It’s snapper time in Keys waters

The Kitts group got in on the outstanding mangrove snapper bite with Capt. Wayne Burri and SeaSquared Charters.
The Kitts group got in on the outstanding mangrove snapper bite with Capt. Wayne Burri and SeaSquared Charters. SeaSquared Charters

If you’re looking to stock your freezer with delicious snappers, and have a lot of fun doing it, now is the time. The reef bit is on fire for yellowtail, mangrove and mutton snappers and even still a few groupers.

The yellowtails and mangroves can be found anywhere from 30 feet of water out to 50 or 60 feet, with the muttons and groupers primarily in the deeper areas. Hefty amounts of chum are required this time of year, as the warmer waters disperse it quickly. Your baits of choice are cut baits for the yellowtails, small live ballyhoo or pinfish for the mangroves and muttons and larger pinfish for the groupers.

The wrecks and artificial reefs are still producing good mutton fishing along with plenty of amberjacks and some really nice groupers. Again, use live ballyhoo or pinfish for the muttons and bigger live baits, such as large pinfish and grunts, for the AJs and groupers.

Offshore, dolphin fishing remains spotty, with the bite red-hot one day and nonexistent the next. They’ve also been pretty far out of late, 30 miles and more. All I can say is give it a try and, if it isn’t panning out for the dolphin, switch to the humps for tuna or give deep dropping a shot for barrelfish, grouper, swordfish or tilefish.

With July upon is, it’s countdown time for lobster season. This year, the two-day recreational season is July 27 and 28. So spend the waiting time prepping your gear and getting your lungs in condition so you’re good to go on the 27.

The week’s best

The SeaSquared boats stuck to the reef and wreck areas for the most part last week to take advantage of the outstanding snapper bite. Our anglers caught yellowtail, mangrove and mutton snappers plus amberjacks and yellowjacks. We had a couple of groups insist on trying the offshore bite for dolphin, only to be disappointed with the outcome. In the bay, the catch-and-release shark fishing is nothing short of stellar.

Guided by Capt. Chuck Brodzki, anglers Mike Habig from Kokomo, Ind., and Dave Stockdale from Jupiter caught a total of four tarpon using silver-dollar-size blue crabs on 20-pound spin tackle in the downtown channels of Islamorada. The fish ranged from 50 to 75 pounds, and all were caught past midnight during the full moon.

Capt. Chris Johnson specializes in offshore, gulf/bay, reef/wreck, sailfish, shark and tarpon fishing with SeaSquared Charters in Marathon. You can reach him at (305) 743-5305, and