As we sail into April, we're starting to see more spindle beaks cruising our Atlantic waters.
The next couple of weeks should bring a large influx of sailfish throughout the Keys as they migrate toward the Yucatan for their breeding season. Ballyhoo, if you can find them, along with live pilchards, goggle eyes and small blue runners, are your baits of choice.
A little further offshore, the dolphin action has been a bit spotty but, again, it should improve as we get deeper into April. Also offshore, there has been a good bite on blackfin tuna at the humps. Live baits, mostly pilchards, are catching the biggest fish, while the smaller ones are being taken on the troll or by butterfly jigging.
The Atlantic wrecks are starting to see an increase in the mutton snapper population. And there are still plenty of amberjack and jack crevalle there to keep anglers entertained. Live baits are the ticket.
On the reef, fishing for yellowtail snapper remains very good. There are loads of fish ranging from just legal -- 12 inches to 15 and 16 inches -- in the 30- to 40-foot shallows. Deeper spots -- 80 to 90 feet -- produce flag-size yellowtails.
There are also some muttons in the shallow areas of the reef, and they're taking small live baits or larger chunks drifted back in the chum slick. And there are still good numbers of kingfish around along with some real nice cero mackerel.
The patches and channel humps continue to offer up a wide variety of fish, including lots of snappers, hogfish and porgy. This fishing is great family fun and a good way to stock the freezer with dinners for weeks to come.
With the little cold front and consequent dip in water temps we experienced over the weekend, the tarpon action at the bridges has slowed. But we anticipate this to rebound quickly, barring any further cold snaps. Without a doubt, there are more and more tarpon showing up at the bridges and passes every day.
Out in the gulf and bayside waters, there's still abundant mangrove snapper and still some Spanish mackerel. Plus lots and lots of sharks. Blacktips, bulls, spinners and lemons are all marauding the shallows anxious to provide catch-and-release fun on light tackle.
The week's best
It's been snapperpalooza on the SeaSquared boats -- loads of yellowtails, fat mangroves, lanes and a few nice muttons all made their way into the coolers to feed hungry visiting families. Hogfish, porgy, sheepshead and mackerel spiced the catches.
We continue to release lots of grouper, hoping at least some of them will still be around and biting come May 1, when they can be harvested.
We're seeing the shark population in Florida Bay thriving, with our anglers hooking into bulls, blacktips, spinners and lemons with abandon. Of course, all shark fishing with SeaSquared Charters is strictly catch and release.
Howard and Carmen Spiegel from Miami fled the mainland holiday crowds to fish with their childhood friend, Capt. Chuck Brodzki. The pair caught three tarpon to 70 pounds by using 20-pound spin tackle and blue crabs floated on the surface in the tidal current seams of the bridge channel off Indian Key.
Capt. Moe Mottice and his Lucky Fleet in Key West caught their limit of kingfish and Spanish mackerel while trolling ballyhoo in the Gulf. On the color change on the Atlantic side they caught blackfin tuna, dolphin and kings, again while trolling ballyhoo.
Backcountry boats are catching lots of snappers and, if you have the patience, tarpon are present in Key West Harbor and eating shrimp trash. Mottice says if it's big game you're after, there are really big sharks for the catching -- hammerheads, tigers, blacktips and American sharp nose.
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 743-5305, http://SeaSquaredCharters.com and http://Facebook.com/MarathonFishing.