The summer is upon us and the kids are out of school. Family vacations are gearing up. The Keys are packed with visitors on and off the water.
On the water, the summer months offer a multitude of species to go after. The best bet is dolphin or mahi-mahi.
Yes, dolphin season is in full swing, and it’s off to a great start. While last season was one of the worst ever in the Keys for dolphin, this summer has been the total opposite. Huge numbers of quality fish are schooling, from the edge of the blue water out to 1,000 feet. The birds are everywhere feeding, working as spotters for us.
The only negative early on has been lack of slammers. I do expect more larger fish to show up in the weeks to come.
Another bonus right now is the red hot snapper bite during the summer spawn. The Keys offer a variety of snappers. The reef produces a great yellowtail and mangrove snapper bite, while the wrecks are teeming with red snapper and big mutton snapper. You just need to decide what you want on the dinner plate. I myself prefer the deeper-water snappers; drift and slow troll for them.
It is hot out there so let’s talk about nighttime snapper fishing. I promise you it’s a blast! If you aren’t comfortable going out on you boat at night, you can always go out on the party boat and charters out of Robbie’s marina. They go nearly every night, so they stay on top of the nighttime bite.
The other big surprise is the sailfish. Plenty are being caught. We’ve had a consistent color change all summer, and have had a good number of sails migrating down the current edge feeding. All it takes is some good live baits fished along the current edges, and you stand a good chance of getting hooked up.
There also are some large tunas in the same depth (150-300 feet).
Don’t forget the summer offers lots of dolphin tournaments that all anglers can enter. Last week, I had the pleasure of fishing the Lady’s dolphin tournament with Cailin Reckwerdt, Devin Tolpin, and Payton Zuloaga . We were into fish right off the bat. I can honestly say we must have seen 2,000 fish that day. We never saw a tournament-winning fish, but caught what earned us 5th overall. Payton won the Junior Division. Cailin caught a beautiful sailfish as well. It was a gorgeous day on the water.
Nearly every weekend offers a tournament somewhere in the Keys. Maybe it can be your chance to win…but you can’t win if you don’t enter!
I know we’re all looking forward to seeing what the rest of summer brings. Hurry up and book a charter to get in on the action!
Capt. Brian Cone
Walking down the long dock filled with fishing boats of all shapes and sizes, looking in the crystal blue waters of Islamorada. Seeing Tarpon and a baby Nurse Shark swim along scavenging for a discarded fish carcasses, towards the 65 foot fishing boat named “The Capt. Michael”. As I walk closer to the boat, you really see how big the boat is. You see the cabin, which is completely enclosed with five or so windows on each side and two doors left open. As I board the boat, I meet the mates and find a spot to sit and get comfortable as we prepare to disembark. The mates get us all on one side of the boat so that they can count us and so the Captain can speak to us about the boat very briefly and give us safety information. At the end of the meeting we spread out. You hear the Captain yell from up in the wheelhouse, “Let’s go”. We watch the mates untie the thick dock lines, the mate in the back of the boat yells, “First!”. Then again yelling, “Second!”. Both mates in cadence yell, “All Clear!”. Now we are on our way. One mates kindly ask, “If you’ve never been on the boat before; please meet me in the front of the boat.”. As I make my way up to the front of the boat I feel the warm, crisp ocean breeze hit my sunscreen covered face and excitement fills my body as I anticipate the fun I’m about to experience. I listen to the mate go over how to use the fishing rods, basic boat information, and poisonous fish that we may encounter. As we make our way under the bridge we head back to the back of the boat and collect the fishing rods. I go over to a spot that I felt would suffice for 4 hours of fishing and tie up my fishing rod to the rail with the rope they have available. As we get out of the channel I see how clear the water is and I can see the dark coral heads in the shallow waters. We take a short ride out and the boat slows down and makes a large circle around the spot, probably to chum up the water. You can hear the loud clinking of the anchor chain dropping into the water for a brief minute and then it dies out. When the engines shut off I dropped my squid covered hooks and instantly feel nibbles on the line. I reel up the rod calling to one of the mates. He comes over and congratulates me on my catch, a beautiful baby Red Grouper. We released him and a couple other smaller fish at that spot. I was so pleased with the fish I did end up keeping, a couple grunts and a couple mangrove snapper. We moved to a couple other spots and did very well at all of them. A young boy on the other side of the boat caught a small shark that the mates brought around the boat to show us. When the mates gave us our 15 minute warning I felt nostalgic knowing my trip would soon be over. I hear the engines start up and reel up my rod and tie it up to the rail and make my way upstairs for a scenic ride home. As we made our way back into the channel we see a group of Dolphin swim along side of the boat. When we tie back up to the dock, I tip my mates and walked to the end of the dock where we waited to board and receive my fish. The mates generously filleted my fish and bagged them for me and gave me recommendations on where to get it cooked locally. As I make my way over the bridge I glance over at the boat and know I’ll be back again.
With fall in the air, it’s time for the mullet migration. They are here in force. Large
school’s of mullet have made their way into Florida bay and surrounding keys waters.
Following them are the usual suspects! Tarpon, snook,spinner sharks, jacks to name a
few. The action has been red hot! The fall also opens the door to some fantastic
migratory species, including my favorite, the cobia! They will be on the markers on the
edge of the bay. These big brutish fish fight hard are great eating. The Spanish
mackerel have also showed and will reside all winter. Chuming in the gulf for these
fighters can be exciting! T hg e bite gets hectic, for those who like non stop action!
Mixed in with these fish are lady fish,bluefish and sea trout. Large spinner shark feed
on these schools of fish. Spinner sharks are top notch game an inshore version of the
mako! In the creeks and around the cape, large redfish and black drum are here both
can be found in the large size , I catch them up to 40 pounds in the winter! Triple tail
will be on the car b bouts, they are great eating and hard fighting on light tackle! So
book a trip it’s a great time of year!
Party boat fishing in the winter has the advantage of cooler water. This means an
influx of migratory fish like King Mackerel, sailfish and cobia. The cold front ”s that
push through also stir the waters making it easier to fool the sharp eye sight of the
various snapper we target. Although the winds can be strong we can fish close to shore
over patch reefs and stay in calmer waters and the mutton snapper fishing can be