Dolphin catch is getting a lot stronger

Kate Hoops from Ohio took first place in the Habitat for Humanity Mother's Day Dolphin Tournament with this 38-pound bull caught with Capt. Bob Brown and Sundance Sportfishing.
Kate Hoops from Ohio took first place in the Habitat for Humanity Mother's Day Dolphin Tournament with this 38-pound bull caught with Capt. Bob Brown and Sundance Sportfishing.

As we get deeper into our springtime fisheries, the dolphin run offshore continues steadily on.

The dolphin are spread out anywhere from 15 to 30 miles offshore. There has been abundant floating debris lately holding some sizeable fish. Weed lines and surface areas where birds are working are alternate places to look for the dolphin.

Charter captains are finding some sailfish in the same wide swath of water. They're taking trolled baits pretty well, but just about any live bait should work.

There are good numbers of medium-size blackfin tuna in the five- to 10-pound range off the drop in 1,000 to 2,000 feet of water. Fishing on the reef and wrecks is getting into full swing, as well.

Yellowtail snapper are biting in the 50- to 70-foot depths, with plenty of black grouper in the same areas. On the wrecks and artificial reefs, the grouper are joined by mutton snapper, amberjack and almaco jack.

Tarpon fishing around the bridges and passes is excellent. If catching the silver king is on your bucket list, now's your time. As always, check with your local tackle shop for advice on what bait to use as each area is unique in which works best.

In the bay on the nearshore wrecks and banks, we're starting to see some bigger mangrove snapper as they begin their annual trek to the reef to begin their spawn. Small live pinfish as well as chunk baits, such as ballyhoo or pinfish, work well.

The week's best

The SeaSquared boats had a variety of trips last week, including reef and wreck fishing for yellowtails, muttons, hogfish and groupers, as well as offshore fishing for dolphin and tuna. Our tarpon trips at Bahia Honda were outstanding, with high numbers of hookups and a good percentage of landings.

At 76 years young, Phil Jerolstein from Moorhead City, N.C., caught and released his first tarpon on fly with Capt. Chuck Brodzki. The fish was in the 85-pound class and was landed oceanside of Lower Matecumbe Key.

Becky Lawson and Chris Gilet from Seattle also fished with Brodzki. Using live finger mullet, they caught and released five tarpon from 75 to 90 pounds over two nights in the channels off Long Key.

Eric Todd and Shannon Skidmore from Marathon, along with Jai Pechin, Wes Burrows and Greg Gianici from Venice, Fla., fished in the Habitat for Humanity Mother's Day Dolphin Tournament aboard Blue Magic Charters with Capt. Larry Bell and mates Alex Bell and Steve Steenstra. Although they didn't catch the winning dolphin, they caught lots of dolphin for dinner. They were fishing 20 to 25 miles offshore.

Mark and Marge Rappaport from New Jersey caught their limit of yellowtails plus a big black grouper fishing in 60 feet of water with Capt. Kevin Wilson of Knee Deep Charters in Geiger Key.

Capt. Moe's Lucky Fleet in Key West reports the offshore fishing has been fantastic for dolphin, blackfin and skipjack tuna and wahoo, all caught trolling ballyhoo. In the backcountry and Key West Harbor, the tarpon have been a little shy, but some patience and plenty of chumming with shrimp trash coaxes a bite and hard fight. On the reef during the full moon, the mutton snapper bite was in full bloom. However, Moe encourages you to take only what you'll eat and conserve this fishery for future anglers to enjoy.

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.