Tarpon back giving anglers fits, other species biting too

Dan Forrester and his group from Atlanta land a tarpon at Bahia Honda Bridge with Capt. Jason Bell and SeaSquared Charters.
Dan Forrester and his group from Atlanta land a tarpon at Bahia Honda Bridge with Capt. Jason Bell and SeaSquared Charters.

Well, folks, dolphin fishing is most assuredly picking up offshore. They’re in 500 to 600 feet of water under frigate birds working the surface. It’s a mix of gaffers and schoolies, with the occasional fish in the slammer category.

On the reef, the yellowtail snapper bite is very good, with lots of fish in the 15- to 20-inch class. Some of the deeper spots hold flag-size fish, which are chewing heavily as they get closer to their first spawn around the full moon in May.

Now is the time of year you need copious amounts of chum to hold the interest of the yellowtails. We supplement our frozen block chum with a mixture of oats and YellowtailUp from Aquatic Nutrition.

There are a few mutton snapper on the reef, as well, mostly medium-size fish in the five- to 10-pound range. There’s also a scattering of mangrove snapper, and these are large fish at four to six pounds. These muttons and mangroves eat small pinfish or pilchards fished on a jighead near the bottom.

Great news: Only a couple more days until grouper season opens. And there have been some nice fish released in recent weeks, mostly blacks on the reef. Come May 1 these are fair game. So inspect your grouper tackle now as these fish will exploit any weaknesses.

The Atlantic wrecks hold muttons as well as amberjacks. There are large black grouper here as well as on the artificial reefs. This fishing will improve as we get into May.

The tarpon bite is in full swing around the bridges and passes. Live mullet, pinfish or crabs are your baits of choice, depending on where you’re fishing. Check with your local tackle shop for what works in your area. If you don’t know how to get your own mullet, shoot us an email at and we will put you in contact with our provider.

The bridges also provide excellent shark fishing. If you’ve ever dreamed of catching a large hammerhead or bull, now’s your time. Some of these beasts come in at 15 feet and 400-plus pounds. So you’ll need large baits to attract this interest, such as jack crevalle. And, your tackle needs to be at lease 30-pound class.

In the same areas, you’ll find lemon, blacktip and spinner sharks. These can be caught on lighter gear.

In Florida Bay, there’s very good fishing for mangrove snappers on the banks and shallower wrecks. There’s also quite a few seat rout in the same areas. Use pinfish or shrimp.

The week’s best

Tarpon season kicked into action for the SeaSquared boats this week.

We fished both the Seven Mile and Bahia Honda bridges, and our guests had good early-season landing rates. As we continue reef, wreck and bay fishing, we are rewarded with ever-larger yellowtails and mangroves, with a few muttons mixed in. And there were lots of groupers released in anticipation of May 1 opening day.

Mother Nature laid the winds down for the Taylor and Dukes families to fish the reef with Capt. Kevin Wilson of Knee Deep Charters out of the Geiger Key Marina. They limited out on yellowtails with even the youngest, Taylor at age 7, bringing in some big ones.

Capt. Chris Johnson specializes in offshore, gulf/bay, reef/wreck, sailfish, shark and tarpon fishing with SeaSquared Charters, docked at Faro Blanco Resort and Yacht Club in Marathon. You can reach him at (305) 743-5305, and