While the tourist season has slowed down to a crawl, the fishing season is in full swing! One of the reasons that tourism slows down is the rise in temperature. Many of the snowbirds that visit us in the winter find it a bit too hot for their comfort, but for us Floridians, it is just right for having fun in the water! All of the top contenders are still around, and school is out, there is no better time for a last minute family Florida Keys escape. June allows you to take advantage of discounted hotel rates and that makes the Florida Keys more accessible for families on a budget, it also gives them the opportunity to do other activities, like getting out on the water to fish.
Springtime is spawning time for many of the snapper species, particularly the mutton snapper. Expect an amazing snapper bite throughout the month of June. This event is happening throughout the keys, but by June, the most popular spot is Western Dry Rocks to the south-west of Key West.
The bite usually happens in about 115 ft of water on the edge of the bar. You can fish for them on the bottom by using a knocker rig or you can raise them off the bottom by using chum and free line a jig tipped with pinfish. There are other options for bait, like ballyhoo, squid or bonito strips, but pinfish work the best. You can catch them throughout the day, but expect the best bite at sundown. This fishery is under heavy scrutiny by the Southeast Atlantic Fishery Management Council, so we must harvest them in a responsible manner. Failure to harvest responsibly will result in more area closures which no one is a fan of! This means getting enough fish for a few meals and releasing the rest. Remember these fish are spawning and they are producing the next generation of fish.
Mahi- Mahi Offshore
In the blue water expect some of the best mahi action of the year, with scattered juvenile fish throughout the Florida Keys and the larger schools getting near “woods wall” at the edge of the continental shelf. Also, expect some of the humps like the Islamorada hump to be a hot spot for the mahi, as well as other pelagic predators like tunas, wahoo, sailfish, and even marlin. Trolling dead ballyhoo is the best way to get after them; it allows you to work large areas and cover ground. Also, by trolling you will not only catch mahi, but most of the sought after pelagic fish are fans of it too. I like using a wire leader, in case a large wahoo shows up and always keep an eye on the sky; the birds will show you where the fish are.
Permit and Cobia
Another highlight of June is the arrival of summertime cobias. The best place to find them is on the wrecks in the Gulf of Mexico. More often than not, they will be found in large schools or swimming next to large sharks. Cobias are related to remoras and have a symbiotic relationship with sharks. Cobias have a strong resemblance to sharks too; most people that never seen a cobia will often confuse them with a shark. Cobias are known for their ferocious appetite and incredible stamina, as well as great table fare. They are not picky eaters and will devour live pinfish, squid, crabs, and artificial baits like Gulp. Expect to find large schools of
Expect to find large schools of permit in these wrecks as well. The bait of choice for permit is a yellow mylar jig tipped with a small live blue crab. Cobias and permit are formidable adversaries that will thrill even the most experienced anglers.
Best bet in the Keys
Without a doubt, the snapper bite is the highlight of this month. Muttons and large flag yellowtails will bite the bottom out of the boat throughout this month, with the best bite happening the week before and the week after the full moon. The bite peaks at about one hour before the sun sets and it can continue throughout the night. Strips of bonito, live pinfish and ballyhoo work very well. For those of you anglers that do not have a boat and or cannot afford a private charter, you can find head boats throughout the Florida Keys that will do night trips throughout the month. Head boats do a per person trip that is more cost-effective.
Some of the more popular head boats are: The Capt. Michael at of Robbie’s Marina in Islamorada, The Marathon Lady out of Marathon Key, Sailors Choice out of Key Largo, The Tortuga out of the Key West Bight in the Historic Key West Seaport, and The Gulfstream out of Garrison Bight in Key West, Florida.
Taking the plunge!
The waters are nice and warm and June offers some of the best visibility of the year. The hogfish and grouper seasons are open and since the new regulations have been enacted, we can expect to find some large fish. Also, the lobster mini-season is coming up next month, it is not a bad idea to start scouting the rock piles and ledges, in order to get the jump on the lobsters when the season begins. And please don’t forget to help us get rid of the lionfish that are invading the reef. You must handle them with extreme care, but they do make great table fare.