We are in the heart of our winter fishing season here in the keys. Frequent fronts and cool weather have been common. Hiding from the wind in the backcountry is a good call on most days. In the Everglades there has been a good snook and trout bite with an occasional red. In the keys, the snook are finding sunny places they can lay up in and warm themselves
The Lobster Mini Season is one of the most popular times of the year for a Florida Keys vacation. As such, it's never too early to book your stay. Hotels and rental homes book fast, sometimes years in advance, so book early, or miss out.
For the adventure minded traveller, who happens to enjoy great accommodations, and gourmet meals, Blue Moon Expeditions has the vacation for you. As the exclusive luxury mothership operation in the Florida Keys, Blue Moon Expeditions offers all inclusive vacation packages, and can put you where the action is.
The two day spiny lobster sport season is always the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday in July. It begins at 12:01 am on the last Wednesday in July and ends at 12:00 midnight on the last Thursday in July. The bag limits are 6 per person per day for Monroe County and Biscayne National Park, and 12 per person per day for the rest of Florida. The possession limit on the water is equal to the daily bag limit, and off the water is equal to the daily bag limit on the first day, and double the daily bag limit on the second day. Possession limits are enforced on and off the water. Spiny lobster has a minimum size limit that must be larger than 3" carapace, measured in the water. A reminder that possession and use of a measuring device is required at all times, and night diving is prohibited in Monroe County (only during the sport season). A recreational saltwater license and a crawfish permit are needed for harvest.
Regular spiny lobster season is ALWAYS August 6 through March 31. The bag limit is 6 per person per day. Harvest of lobster is prohibited in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park during the sport season. Harvest is also prohibited during both the 2-day sport season and regular season in Everglades National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park, and no take areas in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Call (305) 743-2437 or visit www.fknms.nos.noaa.gov for information about no take areas in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Please call the MarathonLaw Enforcement office at (305) 289-2320 for more lobster harvesting regulations for Monroe County.
Our Everglades fishing captains offer you a variety of options when it comes to choosing your Glades fishing adventure. Your captain would pick you up in Flamingo, or Islamorada.
Flamingo is at the southern tip of Florida where we can launch into Florida Bay or into the backcountry. The Florida Bay side holds excellent redfishing on flats in Snake, Garfield and Rankin bights. This also gives access to all of Florida Bay and the beaches of Cape Sable, which both hold excellent redfish, snook, trout and tarpon.
Leaving from Islamorada requires a run across Florida Bay. The fishing is excellent around Flamingo, Cape Sable and up the west coast of the Glades. This usually requires the longest run but is in mostly sheltered waters. The boats we run in the Glades are flats boats and can accommodate live bait fishing, conventional and spin gear fishing as well as fly fishing.
Our Everglades fishing captains love these areas because of the no motor zones where you are required to remove the motor from the transom of your boat and pole or paddle.
Fishing the Everglades is a great option for those wanting an extremely remote experience and a true fishing expedition. The fish in the Glades see very little to no pressure, and are very willing to eat.
As the exclusive provider of overnight fishing expeditions in the Everglades, Blue Moon Expeditions offers anglers an opportunity to fish some of the best waters in North America for tarpon, snook, and redfish. Book a trip with us today for a world-class experience on the water.
Call today for more information: 305-849-8254
The Chokoloskee area is a favorite among many anglers and is highly regarded for redfish and snook.
From our anchorages in the Chokoloskee area, anglers are afforded the opportunity to fish, the Ten Thousand Islands, the Huston River, the Chatham River, the Lostmans River, and the Broad River.
While Everglades City, and Chokoloskee offer options in regard to accommodations and restaurants; choosing to book an expedition with Blue Moon Expeditions affords the angler the opportunity to stay close to where the action is, and to enjoy accommodations aboard the mother-ship, and gourmet meals - without the hassle of making the trek back to town each evening.
Blue Moon Expeditions offers expeditions in the Chokoloskee area throughout the year. Contact us today, and book an expedition that will go down as one of the best times on the water that you have ever experienced. As the exclusive provider of overnight expeditions, Blue Moon Expeditions provides anglers the opportunity to fish with some of the best in the industry, in the most productive waters, while enjoying all the comforts of home.
