Plenty of Other Fish in the Sea
July usually allows us to enjoy some of the most stable and calm conditions of the year. It is up to us to get out and take advantage of this great opportunity to get to the fish, before the weather heats up and sets the tropical systems and regular thunderstorms into motion. For an angler like myself who suffers from fishing ADD, this is great news. It allows farther jaunts offshore to look for everyone’s favorite target, dolphin.
While most of my days this time of year revolve around the mahi, there are plenty of other fish in the sea. The mangrove snapper spawn is underway on the reef line and that offers a great first stop on the way out or as a backup plan on the way home from offshore. The reef line will have schools of mangrove snapper and if you find them they will be there on a regular basis over the spawn. It is important not to overfish or you can wipe out a spawning school easily.
This is counter to a phenomenon that has developed over the years in the yellowtail fishery. With yellowtail, the more you fish a spot and chum heavily, the more the fish will continue to show up. I do believe that the excessive amount of chum being dumped onto the reef line has had an effect similar to aquaculturing the snapper, just without the confinement of most other aquaculture fisheries. Some of the commercial snapper fishermen that I know will return to the same spot daily and put case after case into the water and make a living on the one spot. If you show up to one of these places just stopping the motor will often get the school to show up behind the boat in anticipation of the chum.
Of course the snapper aren’t the only fish that have been conditioned to show up to the feast. Once a couple of sharks or barracuda join the party, it is almost impossible for you to fill them up enough to be left alone. Some anglers will try to up the line strength to be able to horse the yellowtail away from the predators; I have found that technique to be dubious at best. First the heavier line will increase the visibility of the line and the already trained snapper will usually refuse the offering. On days that they can be tricked into biting the heavy line, the barracuda and sharks are almost always faster than your cranking hand anyway. Other anglers open the bail and let the fish attempt to swim away from the shark or barracuda, usually to the same unsatisfactory outcome.
Snapper aren’t the only fish to fall victim to the trained predator. The amberjack too fall victim to sharks while in a spawning aggregation when on our more popular wrecks. If you lose more than a few jacks to sharks, the only option is to move on to another spot.
The tarpon in some of the more popular channels have also been falling victim for decades in the annual migratory hot spots. In the wild, it is a great deal of effort for a shark to chase down a healthy tarpon. Sharks seldom even make the attempt to chase down a healthy fish. It is more akin to a pack of wolves waiting for a deer to come up lame and then attack. I have video of a healthy 150lb. tarpon scooting a very large 500+ lb. shark away with a bite to the tail. My only remedy for saving tarpon from the onslaught of the sharks is to fish in less popular channels where it would be less likely to encounter a shark that is anticipating an easy meal.
With all of these fisheries available to the skippers of larger vessels, the skiff captains are not being left out one bit. The Big Three of the Lower Keys flats - bonefish, permit and tarpon are at their seasonal peak for availability. So for an ADD afflicted angler, the choices are often which boat more than which species.
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