Head to the reef to fill the cooler. While the quantity of mangrove snapper may have lessened a bit, the yellowtail population is growing in Florida Keys waters.
Use plenty of chum in the 60- to 90-foot depths and the waters should turn yellow behind your boat. Cut pieces of ballyhoo will get the yellowtails to bite. With the water temps still very warm, early in the morning or late in the evening is the best time to fish for the bigger 'tails.
Should your yellowtails quit biting by midmorning, move on to the patch reefs in 20 to 30 feet of water. You'll be able to hunt down legal-size fish in the 12- to 13-inch class if you're looking to fill a limit.
A good sign that fall is, indeed, coming soon is the presence of cero mackerel on the reef. They're taking live ballyhoo; be sure to use light No. 2 or No. 3 wire.
What the reef lacks in mangrove snapper you will find in Florida Bay. Not only are they there in good numbers, but their size is quite respectable.
Successful offshore fishing for dolphin and tuna is day to day. If you luck upon a sizeable weed patch, you may also find some dolphin. Or you may not. The ones you do find are most likely on the small side, but still some keepers in the mix.
There's been more blackfin and skipjack tuna for the taking than there has been dolphin. You'll need to go out to the humps to find them, and look for frigate birds to indicate the presence of tuna. Trolling as well as throwing live baits will both work.
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.