Call Now: 305-849-8254
I grew up fishing for freshwater striped bass in SC. When casting to them, a quick erratic twitch seemed to always get their attention. They love a bait in distress. When I first started fishing saltwater, generally the trout and redfish I chased in Charleston liked a similar fleeing bait type retrieve. When I got it in my head I wanted to target tarpon I naturally was using the same quick twitch twitch pause retrieve I had always used but with very poor results. So of the first hundred or so tarpon I caught all but about 5 were on livebaits. Then one day I was on the phone with DOA Baits placing an order and the gentleman helping me started talking fishing and the topic of catching tarpon on lures came up. I told him I had tried a bunch of their products for tarpon and had never had very impressive results. He recommended a couple of their baits and colors and I told him that’s exactly what I was using. He then offhandedly said, “if I see a tarpon roll, I throw just out in front of him let the bait sink all the way to the bottom looking for the distinctive tarpon thump. If I don’t get bit, I start a slow steady retrieve.”
That part about the slow steady retrieve completely changed my tarpon fishing. In the Keys I still do best in the clear waters on live baits but in the glades I now fish primarily lures. It saves me time gathering livebaits and I don’t have to deal with the hordes of sharks. Plus it’s a ton of fun to catch them on plugs and soft plastics, I actually prefer it to fly. With braided line on spin tackle I can feel the fish so much better than I can with all the stretch in that thick fly line and clunky reel. Just about all of the lures I fish for tarpon are done on a slow steady retrieve. It’s very rare for me to twitch the bait. Tarpon are incredibly lazy fish and won’t normally run a bait down. They like to slowly sneak up from behind and slightly below a bait and use that massive mouth to slurp them in. The slurp is the distinctive thump you feel when they eat. Usually you will feel the thump and then the rod will just slowly load up. If I feel that thump I be sure to keep steady winding until the fish has turned and loaded the rod and is actually pulling drag, then you can give him a couple of quick low jabs to make sure the hook is set. The fish has to be turned and moving away from you or you will just pull it right out of their mouth. Often you will feel them bump the lure multiple times before they really inhale it. It’s tough to do but just keep steady winding.
For fly fishing a lot of the same principles apply. For sight fishing shrimp imitators like Bob Lemay’s Sand Fly or even the tarpon toads, a smaller quicker strip is better because you are mimicking the action of a fleeing shrimp. But for dark flies like we use in the glades a long very slow and steady strip is by far the best. For the worm flies so popular in the Keys these days, a slow steady retrieve is the only way to go. You actually tuck the rod under your arm and slow and steady strip with both hands never pausing. Same principal with the hook set on a fly, you have to wait until the tarpon turns to strip strike him once you see or feel the eat. Way too many tarpon are never hooked because people see the eat and get excited and pull the fly out of the fishes mouth because it is facing right at them.
The Shark River area of the Everglades touts some of the most remote year round saltwater fishing in the United States. The varieties of what can be pursued in the Everglades is astounding and includes: Tarpon, snook, redfish, trout, grouper, cobia, and jacks - among many others.
The Everglades are famous for year round tarpon fishing and we allow easy access to Whitewater Bay, Shark River and the Cape Sable, without the worry of long runs.
Whether you enjoy fishing from a skiff or kayak, the Everglades is the place to be. For those wanting something a little different, the rockpiles and reefs in this remote region offer excellent fishing as well. Our mothership will be on location in the Glades September thru June.
September and October are just around the corner, and so is some of the best fishing in Islamorada.
We consider September and October to be two of the best months of the year for tarpon, permit, bonefish, snook, and reds. After the Labor Day rush, things begin to settled down, the temperatures gradually begin to drop 5 -1 0 degrees, and the fishing cranks up.
If the Fall of 2015 proves to be as good as the Fall of 2014, we will be in for an incredible season on the water to close out our year. The last two weeks of September 2014 and the first two weeks of October were phenomenal on permit and bonefish around Islamorada, and the tarpon, snook, and reds were plentiful in the Glades. Best of all, there's no one on the water.
