Fast action on tarpon? Try nighttime

It is summertime here in the keys and nobody is arguing that, with daytime temperatures climbing into the upper 80’s having a decent breeze is a welcomed thing this time of year.

There have been lots of great opportunities for fishing and catching going on all over the Upper Keys this past week, whether be day or night; great fishing can be done 24 hours a day during the next few months.

Late June is prime time to catch tarpon and many backcountry captains have been doing just that, bringing anglers back to the dock with sore arms and great stories of epic battles with big tarpon.

The big plus is that some of the best fishing continues to take place close to home, either cceanside, around the local bridges, or the shallow banks and channels inside Everglades National Park. Small to medium-sized blue crabs drifted under a small cork with 40-80lb Seaguar fluorocarbon leader has been the preferred method for most successful captains fishing in areas with current recently. Live mullet, shrimp, and pinfish continue to work well, but the live crabs are getting the most attention as of late.

Most tarpon caught are averaging around 50-110lbs ,with larger poons caught daily with fly or spin gear.

Nighttime can produce some of the best action this time of year with the added advantage of less pressure on the fish and more comfortable conditions. Baits like fresh dead mullet and fish carcasses will not only catch tarpon but big sharks too when fishing the bottom at night.

Offshore, the main attraction for most continues to be the summer dolphin bite going on. This week saw lots of schoolie size fish caught daily, mostly in 400-800 feet of water around weed lines, current rips and bird activity. Larger gaffer-sized fish are being brought back to the dock, but are not being found as easily as the schoolie-sized ones. Fresh dead ballahoo rigged naked or with skirts colors pink and blue/white have been real winners. For you feather draggers out there, doorknob lures that produce smoke trails and cedar plugs that dance across the surface are proven lures that work well when bait is hard to find.

While the dolphin are here, they are not alone. Several boats targeting them recently have caught white marlin, sailfish and even a blue marlin or two. While it is hard to predict when you might run into to one of these greyhounds of the ocean, this is one of the best times of the year to have it happen. So always bring a few big rods.

If you are looking to catch a variety of species on light tackle, then the backcountry is the place to be. With all the attention being given to the tarpon and dolphin action there have been very few anglers venturing into the Park recently and I have no idea why.

Redfish are being found just about everywhere, either in big schools around basins and channels or lots of singles on the flats tailing and foraging. Snook have also made a strong showing lately with many fish caught averaging around 30 inches, found in some of the same areas as the reds. Top water lures have been the go-to lures to have when there is not a lot of floating grass around, catching lots of redfish, snook, big seatrout, and jacks. In areas with lots of snags, try using scented baits like Trigger-X shrimp or paddle tail minnows rigged weedless with a owner weighted Twistlock hook model #5132-024/ or 5132-013. Look for areas with lots of life in the form of bait, sharks, rays, and wading birds.

For those of you who know me, know that to me, fishing is more than just a game, it is a way of life. So fish hard and fish often

Capt. Mike Makowski is a backcountry fishing guide, member of the Florida Keys Fishing Guides Association and owner of Blackfoot Charters in Key Largo. His column appears biweekly. To send him fishing reports or photos, e-mail or call (305) 481-0111.

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