The eight-month grouper season that started May 1 marches on with vigor.
The grouper bite, especially for blacks, has been very good, with the best action on the reef in 50 to 100 feet. Live baits, such as legal-size snappers, grunts, ballyhoo and pinfish, all work well.
Nice-size grouper also are coming off the deeper wrecks in 130 to 200 feet of water. Large live baits are best out here. Take along bluerunners and grunts for greatest success.
These same wrecks are holding plenty of amberjack so get your smoker fired up. Or catch and release them just for the stubborn fight they provide. They're not called reef donkeys for no reason.
Back on the reef, in the 50- to 70-foot depths, the action for yellowtail snapper remains very good. These fish are coming into their spawning mode, so you'll need large amounts of chum to hold their interest. You really can't overfeed them night now.
An excellent tactic is to use oats to spice your chum slick. We mix oats with dry chum products from Aquatic Nutrition called Snapper Up and Yellowtail Up. We find these extra ingredients go a long way toward the difference between a couple of snappers and limit catches.
Also on the reef, some mangrove snapper and the occasional mutton snapper are mixed in the yellowtail catches. Use larger chunk baits or small live baits for these.
Offshore, the dolphin fishing remains steady. There are lots of frigate birds and small terns working the dolphin, plus abundant grass patches, so your search for fish should be fairly easy. These large weed spots, plus floating debris, are also holding wahoo. So it's worth trolling wahoo lures in these areas.
There are plenty of tuna at the humps, blackfin and skipjack. The usual trolling lures plus ballyhoo and live pinfish all get the job done.
Finally, we still have good numbers of tarpon around the bridges, passes and channels. What was a frustrating bite for a couple of days will improve the further we get away from the new moon.
The week's best catches
The SeaSquared boats spent much of the week tarpon fishing at Bahia Honda, where we had high numbers of hook-ups and a good percentage of landings. Trips to the reef and bay resulted in good catches of mangroves and yellowtails, with muttons and groupers mixed in.
Fishing with Capt. Chuck Brodzki, Shaun Earle from London caught and released two tarpon on 20-pound spin tackle while using crabs in the backcountry waters off Islamorada. They were in the 55- to 75-pound class.
Brothers Steve and Ritner Day from Delray Beach teamed up to catch and release four tarpon over two nights, with the largest at 80 pounds. They used half-dollar-size crabs in the channels off Long Key.
Trent and Laura Crable from Lake Milton, Ohio, fished aboard Blue Magic Charters with Capt. Larry Bell and mates Alex Bell and Steve Steenstra. They landed several tarpon at the Seven Mile Bridge plus yellowtails on the reef off Marathon
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.