If you have been contemplating a getaway to fish Islamorada or the Everglades, consider the Fall months, and you will be in store for some of the best action you have ever seen in the Keys.
Contact Blue Moon Expeditions today for more information on Fall getaways, and how you can make the most of your next vacation in the Florida Keys.
Islamorada is dubbed the "Sport-Fishing Capital of the World," and for good reason. Within just a few short minutes, anglers can be on giant tarpon, bonefish, snook, and redfish.
Enhance your vacation in paradise, by booking a charter with Blue Moon Expeditions - a world-class provider of fly and light tackle charters. Our captains are experts in the industry, and run state of the art Maverick flats boats.
- Half Day Flats & Backcountry Charters - $650
- Full Day Flats & Backcountry Charters - $800
- 2 Day All Inclusive Fishing Expedition
- 3 Day All Inclusive Fishing Expedition
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Whether its a half-day charter, or a multi-day fishing expedition, Blue Moon Expeditions will work to make your time on the water a memorable experience.
Fishing in Islamorada is always an experience. Where else can anglers make a run for sailfish in the morning, and then find themselves chasing tarpon on the flats in the afternoon. Contact us today for more information regarding the fishing in Islamorada.
With access to Florida Bay, the Everglades, the Atlantic and the Gulf; Islamorada offers the some of the most diverse fishing in the world. Tarpon, Snook, Redfish, and Trout inhabit the backcountry waters of Florida Bay and the Everglades. Bonefish, Tarpon, and Permit live on both the flats of the backcountry and oceanside.
Just finished up 8 straight days of live baiting for tarpon in Islamorada. This is a trip we have done for over 17 straight years. I take my Dad and a couple of our fishing buddies from back in SC. We fish live-bait and go all out to feed as many tarpon as possible during the week, day or night.
This year we got 32 tarpon to eat and touched the leader on 20. I moved up to 8/0 Owner Circle Hook this year and experienced a much better hook up ratio. For years I used a 5/0 Circle Hook and was lucky to hook and land 25% of the fish that would eat so landing over 60% speaks volumes about the bigger hooks. Makes me mad I didn't do it sooner.
We usually split our time fishing mullet and crabs but we had such a hot afternoon and night time crab bite, we never messed with the mullet very much. Probably one of the reasons for our better hook up percentage. Tarpon don't miss crabs like they do mullet.
The first half of our trip was really unsettled weather with a low pressure forming and winds from 15 to 25 each day. The chop on the water actually made the fish easier to feed but boat control was critical to present the baits properly. We had 8 eats one of the windiest afternoons. The only day we didn't get a hit was the day it was flat calm. Those calm days can be frustrating because you see zillions of fish but the water gets super clear and they don't bite nearly as well. Those calm days are great for fly fishing but we had 4 people in the boat so that was a no go. But on super calm nights, the bite can be epic. Therefore on windy periods we fished the daytime harder and didn't night fish as much. Conversely on the super calm days we hardly fished during the day and saved our energy to be on the water for much of the night.
The nice thing about fishing that pattern we avoided any large crowds. The windy days most captains were canceling their parties and the night bite is never very crowded even with perfect weather.
We even picked up a bonus 25 to 30 pound permit while fishing one night. I didn't target them but I saw a couple of nice pods of tailing bonefish on the lower stages of the tides. The next two months are as good as it gets in the Keys.
With Tarpon season off to a fast start, I thought I would share a few tips on fishing at night. Yes, it’s a ton of fun to sight cast to the Silver King or fish a live mullet around the bridges in the late afternoon. But tarpon can be notoriously finicky during daylight hours. Nothing is more frustrating than seeing tarpon lazily rolling all around you and not being able to buy a bite. It takes me back to my high school days sitting in class with all these hot girls and not having a clue how to talk to them. Well just like I eventually learned that having a really good job and a little alcohol works wonders with pretty girls, I also learned that those same finicky tarpon go on feeding rampages almost every night.
