Outdoors

Backcountry tournament a success despite the high winds

Larry Weppler from Bellaire, Texas shows off a nice 8-pound bonefish he caught during the Jim Bokor All Tackle Bonefish and Redfish shootout. This was one of four bones caught in addition to six redfish.
Larry Weppler from Bellaire, Texas shows off a nice 8-pound bonefish he caught during the Jim Bokor All Tackle Bonefish and Redfish shootout. This was one of four bones caught in addition to six redfish.

A windy week to say the least! If you did not notice, last week was a big wind event, meaning that most chose to stay in port.

But those that got out found a healthy bite in the backcountry and offshore, despite the conditions.

Offshore, the Jimmy Johnson Fishing Championship took place off Key Largo with top honors going to team Rock Star with 15 sailfish releases over the two-day tournament. The largest kingfish caught weighted 32.9 pounds and was caught by team Weez in the Keys; there were a total of 133 billfish caught between 10 teams.

By far this has been the best sailfish bite we have experienced here in the Keys so far this year! Most choose to fish live baits like ballyhoo, goggle eyes, and small blue runners under kites between 110-150 feet.

Down south out of Post Card Inns Marina, Capt. Jon Reynolds and his crew aboard the Drop Back caught a variety this week. Slow trolling live ballyhoo along the edge produced several nice kingfish 10-20 pounds, sailfish, some dolphin in the 5- to 15-pound range and a few wahoo.

Yellowtail fishing continues to be consistent in 75-110 feet, with most fish averaging 3 to 4 pounds, with larger flags caught every trip.

On the reef out of Key Largo, Capt. Chan Warner aboard the party boat Gulfstream had no problem going out and putting his clients on the fish all week. Targeting mostly yellowtail snapper, the Gulfstream returned to the dock everyday either limited out or really close. Fishing chunk ballyhoo on the bottom also produces good amounts of mutton snapper 5-12 pounds caught while chumming for the yellowtails.

In the backcountry your options were limited when it came to areas to fish. Most choose to hide from the 20- to 30-mph winds fishing hidden pockets in Florida Bay, and a few braved the rough ride and fished East Cape and Lake Ingram.

This past week also saw the 20th annual Jim Bokor Islamorada All Tackle Bonefish and Redfish Shootout. Fifteen teams braved the windy conditions over three days. For the second year in a row, there was more bonefish caught (55) than redfish (29) with Grand Champion Honors going to Capt. Jared Raskob and his angler Jim Bokor, Jr.

Together they amassed nine slams totaling 2,250 points. Largest bonefish went to Randy Krogman fishing with Capt. Mike Kozma (28.7inches); largest redfish went to Jim Bokor, Jr. (30.7inches).

A special thanks to Tournament Director Betsy Bullard for making everything perfect even though the conditions weren’t.

Tarpon have started showing up around their local haunts this week with a few boats striking silver fishing dead baits on the bottom of channels and passes locally.

Expect this bite to steadily increase as we begin to experience less wind and warmer temperatures. If you want reliable tarpon, then Everglades National Park is the place to be this week, with good amounts of poons found in Whitewater Bay and along the outer banks of Florida Bay.

Top water lures and 5- to 7-inch “root beer” or “white jerk” baits have been putting fish into the air when not fishing bait or fly. Most tarpon have been averaging 40-60 pounds, with larger ones caught almost every day.

Those of you who know me, know that to me, fishing is more than just a game, it is a way of life. So fish hard and fish often!

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