Upper Keys Spring/Summer Fishing Report
March was in like a lamb and out like a lion but as April begins the weather conditions begin to calm and the bite heats up.
Offshore there have been quite a few boats catching kingfish this past week averaging from 10-20lbs with larger fish caught every day. Fresh dead ballahoo on a triple hook rig with ¼ ounce weight or less depending on the amount of current has been the most reliable rig for these toothy speeders. Mixed in with the kings have been a few mackerel and wahoo. While the sailfish season has come to an end several fish are still being caught just off the reef edge in 115-150ft with live baits like ballahoo and pilchards. Those looking to add some color to their coolers have been seeing some green and gold as the dolphin bite has been good some days and bad others. Most boats have been finding dolphin in 600-800ft, but during those days when it is slow the deep drop bite has saved the day with tilefish, vermilion, queen snapper, black belly rose fish, and a few snowy groupers. Fresh cut squid on a multi hook chicken rig with lots of weight sent to the bottom will maximize your chances of success.
The shallower patch reefs continue to be very consistent with a wide variety of species being caught. As I tell my clients this is the year of the hog. Hog fishing has been very hot all over the Upper Keys on the patch reefs in 15-30ft. Live shrimp fished on the bottom has been the hot ticket for just about every species including hogfish. Small to legal size muttons, mangrove snappers, and porgies have been plentiful in addition to assorted reef fish and the occasional permit.
Tarpon fishing was getting pretty good until the arrival of what might be our last cold front until the end of summer. With water temperatures reaching into the upper 70’s several poons were caught by the bridges and channels around Islamorada and Marathon areas during the day and night. The outer banks of Florida Bay and areas around Flamingo also saw some nice tarpon activity as well. Expect this action to heat up again as our daytime temperatures approach the upper 70’s later this week. Live baits like mullet and crabs have been the go to baits when fishing for the silver kings. However dead baits like mullet, ladyfish, and pilchards chunked or fished whole on the bottom of channels and passes have not only produced tarpon but sharks and some nice groupers as well.
The backcountry bite was a little slow last week with a few boats catching redfish, black drum, and decent numbers of snook. Mostly found around the deeper island motes and flat run offs during the lower stages of the tide. Live shrimp and pilchards have been the most reliable with gulp tipped jigs and jerk baits colors white and new penny having the most success when throwing artificial lures. The seatrout bite continues to be lacking but there have been plenty of ladyfish and jacks caught by those looking to catch some specks around the outer banks of Florida Bay. Lots of anglers have been fishing for sharks lately with dead baits like ladyfish and mullet in areas with moving water. These toothy suckers can give you a great fight and really save an otherwise slow day in the backcountry.