Dolphin fishing has picked up and, with calmer conditions, lots of boats are able to get out the 18 to 25 miles necessary to find them. It's been quite the mix of fish, with plenty of slammer-size dolphin along with gaffers and schoolies, all found under birds.
Don't get too excited by the weed lines hanging in close to the reef in less than 500 feet of water. There may be plenty of dolphin there, but most likely 95 percent of them are sublegal.
The humps are still holding good numbers of blackfin tuna, anything from two- to three-pound footballs up to fish weighing 15 to 20 pounds. The smaller fish are eating trolled baits while the larger specimens are biting butterfly jigs and live baits fished deep.
Amberjack and jack crevalle are thick on the wrecks, whereas the mutton snapper fishing has been hit or miss.
Yellowtail snapper action on the reef is good right now, with the 60- to 70-foot areas the most productive. The fish have been a real mix in sizes, from sublegal to 18-inchers, all coming out of the same depth range. Be sure to have your measuring stick handy.
These same depths have also been producing pretty good numbers of keeper-size black grouper, with some fish over 20 pounds. Larger live baits are necessary to attract their attention.
A little bit shallower, in 40 to 50 feet, we're beginning to see some nice-size mangroves. As these fish prepare to spawn, the night bite should heat up. Larger chunk baits or small live baits produce best for these aggressive snappers.
Mutton snappers are mixed throughout the reef. Larger live baits, such as ballyhoo or midsize pinfish, work best.
The patch reefs are giving up a mixed bag of fish, including all the snappers and plenty of groupers, even some keeper-size reds and the occasional gag.
The week's best
The SeaSquared and the Wayne's World hit all the reef areas with our groups last week. Our anglers brought in great catches of snapper and grouper, including a good-size rock hind. Three of our groups fished with Capt. Larry Bell and his crew on the Blue Magic, and they did well with snappers, groupers, amberjack, yellowjack and jack crevalle.
Catch-and-release shark adventures rounded out our charters for the week. Landings were in the double-digits, including 20 lemons for John and Melissa Adams from Colorado Springs.
David Gross from Tavernier fished the late stage of the annual tarpon migration with Capt. Chuck Brodzki. He caught and released three of the silver kings at 65, 75 and 85 pounds, all on 20-pound spin tackle using crabs in the backcountry channels off Islamorada.
On a separate outing, 7-year-old Harper Greenwald from Boca Raton teamed up with her parents, Mike and Gina, to catch a monster 135-pound lemon shark off Long Key.
Capt. Moe Mottice and his crew at Lucky Fleet Charters in Key West report a great dolphin bite while trolling ballyhoo on weed lines, with wahoo and tuna mixed in. One of his groups even raised a blue marlin in 700 feet of water off Key West. The backcountry and inshore fishing is full of action for tarpon, snappers and sharks.
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.