We have had many nights drifting crabs where we jumped over 20 tarpon in a 4 hour tide. We have also jumped well over 20 on plugs at night as well. You could go your whole life and not jump 20 on plugs in the daytime in the clear waters of the Keys. The same channels that are packed with pleasure boats, jet ski's and fishermen during the daytime are empty at night except for the tarpon dropping into them from their migrations to feed.
Here are a few tips to make getting out there at night a little more productive and less intimidating. First, all nights aren't created equal. I prefer a really calm night when fishing the big wide open channels. On those same channels in the daytime I prefer the wind to be blowing 10 to 15 to make the fish less spooky. At night slick calm is perfect. On calm nights you can really pinpoint where the fish are holding by hearing all the explosions on top. It will really get your blood pumping. It also makes it much easier for the tarpon to hear your crab clicking as it struggles on the hook. We have also had good success blind casting large 10 inch Hogy soft baits on calm nights. Be warned, the tarpon will follow the bait all the way back to the boat and explode on it right at the rood tip. It's not for someone with a weak heart.
On windy nights I lean towards the more protected channels but they can be a pain to drift because they are narrower and the wind can push you up on the flat before you realize it's happening. In that situation I tend to anchor at the bridges and throw plugs around the pilings. This can be super productive for jumping fish but they tend to spit the plugs really easily. Be very careful handling a tarpon at night with a mouth full of large trebble hooks. If it doesn't change the action of your plug you can take all but one of the trebbles off and will most likely have the same hook up percentages with much less danger when dehooking the fish.
One thing that we found really helps calm at tarpon down at night is to keep your spot light shinning directly on his eye. Their eye is really reflective so even 25 yards from the boat it's easy to track with the spot light. I'm not sure why but the light seems to make the tarpon much more docile. As soon as you take the light off of them they seem to get a burst of energy. This doesn't always work and some fish stay too deep during the fight to shine but I have seen it work way more times than not.
To keep track of your baits at night I put a couple of small strips of reflective tape on the tops of the corks. I do it on top so the tarpon can't see the reflection as well below the surface. I don't shine the corks the whole time but it's nice to quickly check your bait position.
I recommend a very tall anchor light in the boat while drifting so it is not shinning right in your eyes. Keeping your night vision is very important. I keep a very strong but small LED flashlight in my pocket in case a boat is running too close to us, I can quickly shine it to catch their attention. For some reason people will stare at their GPS and not watch for boats and I have had them not see my anchor light. We had a 30 plus foot center console full of people, music blaring and the boat all lit up with the drivers nose right on the GPS almost run right over us one night. That little powerful flashlight saved us getting the drivers attention at the last second. A hand held spot light is even better to get a approaching boaters attention but this happened so fast the flashlight was the quickest thing. For rigging baits, tying knots or other in boat tasks I use a small headlamp. The newer LED ones are surprisingly powerful with really good battery life.
When navigating at night, I highly recommend running the route to and from the area you intend to fish in the daytime and save a GPS trail for exactly where you want to run on a route that takes you well away from channel markers, flats edges and any other items you need to avoid. One thing to be very mindful of when running a GPS trail at night is to watch for sailboats or yachts that have pulled in for the night. Many of these boats have very dim little anchor lights that are 30 feet up a mast and you absolutely can not see them until you are on top of them. A quick scan with the spotlight periodically is important even if you know the route.
I use my GPS a ton while drifting at night. Many nights have weaker currents and you will be very surprised at some of your drifts. You think you are drifting towards the bridge but then you look at your GPS and find you are drifting away from the bridge with the wind or angling across the channel towards a flat. I recommend laying down a way point on the GPS near where you are drifting that you can use as a quick refernce to tell if you are drifting as you thought you were. I also hit the way point right where we hook up so I can drift the same area again. The fish often will hold in big schools in the same area and you can get a bunch of hook ups before they move. Be sure not to run the boat right over them when setting up for your next drift. Run a big circle around them and set up your drift to pass back over them.
