Mahi action remains steady offshore

Large mahi like this one, caught on the Reef Runner docked at Whale Harbor Marina in Islamorada, are being reported by captains and anglers fishing the Upper Keys.
Large mahi like this one, caught on the Reef Runner docked at Whale Harbor Marina in Islamorada, are being reported by captains and anglers fishing the Upper Keys.

This week we are catching our breath in general after a very hectic Memorial Day weekend. The busy season has started, and I am so thankful to be on the move again.

We have lots of interesting fishing reports to share around the Upper Keys areas, both offshore and in the backcountry. Offshore last week, there was a color change right outside the main reef with a few sailfish coming down it. There were also some fat blackfin tuna swimming into that northeast current in the same area.

Some boats had two to four sailfish each day, while the edge was made up. It lasted for just a couple days though off Islamorada. Capt Nick Stanczyk guided his anglers to a large swordfish. They actually went three for three on a day trip, the largest one brought to the scales at Bud N’ Mary's Marina weighing 192 pounds. The uniqueness of this report also proves yet again you just never know what is lurking and/or migrating in the Gulfstream and in the blue waters of the Florida Straits.

We saw queen snapper hit the docks as well as tilefish caught from the bottom in 800 feet of water and a variety of other bottom dwellers.

Dolphin fishing remains good for school — sized and gaffer — sized fish anywhere from 8 to 28 miles off the Upper Keys. A few larger and some slammer — sized dolphin (over 20 pounds) — were caught last week, however, I did not hear of any fish reported over the 50-pound mark locally. That size range I classify as "super-slammer." I would venture to predict though we could see some "over 50" in weeks to come.

Captain Paul Johnson guided his group aboard Reef Runner out of Whale Harbor to some nice slammers last week. So too did Capt. Paul Ross aboard Relentless, who weighed in a 40-pound bull on a recent trip.

Reef fishing has been steady for yellowtail and mangrove snapper. There were reports of 5- to 8-pound mutton snappers in the chum slicks recently, with a few caught using traditional flat lining yellowtail techniques last week on 12-pound test spinning gear.

Some nice black grouper and amberjack were on display in the afternoons at many of the local marinas over the weekend. Snapper fishing in the evening is starting to pick up and should continue to improve through the next couple of months. It’s a great way to beat the heat.

Local party boats are sailing from the Upper Keys right now offering night trips if snapper fishing tickles your fancy after a good Keys sun set.

Backcountry action has resumed after a wind switch or two, which made conditions a challenge at best for a couple days last week. Sustained winds over 20 knots associated with a weather change made things difficult at Cape Sable, and along the park boundaries.

High winds churned local waters to a milky and unfavorable color for a few days on western Florida Bay. Some guides ran past Flamingo and other areas finding a lee from the stiff breezes.

Tarpon, snook and redfish were all in good supply and caught mostly on small pilchards, sometimes deep in the Everglades canal system. We got a report from Capt. Jeff Beeler and other guides, who caught numerous tarpon last week closer to home. Tarpon are good overall right now. Many fish are at or near the 100 pound mark.

The word is that guides are booked steady lately, which tells me as an angler to make plans ahead of time. It's always wise to give your captain plenty of notice.

Offshore or backcountry, it always a good idea to book well in advance if possible. After all it is our busy season right now and this trend should continue until the kids go back to school.

Or as they say "God willing and the creek don't rise." Thanks again Dad for helping me to see over the dash and account for the current at a very early age.

Happy Father's Day in advance!

Capt. Donald Deputy covers the sport of fishing in and around the areas of the Upper Keys. Reach him direct at with your personal fish tales and photos.