It's Cinco de Mayo and the time has come for us to keep our groupers, legally. On May 1, our shallow water grouper season opened.
Black, red and gag grouper can now be brought to the dock, as long — as they are of legal size, of course.
Reef fishing was steady over the past couple of weeks, with many boats in the fleet limiting out on yellowtail snappers.
The groupers have been gathered happily there as well generally. We've been releasing them for several months. The wind blows and things change, that's just the way it has to be.
There were a few sailfish around over the past couple of weeks and a handful of permits on the wrecks that bit when the wind dropped out. Nice muttons continue to come off the patches and at the main reef edge close to the bottom.
A little farther offshore, there were scattered dolphin for most of the fleet. Near the Islamorada hump some blackfin tuna and a few bonita and skipjack frenzied at the surface, while greater amberjack swarmed near the bottom.
Sharks of a wide variety are aware of the presence of those amberjacks. If you want to pull on something big, try dropping a bullet-sized bonita or somesuch slab of meat up current of the hump maybe a quarter of a mile, and watch what happens. Don't forget the heavy wire leader for chafe!
Right now there are lots of varieties of sharks, like bull sharks, tigers and hammerheads all around the hump and hump areas. Seeing one can be exciting enough, let alone hooking into one.
Even further offshore, the time is right right now to catch a big swordfish. It takes a good amount of patience and persistence and all can be worth the sacrifice and focus during the month of May. Captain Nick Stanczyk guided his anglers once again to a jumbo sword during the day last week. His angler and friend Justin and Justin's family all working together boated a 350-pound broadbill after over an hour's fight.
On another trip, Capt. Nick reported releasing a juvenile sword, and they also caught an oil fish about 4 feet long while deep dropping, and that's definitely one you don't see every day.
As far as a dolphin report, I think we need more current to get things going. However, there were schoolies from 3-6 pounds aboard many of the boats last week, but I would have to say the big slammer news came from the "Buzz On" charter boat out of Bud N’ Mary’s Marina where they had three big bull dolphin from 30 to 35 pounds on three separate trips.
Fishing closer to home and in the backcountry on skiffs, most of the guides are busy and are catching tarpon both day and night on live, dead and fly style. Anglers overall have been sporting bent rods and smiling faces!
The fishing around the areas of the Upper Keys has been fantastic both offshore and in the backcountry. Enjoy yourself out there and please keep me posted on what you catch.
Capt. Donald Deputy writes for The Reporter every other week. Reach him direct with your very own personal fish tales and photos at firstname.lastname@example.org