Dolphin bite has slowed, but backcountry is the place to be

Greg and his good fishin buddy Rich show off a redfish, part of a backcountry slam they caught while fishing the backcountry with Capt Mike Makowski of Blackfoot Charters.
Greg and his good fishin buddy Rich show off a redfish, part of a backcountry slam they caught while fishing the backcountry with Capt Mike Makowski of Blackfoot Charters.

I don’t know about you, but this past week was a hot one everywhere on the water, humid to say the least.

Overall fishing is great, however, we have seen the offshore dolphin bite turn hot for a few days then dead cold others, while the tarpon fishing has improved.

The most consistent bite going has been yellowtail on the reef and snook and seatrout in the backcountry.

Offshore it has been lots of ups and downs with boats fishing 30-plus miles out looking for dolphin. Everyday some boats return with fish, but overall the dolphin bite has been slow with a few skipjack, bonito and small blackfin tunas caught while trolling current rips and small weedlines.

Those few captains with numbers to the double top-secret wrecks have been catching mutton snapper, kingfish, amberjack, grouper and almaco jacks. Mostly on live or fresh dead speedos, ballahoo and pinfish or with butterfly jigs fished close to the bottom.

The most consistent and predictable action has been the yellowtail snapper bite from Marathon to Ocean reef. Fishing in 90 to 120 feet while chumming heavily has also produced mangrove and mutton snappers of mixed sizes, a few mackerel and groupers, mostly black and red.

Patch reef fishing continues to provide great rod bending action for those looking to catch some dinner while fishing from a smaller boat. Live shrimp fished on the bottom in 10 to 40 feet will catch most species like grouper, snapper, hogfish and assorted reef fish. However, this time of year some patches may be inundated with hundreds of small yellowtail or grunts. If that is your thing, great! Otherwise keep moving to different patches until you find what you are looking for.

Closer to home it seems like the tarpon bite picked up for everyone this week, whether you fish fly or bait, day or night. Sight fishing conditions have been exceptional giving fly fisherman almost perfect light all day.

However, the fly selection has changed considerable from day to day, so having a fly box full of a wide variety of different color patterns and sizes is required.

Live mullet and crabs fished around the local bridges have not only provided tarpon but grouper, snapper, permit, jacks, barracuda and sharks of all sizes.

Some of the bigger bridges are home to several big tiger and hammerhead sharks looking to make a meal out of your glory. If it happens to you, just remember that the sharks got to eat too.

The backcountry continues to be a quiet place these past few weeks with a handful of boats seen daily. Fishing has been good and getting better every day it seems.

Snook, sharks and seatrout have been the most consistent bite in the backcountry with tarpon, redfish and snapper numbers changing daily.

The rainfall on the mainland has made any outflow from the mainland a hot spot for fish with all the bait funneling out of these areas. Live bait like shrimp, pilchards and pinfish work great, however, this is a great time of year for artificial lures like 4- to 7-inch jerk baits colors black/silver and white, rigged weedless for shallow water or tipped on a chartreuse ¼-3/8 ounce jig head for deeper waters.

Mullet muds can be found throughout Florida Bay right now, most will have numbers of ladyfish, jacks, seatrout, snappers, sharks and the occasional sawfish. Gulp-tipped jigs worked across the bottom have been effective for all species in the muds colors new penny and molting.

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.