I hope some of these tips help. The more I get out chasing the poons at night the more I enjoy it. It's really nice when they eat like crazy. If you want to try it with a professional first, give Blue Moon Expeditions a try and let us show you the ropes.
The fishing around Islamorada and the Everglades National Park has been on fire the last couple of weeks. The Blue Moon Expeditions team has been really busy running trips close to town and as far as you can go back up in the Glades. Captain Shafter has had a lot of fly clients lately and has been averaging 3 to 8 tarpon in the air per day. Think small for the tarpon flies. In the glades small black and purple flies on a 2/0 hook has been all that's needed. I think too many people think you need a massive fly for tarpon and it's just not true. The only big exception to this is when the fall mullet run is going on and the tarpon tend to be extremely size selective. In the clear waters of the keys, a small tan and pink pattern has been very productive.
The tarpon fly shots have included lots of laid up fish as well as early morning rollers. One day this week we saw pod after pod of tarpon migrating south out of the glades towards the Keys. This is a couple of weeks early for this big push of fish out of the glades but with the extremely warm April, it's not surprising. This means the fishing in and around the Keys is about to really heat up. I have 8 days straight coming up and can hardly wait.
On Captain Shafter's only spin trip of the week, they were tossing topwaters early in the morning in Florida Bay and landed a snook pushing 20 pounds! They also got the biggest tarpon of the year so far, it was pushing 180 to 190 pounds. The fish broke a rod they were testing and they had to quickly splice the main line to another rod...quite a feat with 190 pounds on the other end.
There have also been some good shots at migrating fish along the ocean side of the Keys. That fishery is about to really take off with all those fish pushing in.
As you can tell, tarpon are the star of the show and will be until Mid June. At that point the Glades will be going off and snook, redfish and permit will all take center stage along with the tarpon migrating north.
At Blue Moon Expeditions about half our charters are serious fly fishermen who only want to target fish on fly. The other half want to catch big numbers, big variety and the quality fish the Everglades and Florida Keys offer. No question live bait is the way to go most of the time to really keep a rod bent. The only exception is if you are searching for fish, you can cover a lot more water with lures. But once you have a group of fish located switching to live bait can really keep them biting.
For producing the largest variety of fish, it's hard to beat a livewell full of pilchards, also known as white bait. With several hundred pilchards in the livewell, it allows you to "live chum". That consists of pulling up to a likely looking spot and throwing out handfuls of live baits which gets the food chain going. Usually the snappers, jacks and ladyfish will explode on the baits first but that feeding frenzy doesn't take long for the bigger predators like snook, redfish and even tarpon to move in. I usually wait to start dropping a live pilchard back on a hook until I start seeing some bigger swirls at the baits. Sometimes a bait on a freeline (just a plain hook with no weight) works best. Other times a small weight or a bait on a jig head works better, especially if the water is deeper or current is heavy.
Unless you live on the water in an area with a really good tidal flush like an inlet, it is very hard to keep a large number of pilchards alive overnight. Even then you need a massive bait pen. Your best bet is to plan to catch them fresh every day. For bigger pilchards you can catch them with a sabiki rig but it would take way too long to catch enough to live chum with. The most effective method is a cast net. For pilchards I keep two cast nets on the boat, A 10 foot (radius) with 3/8 mesh and an 8 foot glass minnow net which has 1/8 inch mesh. This has mesh so small even the tiniest baits can't get caught in the gills with it. If the baits are running smaller, which is very common, this net is a life saver. Both nets were custom made by Tim Wade who makes the finest nets I have used for very reasonable prices.
Keeping several hundred live baits requires a good live well. A large flush of water is required. The ammonia that builds up from the pilchards waste is what will kill them the fastest. The ammonia will settle to the bottom of the tank so having a well that will pull at least part of the water it is draining from the bottom is a huge asset. For livewells with a standpipe drain you can take a PVC pipe with holes drilled primarily in the lower third of the pipe and fit it over the stand pipe. This will force the water draining up from the bottom of the sleeve and out the top of the drain pipe. Email me if this doesn't make sense. I replaced my 800 GPH livewell pump with a 1100 GPH pump to make sure I get a really good flush of water into the well. My Egret has a 35 gallon well and I have kept 600 plus pilchards alive for hours with this system.
