SUMMER! Yes, I know that it is impolite to yell, but I just have to scream it from the rooftop! This is my favorite time of the year. Tropical systems aside the weather is ideal for just about all of my favorite activities. After the last six months or so of front after front and water just cool enough to keep me out of it, this fishing ADD afflicted angler just doesn’t know what to do next.
I will just have to start with fishing for dolphin. Dolphin fishing is the most requested trip that I get in the summer months. The promise of lots of hungry fish available on multiple types of tackle, in a variety of depths, gets people from all over the country heading this way for a chance at the tasty treats. While this year has seen some hot and cool fishing days, there have still been plenty of fish if you put in the dedication and miles to find them. Hopefully this summer will see a return to the normal migration patterns and the fish will move closer to shore and be more accessible to the mosquito fleet. There have been less than the normal number of slammer and super slammer-sized dolphin caught this year, so let’s hope that the summer will more than make up for the moderate size fish that we have been experiencing.
Usually an add-on to a day out dolphin fishing, but I love to do a deep drop or two when the conditions are right. Calm to moderate winds, and a knot or two of current, make deep dropping on medium spinning gear not only possible, but an easy affair. A chicken rig with three to four droppers, lead by three to four six ounce sinkers, are all that is necessary to land a great supplement to the fish box. If you think to bring squid along, so much the better, if not, dolphin belly or bonito strips make excellent bait. There is not much chance of getting exhausted, as the Federal government has decided, in all of its wisdom (insert sarcastic expression), to limit us to one snowy grouper and one blueline tilefish per boat, per day. You never know what you may find when dropping to 550 to 750 feet of water. A few black-bellied rosefish or a barrelfish are great extra treats.My next favorite summer fishing activity is the mangrove snapper spawn on the reef line. So far, the snapper have been moving out to the reef earlier than usual. Already the end of May had seen fish gathering on the reef, packed with eggs ready to spawn. There is a wide variety of fish sizes mixed together, so it pays to target the larger of the group to maximize your take. If you are fishing during the day, the bite will be slower than in the evening, and taking extra precautions, like fishing with fluorocarbon leader and live pinfish, will help maximize the bite.
Getting out in the late afternoon, just before sunset, is a great way to end the day. That is, if you can silhouette a giant tarpon jumping against the setting sun. The last hour, before and after the sunset, will see the best opportunity of the day to put a giant tarpon into the air.
Whether you are floating big pinfish, crabs, or mullet you will have a great chance of hooking up with a tarpon along most of the Keys’ bridges and deeper channels. Just note where the areas’ shallow bays are dumping off into the channel, and set up shop there. The tarpon will move off of the shallows and into the channels before dark. If the current is moving hard, you can often get away with drifting your bait back without a float. If the tide is slacking, you will need a float to keep your bait out of the bottom and up in the strike zone. Personally, I recommend heavier tackle than most. I believe it is an injustice to fight a fish to exhaustion on light gear; the fish is more deeply exhausted and has less of a chance of recovery, and the predators are just being invited to an easy meal. Fifty-pound braid on matching spinning gear gives both the angler and fish a good tug.
Last, but definitely not least, is snorkeling for lobster. Mini lobster season will find lobster jammed into just about every ledge and coral head in the Keys. Mask, fins, snorkel, gloves, measuring device, net, stick, and dive flag are all that is required for just about anyone to have a great time. Whether from shore or boat, just about anywhere that you can find hard bottom or a rocky shore, there will be lobster.
I know that you do not have to do it all in one day, but for the fishing ADD afflicted, it is just hard to decide where to stop.
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