Friday, April 13, 2007

Time to Test Your Tackle!

May is about the best fishing month of the year. In the Florida Keys, the angling action is hot! For the savvy fisherman targeting, Tarpon, Permit, Dolphin (Mahi Mahi) or Blackfin Tuna, the Florida Keys is the place to be.

Every avid angler knows about tarpon fishing from the Sunday morning outdoors television shows. The big silver kings have their annual bridge convention in the Keys from mid April through June. These aren’t baby tarpon, they are big girls, many over one hundred and fifty pounds. Unlike Boca Grande pass, the tarpon guides in the Keys prefer light tackle on the whole. A hundred plus pound tarpon getting airborne on fifteen to twenty pound test will be a sight few anglers will ever forget. These are all release unless you want to get a keep permit for a big fish. To get a mount for your fish you do not need to kill the fish. Photos and measurements is all that is required.

Permit are pompano on serious steroids! While not as well known to out of state anglers, pound for pound a permit will kick a tarpon’s butt in a light tackle battle. The big permit move to the deep wrecks for their convention around May. On a good day, an angler can sight cast to hundreds of the powerful members of the Jack family. If you hook up a big girl in the forty to fifty pound range, you are looking at 45 minutes to an hour of line stretching on twenty pound test. If you want to tackle a permit or two think about a little gym time before heading down. These fish will wear you out! Catch and release only on my boat if you don’t mind. If you really want to try one for dinner keep a (as in one) smaller fish under thirty pounds. They don’t eat that great and they are worth more swimming.

Big dolphin are called slammers. To qualify for slammer status, the fish has to be over 25 pounds on my boat. I am a little bit sadistic so I fish 15 to 20 pound spinning tackle and 30 pound test trolling tackle for these gorgeous fish. Like tarpon, dolphin get airborne and put on a heck of a show. While plenty of big fish are hooked on the troll, most of the really big dolphin are hooked sight casting on the spinners. For you fly fishermen, they will eat about any big fly. I said big fly, four to six inch streamers, Clousers and even poppers. If you want to try a slammer dolphin on the fly rod, pack a big lunch, not for you, for your captain. You’re going to be busy for a while. Yep, these fish are so pretty you just have to invite a few home for dinner.

Blackfin tuna are a smaller but tasty member of the tuna family. A blackfin over 35 pounds is a hoss that is a perfect match for thirty-pound test tackle. If you want to go lower than thirty pound tackle you better have six hundred yards of line on your reel and pack a huge lunch in case you hook into a thirty plus pounder. While most of the blackfin are found in the deep water, around the Islamarada and Marathon humps, they can be found near the reef in May along with a few wahoo, sailfish and marlin. Anywhere you find a big school feeding, be ready for some big fish feeding on the tasty tuna. You will be bringing some blackfin home for dinner. Your captain is likely to lose a couple in the fish box for his dinner too, by the way, so don‘t get too accurate on your count.

For your Florida Keys fishing expedition there a few hundred captains down here ready to put you on some good fish. There are also quite a few guides like myself that will take a smaller boat and try to put you on most of these fish in a single trip. What I like to call a Marathon slam, tarpon, permit and dolphin, is doable in a single day of fishing. If you think you are ready for a real fishing challenge, then think mid April through June in the Florida Keys.

Tight lines,

Capt. Dallas

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