Big pay offs for those who braved the rains

Schoolie-sized dolphin, like these caught aboard the First Choice, greet anglers able to get offshore in the rain.
Schoolie-sized dolphin, like these caught aboard the First Choice, greet anglers able to get offshore in the rain.

Talk about rainy season, huh? A rainy/cloudy week for sure here in the Keys and most of South Florida. This is what about every angler experienced while on the water.

Luckily the coming week looks a lot drier at the time I wrote this report. Even with the rain, many boats still ventured out reporting some great catches despite the conditions.

Offshore, dolphin season is in full swing with boats finding and catching fish anywhere from 350-2,500 feet around current rips, weed lines and areas of bird activity. Also in the mix have been lots of tunas around the humps and not far off the reef line as well as a few random wahoo.

Capt. Lee Lavery from the Upper Keys Fishing Club fished a half-day out of Key Largo trolling for tuna and dolphin before the rain forced her back to the dock. She found a great bite in 200-300 feet catching over a dozen nice blackfin tuna averaging 5-10 pounds and one 26-inch dolphin, while trolling black/purple 2- to 3-inch feathers and cedar plugs.

Out of Islamorada, Capt. Jon Reynolds and his crew aboard the Drop Back reported a solid dolphin bite with not a lot of big fish, but plenty of schoolie-size fish around in numbers. When not off shore, the Drop Back has been catching its limit of yellowtail snappers with ease in 90-125 feet. Capt. Jon also did a few trips with biologist from the marine fisheries, catching and releasing red snapper locally with live baits and fresh cut bonito bellies.

Reef fishing has been a great fall back position this week, with a very consistent yellowtail snapper bite; the larger flags have been caught on live pilchards as opposed to dead baits. Mixed in with the tails have been a few bonitos, mackerel and mangrove snappers, which are becoming more common.

Fishing around wrecks and structure continues to produce black and red groupers of mixed sizes along with a few mutton snapper, caught on live baits, trolling plugs or deep jigs. Also around the wrecks have been amberjack and permit, whose numbers vary from day to day.

Tarpon fishing has been most productive at night recently with fish averaging 60-120 pounds caught on live mullet or crabs. Falling tide has been the most productive tide, especially when fishing live baits.

Fly fisherman have been having success fishing worm patterns on the ocean side during the day. Dead bait fisherman have been catching tarpon in addition to sharks, jacks and groupers of mixed sizes. If you plan on fishing this way, bring lots of bait as the little bait stealers (snappers, pinfish and catfish) take their share and can be thick depending on the area you fish.

In the backcountry there have not been many boats, as most are out chasing tarpon. However, the seatrout bite has been the most consistent bite happening this week, found in mullet muds around Flamingo, Blue Bank and Ox Foot Bank, along with jacks, ladyfish and sharks.

Snook fishing has been up and down depending on the day, with those experiencing the best action taking long rides deep into the Everglades. Live baits like pilchards and pinfish have been the most productive with 5- to 7-inch jerk baits, colors “new penny” or black/silver flake and silver spoons a close second.

In addition to the snook have been a few redfish and small tarpon, but not in big numbers, and usually caught on artificial lures while working shorelines and creek mouths.

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 or call (305) 481-0111.