May has finally arrived and the fishing could not be better here in the Upper Keys. Anglers from all over the world flock to the Keys for some of the best fishing of the entire year.
Opportunity is the theme of this month as grouper come back into season and the tarpon are being caught on the oceanside, bayside, and at the bridges; there is truly something for everyone during the month of May.
Out in the deep there has been lots of action to be had as the water temperatures heat up and the bite turns on. Fishing out of the Ocean Reef Club aboard the War Bird, Capt. Dana Banks has been quite busy putting his clients on an exciting variety of species this past week. A good push of sailfish combined with some Northeast winds made for the perfect conditions to allow sight fishing for sailfish as they tailed on the surface just off the reef. Pitching live baits like blue runners, cigar minnows, sardines, and ballyhoo made for some exciting takes and sensational fights on light tackle.
Capt. Dana even stated that several other boats were reporting double-digit releases. When the sailfish action slowed, the War Bird would head into deeper water in search of the great dolphin bite that has been really dependable as of late. While dragging lures and feathers caught the smaller dolphin, the bigger ones were found under frigate birds. For this Capt. Dana had his mates pitching live baits, which produced several fish up to 40 pounds in addition to some sizable blackfin tunas.
If you have been around a boat ramp, bait store or marina this past week, then you have heard the word tarpon. The return of the silver king has anglers giddy with excitement. Around the bridges the double top-secret bait of choice has been live mullet that can be bought from local bait boats, stores and marinas if you dont have the time or ability to catch them yourself.
The rig of choice for most is 20- to 30-pound braided lines with 40- to 80-pound fluorocarbon leader with a 4/0-10/0-circle hook; size of the hook depends on the size of your bait. In addition to the mullet, live crabs have been getting the job done for most fishing the bridges when placed below a float and drifted with current.
Outback, fresh dead ladyfish and mullet have not only been producing tarpon but big sharks like lemons, bulls and blacktips around areas with current. When the silver kings refuse to bite the redfish and snook bite has been top notch around the Flamingo area. Lures like gold/silver Johnson spoons and Trigger-X baits rigged weedless will help you locate the fish faster when working areas with dirty water.
With all the attention focused on the tarpon, many have overlooked the awesome seatrout bite happening in the center of the bay. Mullet muds can be found quite easily and are holding lots of seatrout, ladyfish, jacks, bluefish and pompano that can be caught with several types of lures and rigs.
Most guides prefer Paradise Poppers with two feet of 20-pound fluorocarbon leader to a ¼ ounce jig tipped with Trigger-X or Gulp shrimp colors new penny and root beer. When popped every 10-15 seconds, these rigs produce a great bite all anglers can really enjoy.
Big changes are coming for everyone who enjoys fishing, sightseeing and boating inside Florida Bay in Everglades National Park. If you missed out on the public meetings last month, it is not too late to make your opinions heard. This will be the last week comments will be taken, ending on May 12. You can do this by commenting on the Everglades National Park website at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/. Click on the comment tab, then type in what you think about the parks plan to make 1/3 of Florida Bay off limits to combustion engine use. This is your last chance to make your voice heard before it is to late.
Those of you who know me, know that fishing to me 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 email@example.com or call (305) 481-0111.