Memorial Day Weekend is here again. Hate it or love it, it looks like we are in store for some nice weather giving everybody a chance to get out on the water and fish.
Offshore, after a few days of wet and windy weather, the dolphin bite has been improving with the calmer conditions making it easier to locate productive areas. Schools of dolphin averaging 4 to 8 pounds have been the norm this week, with much larger bulls and cows up to 30 pounds or more always a possibility anywhere from 500 to 800 feet.
Feather draggers have been finding success with colors like blue/white or orange/green, when numbers of fish are located. Chunk ballyhoo or bonito keeps the action going. Larger fish tend to be more cautiousk, so having a few live baits like pilchards, pinfish or small hard tails will give you the best chance of hooking up.
As always, weed lines, current rips and magical pieces of debris are fish attractors, with bird activity being the best indicators of productive areas.
Over the past few weeks their have been a handful of marlin caught up and down the Keys, so always have a big rod on hand for when opportunity knocks.
On the humps, the blackfin and skipjack tuna have been here and there averaging 5 to 10 pounds, caught with small 2- to 3-inch purple/black or red/black feathers. If the tuna do not show, the amberjack caught on the bottom around these areas have been very reliable, caught with bonito bellies, ballyhoo or live baits like pinfish or speedos.
Permit continue to be caught around the wrecks in 150-250 feet with live crabs averaging 15 to 30 pounds. But, you will need an early start when targeting them.
On the reef, the yellowtail snapper have been very happy and prevalent in 80-125 feet, holding around structure, averaging 2-3 pounds, with larger fish up to 4 pounds and more. Mixed in with the tails have been mangrove snappers, jacks, grouper, barracuda and a few mackerel from time to time.
Grouper fishing has slowed down in respect to the legal fish caught, but if you put in the time, there are still lots of big fish out there.
Patch reef fishing continues to be consistent, with mixed sizes of snapper, grouper, hogfish, barracuda and assorted reef fish providing lots of fantastic light tackle fishing. All you need is some live shrimp, weights and some GPS numbers and you are in business. This has been an excellent choice for anglers with smaller boats during those windier days looking to bend a rod and catch some dinner. Always make sure to bring along a current copy of the fishing regulations or download a fish identifier app that can help keep things legal.
In the backcountry, the seatrout bite remains very reliable, found in muds around Flamingo along with pompano, ladyfish, jacks and sharks. Redfish are becoming more commonly found on the flats and channels through out the backcountry. Snook fishing has been good around the Cape Sable area, but be aware as the number of horse flies in this area can and have been almost too much to handle.
Tarpon fishing continues to be the main focus of most anglers caught locally around the bridges and channels during different stages of the tide all day and night. Live baits like mullet, crabs and large pilchards have been the go-to baits to have. Fishing dead baits like mullet and ladyfish have produced tarpon along with grouper of mixed sizes, sharks and a few jacks.
Fly fisherman have been sight fishing the silver kings, throwing darker-colored flies during the cloudier days and lighter-colored flies during the sunnier days with mixed results.
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.