big 20- to 30-pound kingfish while out off Lower Matacumbe one day this week. Capt. Jon had nothing but great things to say about the yellowtail snapper bite in 70 to 110 feet. And, he reported lots of big flags and a few sharks.
There have been a few cobias caught all up and down the reef line this week, averaging 10-30 pounds. While most boats fishing the edge have caught cobias this week, not many have caught them in numbers. Rather, most were caught while fishing for other species like yellowtails and kingfish.
The patch reefs are still going strong with good numbers of hogfish, mutton and mangrove snappers — and a few mackerel caught. Live shrimp fished on the bottom while chumming has been key to catching these species.
The tarpon bite really turned on this week, mainly attributed to the warmer weather and calmer winds. Poons have been caught around the local bridges and channels in the Lower Matacumbe and Long Key areas.
Live mullet and crabs have been the go-to baits when fishing these areas. You can get away with dead baits, but the live baits are hard to beat. Good numbers of tarpon are also being caught off the outer banks of Florida Bay, as well as the creek mouths found on the West coast of Everglades National Park.
The redfish bite in the backcountry has slowed, but the snook and black drum bite has picked up the slack. Seatrout fishing has picked up around the outer banks with good numbers of sizable mangrove snapper and jacks caught while targeting the seatrout.
Gulp-tipped jigs with Paradise poppers have been a great way to drift and locate productive areas. Once found, shrimp-tipped jigs worked across the bottom will produce a healthy bite.
Last week was the Jim Bokor Islamorada All Tackle Bonefish and Redfish Shoot Out Tournament. Fifteen teams competed for the Grand Champion honors, but it was Capt. Mark Gilman and his angler Rob Preihs that took the prize, with 13 slams giving them 3,250 points and 100 points in the bank.
This was a landmark year for the tournament, with 75 bonefish and 54 redfish caught. Last year, only 17 bonefish were caught and 182 redfish. Truly a great sign that our bone fishery is making a great comeback.
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 email@example.com or call (305) 481-0111.