We are well into summertime here in the Upper Keys and the fishing and temperatures are getting hot! Summer months are typically paired with very light winds, making for very pleasant oceans, giving many people access to the nutrient-rich Gulf Stream waters. The flowing waters of the Gulf Stream bring a new body of migrating fish on a steady basis throughout the summer.
On a typical Summer Day, we will pull back the throttles and put out our trolling spread when we pass into the Gulf Stream current. This is typically between 300 and 600’. While trolling, I will be looking non-stop through the binoculars for lined up weed or working birds circling and picking in one spot. Finding a combination of larger weed patches and groups of birds hovering above is a sure sure sign of schooled up mahi. The fish will sometimes eat the trolled baits, but I prefer getting in front of the birds and casting small ballyhoo or live minnows or pilchards. A fresh frisky live offering is irresistible to a stubborn bullhead 90% of the time. After hooking a fish, we try and clear all trolling rods and switch over to spinners for pitching baits. Always try to leave one fish hooked behind the boat as a decoy to keep his schoolmates around. We start the process by pitching smaller ballyhoo, squid, or chunked bonita to the schooled fish. After the bite shuts down, we then try live baits to entice any tight lipped remaining fish. Keeping the boat in front of the lead fish in the school, usually pointed SW will give you longer time working a school.
Binoculars are your friend when searching for summertime working birds, weed patches, or floating debris. A nice piece of debris can really make your day. Not only should it be holding some mahi, but tripletail are often found floating near the floatsam. A shrimp, piece of squid or a live bait should get bites from the buoy fish. Also casting a butterfly jig or live bait on a wire leader or trolling a weighted feather, should get you a shot at a wahoo or multiple weehoos. I’ve seen as many as 25 wahoo on one log.
The sea mounts should be holding plenty of tuna throughout the summer. Early or late in the day, when the sun is not so high in the sky is when I like to try for tunas. The bright sun tends to push the fish deeper and make them more leader shy. Trolling feathers way back, or fishing live small ballyhoo or pilchards are both effective baits for blackfin. Sending a live bait deep on a leaded rod with a super long leader or butterfly jigs are also good tactics for targeting the tunas when they are swimming deeper.
In addition, I like to have my swordfish gear all ready for those calm days when the mahi fishing is slow. Day dropping for a sword can turn your slow day into one for the memory books, you’re only one bite away from being a hero. Also deep dropping for Tiles, Queens, Snowies can be super hot during the summer months.
There are many options to fill your long summer days and hopefully your coolers as well! Remember drink plenty of water and stay safe. We’ll see you out there!
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