Lots of yellowtail and mahi to fill your coolers

Islamorada resident Henry Danzig displays two ‘flag’ yellowtail snappers he caught last week.
Islamorada resident Henry Danzig displays two ‘flag’ yellowtail snappers he caught last week.

East winds brought waves of dolphin through our offshore areas last week. Much of the offshore fleet spent time trolling for blackfin tuna and dolphin near the hump areas.

Some schools of dolphin were found inside the hump depths and some were found further offshore.

There were several large amberjacks caught including an 80-pound beast that made the ultimate mistake and ate a whole bonita aboard the Reef Runner, out of Whale Harbor. There was a 139-pound swordfish caught aboard the Catch 22 charter boat last week. I heard reports of a few sailfish caught as well around town recently. Sailfish were seen swimming in shallow water near the top of the reef last week over the sandy bottom.

April is transition month both offshore and in the backcountry, meaning there could be lots of opportunities for a wide variety any given day fishing the areas of the Upper Keys. For example, Capt. Skip Nielsen guided his angling friends to a backcountry grand slam last week. Kristine and Jeffrey Thomson had quite a day of fishing despite the windy conditions. During a days outing, they caught tarpon, snook, redfish, Goliath grouper, trout and a few other scallywags. The best part being all fish were released.

Big tarpon were also biting for Capt. Skip and his guests Lora Trichero, son Carlo and fiance Stephanie. They each caught one. Stephanie caught her first tarpon of her life, and it was a monster of a fish — well over 100 pounds. On the way back home that day, they stopped and caught some nice mangrove snappers for dinner.

Other guides like John Johansen and Jeff Beeler have been having no problem finding big tarpon for their eager anglers so far this Spring. Stay tuned for more tarpon reports in weeks to come as prime tarpon season is just getting underway.

There was a wide variety reported from the offshore fleet last week. Reports came in of cobia, African pompano and continued king mackerel action at some of the wrecks and ledges anywhere from 120 feet of water to 220 feet of water off the Long Key area. Live cigar minnows and pilchards seemed to be the live baits of choice.

Yellowtail snapper were biting well for local anglers anchored up fishing with lots of chum in their chum bags. Captain Frank Lee caught 40 yellowtails quickly in a half day's effort with his guests aboard his 31-foot Bertram (their legal limit of 10 per person). My buddy Henry Danzig also checked in. His group caught beautiful flag yellowtails up to 6 pounds from their chumslick on a recent trip to the reef. That was in addition to some big groupers they plucked from off the bottom.

Some of the best fishing of the year will take place this month. My advice is to be ready for anything during any given day during April. Anything from grunts to makos, be prepared because the Upper Keys is a place where opportunity will present itself sooner or later if you go enough, and if your paying attention. Keep me posted on how you made out!

Capt. Donald Deputy writes for The Reporter every other week. Reach him direct with your very own personal fish tales and photos at