Even Hotter Still

Tournament Tails // August 28, 2017

Water temperatures throughout all of the Keys have increased and paved the way for the very best fishing results of the year for the “Big Three,”  bonefish, tarpon and permit.  Because of this 80 plus degree water, flat calm conditions, an overcast day, or a windy and drizzly atmosphere all are productive.  The water is hot, and the fish are  here and willing.  The following catches are brought to you by the Mirage 18 HPX:

Frank Delucas and Debra Ventura from Plantation were one for seven on the tarpon at 3 different spots at dawn, catching a 40 pounder on live crab and 10 pound spinning.  Immediately after taking a 4 pound bonefish on a live shrimp from a large school of tailers near the Buchannan Keys, Frank and Debra connected on a doubleheader of 10 pound jack crevalle when a group of several hundred passed by in a golden tidal wave.  The surprise catch of their outing, however, was Debra’s heavy bite and fight on a live pinfish near Channel 5 bridge that turned out to be a very lucky 11 pound Cubera snapper.  Lucky because he was released!

Debra Ventura with lucky 11 pound Cubera Snapper

Don Armstrong from Utah had versatile success for several days in and around the Lignum Vitae area.  He used live crabs on 17 pound spin to gun down a 15 pound permit, and then a spectacular 140 pound tarpon that repeatedly left the water in a series of marlin-like greyhounding jumps.  The next day he began with a trophy 30 pound permit also on crab, and then later, 2 tarpon were landed on fly out of 3 bites.  The 70 and 80 pounders sipped in a custom tied red worm imitation, stripped with an 11 weight outfit and clear-tipped, floating line.  Armstrong battled 2 out of 4 tarpon into submission the next morning of 60 and 70 pounds, while free-lining pinfish into a channel near Conch Key.  At sunrise, he used an 8 weight with a clear tipped floating line and a dime-sized tan merkin, pitching to plentiful schools of tailers.  Nine bonies went down on the fuzzy crab, and 4, from 2-5 pounds, were landed.  His final day was also active, with 6 tarpon chasing down and crushing live pinfish, and 3 brought to boatside of:  40, 50 and a monster 150 pounder, and another bonefish on fly just an hour later.

Don Armstrong with trophy permit

Eddie Berger from Maryland locked up with and landed an 80 pound tarpon on a live pinfish and 15 pound spin before 6 a.m.  At dawn, he removed a small permit that tailed on his live shrimp, a fish that outdistanced the other 40 or so alongside in a headwaking school.  Berger completed his slam with twin 3 pound bones that mudded and inhaled live shrimp on 8 pound spin.

As the aforementioned temps heated up, the tropics also became more active.  Alan Routman from Fort Lauderdale slipped in a dream day just prior to a passage of some unfavorable conditions.
His timing was perfect, beginning with back to back 75 pound tarpons on live crabs and 17 pound spin in the morning darkness.  Under a temporary cloudy patch, Routman parked and blind fished shrimp to quickly catch 4 bonefish to 5 pounds and 2 mutton snappers.  When the sun broke out, he tacked on 4 permits of 8, 10, 18 and 22 pounds, all on small crabs,  for a double Super Slam!!!

Mary and Steve Larsen from Sioux Falls South Dakota carded a grand slam on each of the 5 days of their trip to Islamorada.  On their very first day, Steve put away a 40 pound tarpon on a pinfish, and then a 4 pound bone on a live shrimp.  Mary defeated a 30 pound tarpon on crab, then a 28 pound permit also on the crab from the same tidal rip.  Then on live shrimp, a 2 pound bone and 2 muttons for her first slam and Super Slam!  This day was fitted in just minutes before the most intense quadrant of T.D. Emily pounded south Florida with West winds over 25 mph, heavy rains, and the very worst lightning, thus far, of the Summer for the middle Keys.  Mary slammed again with a 12 pound permit on crab near Tea Table Key, a 4 pound tailing bonefish on live shrimp near Twin Key bank, and a baby tarpon on a live shrimp from a shallow mangrove shoreline near Grassy Key.  Mary then hat-tricked with 2 tarpon on pinfish of 30 and 40 pounds, a 5 pound bone on a live shrimp, and a 14 pound permit on crab.  The Larsens combined for another slam with a 20 pound tarpon on live shrimp, then an 18 pound permit on crab from an eddy near Indian Key, and a 2 pound bonefish blind fishing in increasing winds.  While eating a chicken lunch, the couple landed a very interesting 2 pound jack crevalle with a secret,  which will be revealed a little bit later.  Their final day was spent negotiating 25 mph winds.  They connected on twin 40 pound tarpons out of 5 bites with vibrating pinfish, then a 10 pound permit blind fishing with live shrimp, and then added 8 bonefish with the same lively shrimps from 2-5 pounds, including an exciting double-header!

Mary Larsen with one of her 3 SLAMS: tarpon,


and bonefish!

Maverick Tip:  Check out stomach contents whenever possible.  During the trip with the Larsens, that 2 pound jack crevalle was hooked deeply and bleeding.  He was kept for useable crab and pinfish food.  While portioning the jack out, there was a conspicuous 3 inch long rock hard bulge in his gut, that turned out to be one of our discarded chicken bones!!!!!  So much for sophisticated baits where the jacks are concerned, but  observations of cut out or spit up items in various stages of digestion can be quite revealing, and tremendously helpful in figuring out more effective ways to go about “matching the hatch,”  with appropriate live baits, very technically tied flies, or maybe just an old chicken bone?

– by Capt. Mark Krowka