Snapper action is ‘mind-boggling’

An angler aboard the Gulfstream party charter fishing boat holds a pair of nice-sized mutton snappers.
An angler aboard the Gulfstream party charter fishing boat holds a pair of nice-sized mutton snappers.

FISH TALES by Capt. Donald Deputy



Snapper action is ‘mind-boggling’


Happy Fourth of July Holiday weekend! I'm so very thankful for my freedom and am ready to celebrate the fact that we live in the greatest country in the world. 

More specifically, we are blessed to live in the greatest free island chain in the world, and most particularly the capital of the world for sport fishing and diving. 

The last two weeks of fishing has proven this to be true offshore of the Upper Keys.  Most of the dolphin have been a pretty good jaunt from the beach with some of the boats traveling over 30 miles to put their catches together. It’s not uncommon at all for the middle of a hot summer season. 

The dolphin have been mixed sizes from schoolie-sized 3-pounders up to a few 40-pound bulls. Covering that much ground, it never hurts to slow down the pace for a few miles and simply get your cockpit together for the main battle zone. 

Lately trolling in the open ocean with no signs of surface activity was a good idea. Some skippers will say "put ‘em out" based on a hunch, a feeling you get in the pit of your stomach that something lives in this area, but I don't know what it is. 

What I'm getting at is that there is a variety to catch on the troll offshore, including white and blue marlin, yellowfin tuna, even wahoo, at times. 

There were a couple white marlin caught again last week on some of the boats in the Islamorada fleet. Swordfish are being caught. Not on every single drop to the deep, but it's been fairly consistent during the day for persistent anglers. 

Tunas (black in and skipjack) can still be found around the hump and hump areas when the current of the Gulfstream rips towards the northeast and the water is a royal blue. 

I like to try to catch one or two on the way home and keep them in a clean, cold saltwater brine to enjoy fresh sushi when we hit the dock! 

It’s been hot during the day at the edge of the reef, and it can get very still when there is a lack of a breeze. In addition, slow moving current makes for stagnant conditions some summer days and the yellowtailing can be difficult at best when the water is gin-clear.  There are, however, a mind boggling number of snapper on the reef right now starting another strong spawning session if you can crack the code on the junk fish, and/or coax the "flags" into biting mode. 

I like to start snapper fishing in the evenings and on the overnight hours to beat both the heat and the crowds. Night fishing rewards can be hefty if you have enough chum to keep them biting. 

Often you can anchor in shallower water in the evenings like 40 feet or so. 

Permit are still around, but the action has been winding down at some of the wrecks and snags, it seems. 

Backcountry fishing remains exciting with fireworks taking place on many guide skiffs lately. Captain Rick Stanczyk has reported very good summer time tarpon fishing in the Everglades backcountry. There have been lots of smaller fish, mostly “the residents” in the 30- to 60-pound range. Recently, Capt. Rick fished Barry and Sarah Cross, who landed multiple backcountry SLAMS (snook, redfish, tarpon). In addition, they reported a beast 150-pound tarpon that dragged them four miles before they landed it after a two-and-a-half-hour fight. Way to go guys! 

Anglers also had several nice bonefish, including an 11-pounder with Capt. Richard Stanczyk Sr. 

Captain Skip Nielsen has reported some good action with tarpon in the backcountry and some snook as well. Capt. Skip also reported some good days bonefishing. Dr. Mark Harris from Isle of Man caught his first ever bonefish while fishing with Capt. Skip. 

Try to stay cool if you can this holiday weekend and don't forget to re-apply your sunscreen during the day. Last but not least, hydrate. The sun can be absolutely brutal on the body. Try to be mindful this week out there and enjoy! 

Capt. Donald Deputy writes for The Reporter every other week. Reach him direct at firstlightyachts@yahoo.com with your personal fish tales and photos!