Warmer, calmer conditions are causing the fish to bite

From my point of view, last week may have been one of the nicest weeks of the year.  Warmer, calmer, more paradise-like conditions translated into big successes both offshore and in the backcountry areas of the Upper Keys.  

Out of Bud N’ Mary’s marina, youthful skippers prevailed once again as the young Capt. Nick Stanczyk capitalized on yet two more offshore “behemoth catches.”  

The first being a 400-plus-pound mako shark that his lucky crew released unharmed on St. Patrick’s Day. Second was a 468-pound broadbill caught during the daylight hours on another trip to the deep waters of the Gulf Stream, which was landed after a brisk 30-minute fight.  

Flat-calm was another way many anglers described the offshore waters last week. For most of the week it was as flat as a table top from the reef to the 100-fathom line. Near the hump-depth (400-600 feet), there were several schools of dolphin found and caught in the 3-9 pound range. There were also a handful of dolphin in the 20-pound neighborhood brought to the docks. Although not everyone found dolphin.

I wouldn’t say its dolphin season just quite yet. Amberjacks are showing up strong at the humps and hump areas. Capt. Wes King aboard the Strictly Business charter boat caught one of the largest greater amberjacks I have ever heard of last week, a 121-pound beast. The first amberjack I ever caught was with Capt. Wes. He was my deckhand aboard the old Islamorada Lady, like 25 years ago. That was when he first came home from the Army. Good times for sure.  

To give reference, the International Game Fish Association “All Tackle” world record-size greater amberjack was caught in Japan at Iki Island in November of 2010, and it weighed 156 pounds. That fish was caught by Hideyky Nemoto.  

In addition to the amberjacks biting their faces off, there is good king mackerel action lately at the edge of the reef and near many of the inshore wrecks. Mostly they’ve been caught on the live bait like cigar minnows and pilchards, but the good old-fashioned de-boned or butterflied ballyhoo has worked very well on the deep rods for the smoker-sized fish over 20 pounds. 

Quite a few wahoo were caught last week as well during the kingfish bonanza. Some of the guys I talked to used live speedos for bait, which make a great vibration on those slick calm days. Capt Scott Stanczyk guided his anglers to a 49-pound lunker recently, the largest of late that I’ve heard about. 

Yellowtails and permit round out the catch at the reef and should continue to be a good bet for the next couple of months, especially as a good half-day option when you’re limited on time.  

In the backcountry and around the edges of the Everglades, there have been good numbers of tarpon starting to come through, and many of the best bites have come on the live mullet presented at the surface either with or without a cork float.  

Bull sharks were around last week, and shark activity will only expand as more tarpon come to our bridge channels this spring. 

Whichever side of the islands you choose to spend time this week, may you enjoy yourselves.   

Capt. Donald Deputy writes for The Reporter every other week. Reach him direct at   firstlightyachts@yahoo.com .