What a fantastic week of fishing here in the Florida Keys, with just perfect weather conditions and a great bite happening offshore and in the backcountry. This time of year it is all about the dolphin, grouper and tarpon fishing. Some days it is almost to hard to choose which to target.
Offshore, the dolphin bite was on this week with lots of schoolies found from 200 feet out to 800 feet. Calm conditions have made fisherman happy as well as the fish.
Some larger dolphin up to 50 pounds were caught, as well as several 30-40 pounders. There even was a white marlin or two caught this week.
Some of the best dolphin action has been found around weed lines, current rips and pieces of debris, with bird activity being the best indicator of productive areas.
Trolling lures and skirted ballahoo have been the best way to find the fish. And, live baits like pilchards, pinfish and small hard tails have caught the larger ones in the school.
Sailfish are still a possibility, but you may have to put in some time and travel a little to find the fish as their numbers have been dwindling these past few weeks.
On the humps and deeper wrecks, the tuna bite is still going strong, however, with the calm conditions, you have to get an early start to catch the morning bite. Sharks continue to plague tuna fisherman, especially around the Islamorada hump, so most boats switch to something else when this happens. That something else has been bottom fishing for grouper and amberjack around wrecks and ledges in 200-300 feet with live or fresh cut baits.
Fishing the reef continues to produce a reliable yellowtail snapper bite in 90-120 feet. A good bottom machine will help you locate the schools. Yellowtails averaging 2-3 pounds have been the norm, with larger flags up to 5 pounds possible, caught on silversides and live pilchards drifted back into the chum slick.
Along with the tails have been cero mackerel, jacks, bonito, a few mutton snappers and a barracuda or two.
Permit fishing on the wrecks continues to produce fish averaging 15-25 pounds, caught on live crabs drifted over the wreck.
Tarpon fishing has really picked up this week, with calmer conditions and warmer water temperatures to the delight of anglers everywhere. Oceanside, the fish finally started pushing in big schools looking for a crab or well-placed fly to slurp down.
Around the bridges and local haunts, live mullet, crabs and large pilchards have been the baits to have when looking to hook up with a silver king. Most tarpon are averaging 40 to 80 pounds, with much larger fish caught up to 150 pounds caught during the day and night. Additional catches have been sharks of assorted sizes, big jacks, groupers and a few barracudas adding to the excitement.
In the backcountry, the sea trout bite remains strong and the tarpon have started moving into the area found in basins and channels rolling and chasing bait. Expect the tarpon bite to only improve, as we get further into the month of May.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call (305) 481-0111.