Of course the hardest part is finding pilchards every day. Some days I will spend the first few hours hunting for them but I often feel like I'm wasting the best hours of the day. My preference is to just go fish and keep my eyes open for pilchards through the day. I usually come across them at some point. Look for pelicans busting the water or just a large collections of pelicans sitting in the trees or on the water waiting. Or you may just see the schools of bait dimpling the surface. If you are in the clear water of the Keys you can always just ride around and look for them. Canal mouths, docks and flats edges are all good places to look. You will see waves of them when they are plentiful and they often look smaller in the water than they actually are.
It doesn't take big pilchards to catch big fish. I was fishing a big pod of tarpon last summer and ran out of pinfish so I started chumming the tinny pilchards in the well hoping to fire the fish up to hit lures. They got going so strong they were blasting the schools of pilchards right against the hull of the boat.
In all honesty, while live chumming can load the boat with fish, it's a ton of work. Your best bet is to give Blue Moon Expeditions a call and let them do the hard part for you. If you are interested in this type of trip, June to November is prime time for this type of fishing. Give Captain Shafter a call.
The Florida Keys Tarpon season marches on. The live baiting around the bridge channels is getting better and better. There are more and more mullet pouring in right now and they are the bait of choice. If you haven't fished for tarpon with live mullet, it's literally a blast. They will explode on the mullet right on top often going airborne on the strike. You will miss a lot of fish because they have a hard time running them down but it is very visual and a really frisky mullet will raise a lot of fish. If the mullet are too lively and the tarpon just can't catch them try trimming their tail fins. I would always recommend fishing them on a 7/0 or 8/0 circle hook and leaving the rod in the holder until the fish is running drag.
For the fly fisherman, the ocean side migratory fish are showing in better and better numbers. Captain Shafter has been getting a lot of shots for his clients. Small flies have been producing the most eats.
Cobia and Permit have been showing up all over the gulf wrecks. As usual you have to really fight them aggressively to keep the massive bull and lemon sharks from making a meal of your catch. There are also a lot of giant jack crevalle on the wrecks and can be a ton of fun on topwaters. The medium to large jacks make great baits for the unbelievable number of Goliath Grouper that inhabit the wrecks. On the way to and from the wrecks there have been lots of sight fishing opportunities for a tasty trippletail. Bring one of those home and have Lazy Days in Islamorada cook it up for you. They are one of my favorite fish to eat.
Florida bay snook and reds are getting better and better as the water continues to warm. There has even been some really nice snook showing up around the Keys bridges at night. That will also get better as we get into summer. Trout fishing in Florida Bay has been outstanding as well, they will really respond to topwaters.
With so many options, now through June is my favorite time to fish the Florida Keys and Everglades Park. Give Captain Shafter a call to arrange a trip.
Well the tarpon migration continues on. There has been no need to make the long runs to the Everglades to find the tarpon this week. They are all over town within view of the Keys. The last few days have been nice and calm and it's easy to see just how many are around. Of course slick conditions makes them a little more cautious but man is it fun to see.
Some really big fish are starting to show as well. Captain Shafter saw one that was easily over 200 pounds. Mullet are beginning to show up in bigger numbers so the live bait fishing at the bridges is really beginning to take off. That will stay good from now until mid to late June. I tend to fish more mullet early in the season when they are plentiful, easy to catch and easy too keep alive. About the end of May as the water gets much warmer, I go almost exclusively to crabs. Dead baits on the bottom can also produce well on into June, while I just don't enjoy fishing that style as much, it certainly has saved more than one day for me.
Shafter is still getting out a couple of nights a week on his own and putting a lot of fish in the air around the bridges on plugs.
Over the next month look for more and more tarpon to be seen on the tradition migration routes along the Atlantic side of the Keys. This is the sight fishing opportunity people come from all over the world to take advantage of. Captain Shafter is great at coaching you how to position your fly to get these notoriously finicky fish to eat. I have caught hundreds on live bait but I learned more in a morning sight fishing with him than I had in 15 years playing with them on my own.
