What a difference a few weeks can make. Warm temperatures finally arrived here in the Upper Keys, heating up the bite both offshore and in the backcountry.
Rockin the dock this past week was Capt. Jon Reynolds and his crew aboard the Drop Back out of the Post Card Inn at Holiday Isle in Islamorada, coming back to the dock with lots of color in his coolers. He reported a great bite of gaffer dolphin and wahoo caught just off the reef line, mostly with live cigar minnows and ballahoo slow trolled on flat lines.
While the dolphin filled the coolers, the sailfish bite provided the excitement with one trip producing three sails brought to the boat and released. In addition to the sails were plenty of kingfish, blackfin tuna, and nice-sized mutton snappers caught in the same areas, again with live baits.
Off Key Largo, Capt. Chan Warner aboard the Gulfstream out of the Key Largo Fisheries has seen a big difference in the bite since the water temperatures heated up. Last year about this time Capt. Chan was up to his eyebrows in spawning mutton snapper, but this year the spawn seems to be a little late with most muttons caught in there pre-spawn phase. What has been spawning has been the yellowtail snapper caught in 105 to 125 feet, either during the day or night currently while sandballing baits in a heavy chum slick. On a recent trip Capt. Chan reported catching 102 yellowtail all over 2 pounds and several larger ones, in addition to lots of good-sized grouper, which had to be released until May 1.
If you have been fishing the bayside this past week, you have noticed that the spring mullet run has arrived. Huge schools of mullet are everywhere and are hard to miss. Along with the mullet are lots of big jack crevalle crashing into schools in just about every creek and channel from Ocean Reef to Islamorada. Top water lures will not be ignored when thrown into showering bait schools of mullet; along with the jacks have been lots of sharks and tarpon, all looking for an easy meal. Mullet is the live bait to have with most captains fishing the bridges during the day and at night for tarpon. Crabs and fresh dead mullet will work to but wont beat live mullet this week.
In the backcountry, just about everything is here and in good numbers redfish and snook are being caught on artificial lures in and around runoffs and shorelines with lots of structure and current. Tarpon can be found in the mouths of creeks feeding during different stages of the tide, mostly on live mullet, ladyfish and pilchards.
Sharks are just about everywhere in the backcountry and a fresh dead bait fished on the bottom in current wont take long to attract one of these toothy critters. If you are looking for a more direct approach, try throwing top water lures with wire leaders to sharks patrolling the shallows.
There is nothing more exciting than seeing a 100-pound shark explode on a surface lure when in shallow water!
The seatrout action has been rock solid in most areas with grass bottoms around Flamingo and in the center of the Bay. Jigs tipped with Trigger-X shrimp colors new penny and root beer gold flake worked along the bottom have been the easy way to catch your limit quickly.
Big changes are coming to Everglades National Park, and if you missed the public meetings on the proposed changes to your park, it is not to late to make your voice heard. The park service is still accepting comments about the changes on its website until May 12. Go to http://parkplanning.nps.gov/. Just click on the comment tab and type your opinions about the closing of one-third of Florida Bay to combustion engine operation in addition to more closures and limited access to your park. Those of us who make a living guiding, touring and fishing in the park believe that it needs to be protected, but the parks recommended changes are unwarranted and unacceptable.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call (305) 481-0111.