Sailfish are tailing at the reef

Pat Reilly from Avon, N.J., shows one of the blacknose sharks he landed during his family's outing with SeaSquared Charters. The shark was released unharmed.
Pat Reilly from Avon, N.J., shows one of the blacknose sharks he landed during his family's outing with SeaSquared Charters. The shark was released unharmed.

It’s been a long wait but the sailfish are finally here in big numbers.

We now have what are called tailing conditions, with waves at five to six feet and an easterly current just off the reef edge. The sailfish ride, or tail, down the waves. It's quite a sight to see.

Charter captains who have been targeting sailfish have seen anywhere from 25 to 50 fish per trip. But they don't always eat. So for the 50 fish you might see, perhaps two or three will take a bait. Just keep trying. All manner of live bait is working -- pilchards, ballyhoo, cigar minnows, mullet.

There are also quite a few dolphin and some blackfin tuna on weed lines and floating debris. Those anglers who find frigate birds are typically getting the largest fish. Over the past couple of days, there have been lots of gaffer-size dolphin caught as well as some big fish in the 25- to 35-pound class.

Around the full moon last weekend, there were a few wahoo caught, most in the 10- to 15-pound range. These are always a possibility while you're dolphin and tuna fishing.

The reef action for snappers has been only so-so this week. The 30- to 50-foot depths are the magic areas, and you'll need lots of chum plus any cut bait or live shrimp. However, there are still plenty of king mackerel around for those interested in giving their smoker a workout. All of this fishing will improve as we get further beyond the full moon.

Tarpon fishing is heating up now that the water temps are on the rise. All of the Middle Keys bridges are holding large numbers of tarpon in the 50- to 150-pound class. Mullet, pinfish and crabs are working. This bite will continue through May as long as the water temps stay at the current 80-degree mark.

Finally, there's excellent fishing for sharks around the bridges and banks. And there's quite the variety right now. Getting up close to blacktips, spinners, bulls, lemons and even some very large hammerheads makes this fishing better than a visit to the aquarium. SeaSquared Charters practices catch-and-release fishing for sharks, and we encourage all anglers to follow suit.

The week's best catches

Prior to the full moon, the SeaSquared boats put our anglers on great catches of snappers, hogfish, porgy and lots of released groupers. But we spent much of the week shark fishing. Our anglers landed and released lemon, blacknose, blacktip and spinner sharks up to seven feet long.

Dale Dramstad from Bloomington, Minn., fished for tarpon with Capt. Chuck Brodzki. He jumped nine fish, while landing three perfect specimens weighing 45, 65 and 90 pounds, all caught on a 12-weight fly rod.

Jersey brothers Sandy, Tony and Chris Moscaritolo also fished with Brodzki. The trio hooked 14 tarpon and landed six ranging in size from 55 to 85 pounds. All were caught on crabs.

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.