As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago the last two weeks of March and first week of April are usually about as good as it gets for permit in the Florida Keys. That has held true this year as well. The permit fishing has been outstanding all through the Keys.
As the water is warming snook and redfishing is steadily improving as well. That fishery will remain strong all through the summer. They probably won't get much attention until the end of tarpon season since that is the big draw.
I went for years as a dedicated Fluorocarbon leader disciple, but I'm starting to see some advantages to going back to Mono at times too. My love affair with Fluoro started on a trip to an eastern Tennessee tailwater to fish for stripers years ago. I was rigged with Fluoro and my two buddies were not. We were all throwing fluke style baits and doing well but when the sun came up a little higher I was the only one still catching fish. I was loving it but it was driving my buddies nuts. I had forgotten about the fluoro leader until a nice fish ran me over a rock ledge and cut me off. As I was rerigging it hit me. I told my buddies what I thought the difference was. One guy changed leaders instantly the other is the laziest human being I've ever met and as typical he didn't change. The two of us that had Fluoro were then both catching while the other still wasn't getting bit. After about the 10th fish he finally said, OK give me some of that stuff.
From that moment until the last couple of years, you never saw a single one of my rods without a fluoro leader. During those years, I have also been down sizing my leaders some in highly pressured areas. When I first started fishing Islamorada we used 80 to 100 pound leader when live baiting tarpon. I have found our number of bites has gone up by dropping down to 60 and even 50 fluoro. Captain Shafter will even drop down to 40 pound leader at times to coax the tough bite.
But I started hearing some interesting things about how other good fisherman approach things. A good buddy of mine is by far the best live bait striper fisherman I know with multiple 50 pound plus fish and no telling how many in the 40's and he never uses fluoro. All these fish came from an extremely clear lake that can be really tough fishing. He only uses a smoke color mono for his main line and leader.
I have been told that Mark Krowka who has probably the best tournament record of anybody in the Florida Keys and has guided more grand slams than anybody alive only uses mono leaders for tarpon. From what I understand, he feels like the stiffness of fluorocarbon results in the hook not finding the corner of a tarpon's mouth as often. It's hard to argue with his results.
We use a lot of live and dead ladyfish for bait when fishing in the everglades and on the days you absolutely need a couple of ladyfish every single one you hook jumps off at boat side. A couple of years a ago I had my typical fluoro leader and couldn't land a lady to save my life. My buddy using the same rod and same jig but with a mono leader proceeded to boat 7 in a row before I could get one to stay connected. I really believe it was the little bit of stretch in the mono that was making the difference. It really made me wonder how many tarpon and snook have jumped off because of the stiffer fluoro leader I always use. But then would I have gotten the bite without the less visible fluoro, it's a paradox.
Captain Brian Gwilliam who is one of the best fisherman I've seen at producing fish under any conditions once told me he uses fluoro in the clear water of the keys but it's not needed in the dirty water of the glades. Over in those darker waters he uses Ande pink mono, which is what many of the Keys captains used for leaders before the advent of fluoro. This approach made a ton of sense to me. At night, cloudy days or stained waters I've started using more and more mono to get the benefits of a little stretch, and it's so much less expensive. But on bright sunny days in clearer waters I still think you will get way more bites on the fluorocarbon.
Drop us a line and let us know what you think.
As bad as February was March is really making up for it. Water temps keep climbing every day and the fish are really turning on. The main attraction is still the tarpon bite. Last week all the action seemed to be more up in the glades but now they are showing up all in Florida Bay. The edges of the lakes throughout the bay are holding good numbers of laid up fish, perfect fly targets. So there are tons of options because the glades bays and rivers are still holding tons of cooperative fish.
