As we get ready to transition from May to June, we see the tarpon fishery wind down.
Within the next couple of weeks, the tarpon will head back to wherever they came from. The bite should remain good into June but the peak of the run is just about over. So if you're still looking to catch your 2015 silver king, you better get out there now.
On the reef, the yellowtail snapper bite remains strong, with plenty of keeper size fish (14 to 15 inches) in 50 to 70 feet of water. And we're starting to see more mangrove snapper mixed with the yellowtails.
All of the snapper varieties are beginning their summer spawn, causing them to be ravenous. Therefore, copious amounts of chum are essential to attract them to the boat and keep their attention once there.
Good numbers of grouper are still coming off the reef, patches and channel humps.
On the reef, it's primarily black groupers, and they're taking large baits, such as grunts and keeper size snappers. The patches and channel humps offer black, red and gag groupers, and live pinfish or ballyhoo work well here.
The wrecks are holding large black groupers plus amberjack and jack crevalle. Grunts, bluerunners and other big live baits are the ticket.
But the big prizes on the wrecks are the mutton snappers. The best baits are live pinfish and ballyhoo but if you can't get either, a butterflied ballyhoo will do the trick.
Offshore, the dolphin bite remains strong, with sizes varying from schoolies to gaffers on a day-to-day basis. However, in the last week to 10 days, there have been quite a few large specimens in the 30- to 40-pound class, plus a monster 61-pounder caught by Capt. Bobby Manske off Marathon.
Frigate birds are the giveaway for the big fish. All the usual signs -- weed lines, floating debris, terns -- indicate the schoolies and gaffers.
Some of the floating debris is holding really nice tripletail. These fish can be finicky, especially if you spook them. What works best for these tasty, prehistoric-looking fish are small live pinfish or shrimp on light tackle and a small one-eighth- to quarter-ounce, jighead. Just be sure to present the bait directly in front of their face. Otherwise, the jacks and triggerfish will beat the tripletail to your bait.
You'll often also find wahoo under this drifting trash. Don't underestimate the size of some of these fish by using tackle that’s too light. Thirty-pound gear does the trick nicely.
There haves been quite a few sailfish caught offshore lately. These fish are less particular than their reef-dwelling kindred we have in the wintertime and will take just about any live bait or trolled naked ballyhoo.
The week's best
The SeaSquared boats had a mixture of charters last week, including offshore, reef/wreck, tarpon and shark. Offshore, good numbers of schoolie- and gaffer-size dolphin were caught. On the reef and wrecks, all the snapper variety plus black grouper came into the boats. The tarpon bite at Bahia Honda was on again, off again, but the shark fishing in Florida Bay was off the chain.
Capt. Chuck Brodzki guided brothers Sven and Hans Bone, from Bozeman, Mont., to catch and release two tarpon in the 80-pound class using blue crabs at night in the channels off Long Key. Sven lost a giant fish, estimated at 100 pounds, on the bridge pilings, while Hans battled a behemoth at approximately 150 pounds for three hours until the fish bit through the leader.
Capt. Ariel Medero of Big Game Sportfishing in Marathon reports red-hot dolphin fishing anywhere from 400 to 1,000 feet. Yellowtails, mangroves and groupers are biting on the reef, and amberjacks and mutton snappers are starting to bite on the wrecks. On the bayside, mangroves, groupers and sharks are your best bet, and the tarpon are still biting at the bridges.
Bud Robertson and his family from Clearwater caught schoolie dolphin and tilefish with Capt. Shawn Creviston aboard Sundance Sportfishing in Marathon.
Capt. Moe Mottice of Moe's Lucky Fleet in Key West reports good dolphin fishing on large weed patches and debris in 350 to 1,200 feet of water, with wahoo and even marlin coming into the spread, enticed by their ballyhoo rigs. Inshore and around Key West harbor, tarpon, sharks and snappers are keeping their anglers busy.
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.