Sail bite kicking up

The early April easterly breezes have kicked up and, in turn, brought the sailfish to the surface.

When you hear charter captains say the sails are tailing, this is to what they refer. The fish are actually sailing along the surface in pursuit of bait fish.

Tailing conditions are not for the faint of heart, as they often entail wave action beyond the normal comfort level. But when the wind, the waves, the current and the color change all combine perfectly, an average day of sailfishing can turn into one of legendary status, with 20-plus flags flying upon return to the dock.

If you don’t think this sort of rough-weather fishing is for you, no problem. Another elite game fish of the Florida Keys is available now at the bridges and in Key West Harbor: Tarpon, the silver king.

The tarpon fishing venues typically offer very calm conditions, along with some of the most magnificent scenery in the world.

Tarpon fishing is just getting started and will only improve as we progress through April and into May. Baits vary according to which bridge or channel you’re fishing, so it’s best to ask your local tackle shop what’s working.

The yellowtail snapper bite remains good on the reef throughout the water column in 35 to 100 feet of water. There’s still plenty of mutton snapper to keep things interesting on the reef, but that bite is really heating up on the wrecks and rough bottom patches in the 120- to 250-foot depths.

We’re starting to see plenty of schoolie-size dolphin offshore, but we haven’t heard of very many large fish yet. This fishery should explode in the next couple of weeks.

The week’s best catches

Blue Magic Charters out of Keys Fisheries in Marathon, with Capt. Larry Bell and mate Alex Bell, fished the Fox and Smythe families on multiple trips oceanside. They caught yellowtail, lane and mutton snapper, mackerel and amberjack.

Capt. Howard Kelley and Capt. Chris Klimas have been busy on the charter boats out of Captain Pip’s Marina and Hideaway in Marathon.

Donald Schwartz, from LaSalle, Ill., treated his grandkids, Lucas and Adam, to a day offshore. They threw back a lot of shorts, but brought home some keeper dolphin. Michael and Laura Irwin, from Tampa, also caught dolphin and had a bonus sailfish release. And the Carr family had a fun day with snappers on the reef.

The SeaSquared crew fished multiple families on the reef, in Hawk Channel and in the bay with great catches of yellowtail, mangrove and mutton snapper, Spanish mackerel and sea trout.

Our shallow-water shark fishing is heating up, as the Owens and McDermid families found out on separate outings with releases of lots of large lemon sharks and a few blacknose, spinner and bull sharks. And we made the first of our seasonal treks to Bahia Honda for tarpon fishing, with hook-ups on each trip.

Capt. Moe Mottice, of Moe’s Custom Charters in Key West, spent much of the week fishing the reef and Hawk Channel for mackerel, yellowtails, muttons and kingfish, with sharks also providing some entertainment. And in the harbor, the tarpon were eating with snappers mixed in.

Casting contest

Capt. Spider’s Casting for Charity returns April 11 to the 7 Mile Marina/Salty’s Waterfront Grill at mile marker 47 bayside in Marathon. The contest runs from 6 to 8 p.m. and will benefit the Marathon High School Maritime Scholarship.

Capt. Chris Johnson is a member of the Yamaha National Fishing Team and specializes in offshore, gulf/bay, reef/wreck, shark and tarpon fishing with SeaSquared Charters out of Captain Pip’s Marina and Hideaway Marathon. You can reach him at 743-5305, http://SeaSquaredCharters.com and http://Facebook.com/MarathonFishing.

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