It just seems like the weather has been against us for the past month. Windy conditions have plagued fishermen, but just when you think “this will never end,” we finally have one or two days of reasonable winds allowing everybody to get out and fish.
As you read this, April is coming to a close, which means the end of snook season until Sept. 1. However, May 1 is the beginning of grouper season and we can all finally start keeping these tasty reef fish that have been rubbing it in our faces for the past few months.
Offshore we are experiencing the beginning of our dolphin season with lots of schoolie-sized schools found out deep in 400-800 feet around weed lines, current rips and floating debris. However, they are not all small. Several fish pushing 40 pounds were reported this week, caught while trolling feathers and plugs colors blue/white and purple/silver flash.
Captain Jon Reynolds and his crew aboard the Drop Back had several very productive days catching mostly schoolie-sized dolphin with a few nice gaffers showing up in every school.
There were a few sailfish caught just off the reef line, but not in big numbers. The opportunity remains nevertheless.
Around the humps, there has been good numbers of “football” sized blackfin tuna caught on small 2- to 30-inch feathers colors black/purple or black/red. Also on the humps and deeper wrecks, the amberjacks have been thick averaging 15 to 25 pounds and more, caught on live baits fished on the bottom. If you plan on attempting this, be aware of the sharks, as they have also been thick at times.
The reef fishing has been good for yellowtail snapper with almost every spot on the reef line holding schools in 80 to 120 feet. Mixed in with the tails have been mutton snappers in the 5- to 15-pound range, groupers mostly red and blacks, and a handful of kingfish of mixed sizes.
During the windier days, the patch reef fishing provided great light tackle action with boats reporting numbers of porgies, hogfish, snappers, groupers, and assorted reef fish. They’re being caught while fishing the bottom with live shrimp or pilchards on 1/0-3/0 circle hooks and just enough weight to keep your bait on the bottom.
In the backcountry, the seatrout bite remains strong. They’re found in mullet muds around Florida Bay. Mixed in with the trout have been plenty of ladyfish, jacks and a few sharks. Tarpon fishing around the outer banks continues to improve with most bites coming from dead baits fished on the bottom. Up on the flats around Flamingo snook and a few redfish are being caught on jerk baits colors white and new penny rigged weedless.
The tarpon bite has been slow for the past few weeks, with only a handful of fish caught every day around town as well as in the backcountry. Fresh dead baits fished on the bottom of channels and passes with murky waters have been more effective than live baits fished on or near the surface these past few weeks. Although, this week the bite really picked up with almost every boat having several bites daily with only a few fish coming to the boat.
As you know, hooking a tarpon is not the same thing as landing a tarpon. Tarpon averaging 60-80 pounds have been the norm with other species like sharks, jacks, barracuda and assorted small groupers helping pass the time between tarpon bites.
For 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!
Capt. Mike Makowski is a backcountry fishing guide and owner of Blackfoot Charters in Key Largo. His column appears biweekly. To send him fishing reports or photos, e-mail email@example.com or call (305) 481-0111.