There are even a few fish coming from the live bait fishermen around the bridge channels. That fishery will get better and better as we head into April and May. Speaking of the bridges, Captain Shafter Johnston tried something a little different the other night that I absolutely love doing. He went out a little after the sun went down and anchored around some of the Islamorada bridges throwing big mullet imitating plugs around the pilings. He jumped 6 tarpon very quickly and called it a night. If you haven't ever tried this type of fishing it is a blast. The last time Shafter and I tried it we jumped well over a dozen. There is enough ambient light from street lights, and houses where you can see where to cast pretty well. The fish tend to blast plugs running on the surface or just under swinging with the current. Going from calm, quiet and peaceful to a topwater tarpon explosion is something everyone should experience.
March is also a great time to get that elusive permit. With the warm weather the permit have been going strong all through the Keys. Most years the last two weeks of March and the first week of April offers some of the best permit fishing of the year. They tend to really explode onto the flats on the feed just before heading offshore to the reefs and wrecks to spawn in April and May. The nice thing with Permit is a little wind helps the fishing. Actually ideal conditions are when it's blowing 10 to 15. A little chop on the water makes it much harder for them to hear or see you and you can get very close shots. The key is to be able to cast fly or spin accurately in windy conditions and also manage the bow that gets blown in your line once it hits the water.
Snook should continue to get better and better as the water warms too.
If you have dreamed of connecting with a big tarpon or permit now is the time.
I just concluded writing that I believe fishing in the Florida Keys and the Everglades was going to take off after the tough winter fishing and the great reports began rolling in from numerous Islamorada fishing charters. During the week of warm weather, the tarpon undoubtedly began going off in the Everglades Back Country.
The dark waters of the Everglades bays and rivers warm up much faster than the surrounding clear waters of the Florida Keys. It doesn't take many days of warm sunny weather to get the tarpon flooding in and chewing.
Captain Shafter Johnston and Blue Moon Expeditions hosted the crew from the Silver Kings TV show on the mother-ship last week. They ran the mother-ship from its dockage in Islamorada up into the Shark River deep in the Everglades and used it as a base of operations for the week. This allowed them to be just minutes from the big push of tarpon that showed up just in time.
Captain Rob Fordyce and Captain Bou Bosso, who are featured on Silver Kings were able to capture some amazing footage of tarpon on fly for next season's show. It took them a day or so to find the fish but suddenly they were jumping 10 plus tarpon a day, all on fly. That's flat out getting it done!
When Captain Shafter had a day off on Sunday, he and his friend Jason Stemple-famed photographer, ran from Islamorada all the way back up to the glades interior in the Pathfinder 23 HPS. The Yamaha 250 SHO boat flies, and makes a lengthy run that much easier. When Jason put the camera down to grab the 11 weight, he put 13 tarpon in the air! The sick thing is that they invited me to come along with them but my wife had other plans. Lucky for her that she is hot.
If you can get down to the Keys or Glades before this weather changes, the fish are eating.
According to everyone I have talked to, the winter fishing in the Keys backcountry has been extremely tough. The only thing that was consistently good was fishing for Spanish and snappers out in deeper waters of Florida Bay. Some of the tournaments for snook and redfish had very sub-par catches to win this winter.
Usually in the winter you can go up into the interior shallows in the Glades and have some of the best sight fishing of the year for big snook and reds. But for some reason this year there were waves of mullet in all of these areas. And mullet tend to root along the bottom stirring up sediment and sight fishing was impossible.
But now the good news. It always seems that periods of really tough fishing are followed by periods of fantastic fishing when conditions change. When the fish are in a funk, off their normal patterns and not feeding aggressively, they tend to make up for lost time when the weather breaks. This is the one time people won't be saying you should have been here yesterday.
I really look for this upcoming tarpon season to be fantastic after the rough winter. The Blue Moon Expeditions team is already finding some good tarpon fishing up in the Glades Back Country with the warm up finally coming on over the last week. It should be a sign of really good things to come.
Look for tarpon to show up in the Glades backcountry first. The dark bottoms of the glades interiors warm up faster than anywhere else. Then as it warms more you will have tarpon laying up in protected lakes in Florida Bay. As it warms a little more they will be all along the glades gulf coast lines and even showing in good numbers in the Keys bridge channels. My favorite time of year is almost upon us!