Hopefully “Springing” Ahead

Tournament Tails // April 15, 2018

Although most Northerners likely find our Florida seasonal changes as obscure, observant fishermen recognize the subtleties, especially in the shallow and very impressionable waters of the Keys. The fish are never blurred in their perception, and do not fall for a few days of Summer-like weather that may initially appear to signify a tropical pattern. Nagging mini-cold fronts have continued well into April, causing the weather and how it is best fished, to change almost daily. As always, flexibility and application are the two most important factors for successful harvesting. Following are fish that were all caught on the Maverick Mirage 18 HPX.

Immediately on the heels of one recent frontal passage, Charlie & Tim Wu, respectively from West Newton and Dover MA, anchored & chummed a Gulf edge near Oxfoot Bank and used 1/4 ounce jigs tipped with shrimp sections to collect 174 fish which included 16 species. Spanish mackerel are still in the area, somewhat later than usual on the seasonal calendar, but remain plentiful and aggressive. The Wu’s enjoyed macks up to 6 pounds, airborne ladies to 4 pounds, and snipping bluefish to 5 pounds, even adding several on an 8 weight flyrod while stripping in a chartreuse Klauser pattern.

Charlie Wu & flyrod mack

As a slight warming trend developed, Cheri & George Grinnan from Virginia, went one for three on tarpon near the Long Key Viaduct Bridge in the dark of the morning while drifting with medium sized crabs floated on 20 pound spinning tackle. Cheri nailed her very first tarpon, a thick and tough 130 pounder. They moved into the Gulf after dawn to anchor and litter chum, and record 110 more fish, with 15 species. While casting back into the slick using 10 pound spin and yellow 3/8 ounce jigs, the Grinnan’s took the usual Spanish mackerels, bluefish, paddling jacks and ladyfish, along with keeper mangrove snappers, large trout to 4 pounds and tasty lane snappers.

Eddie Berger from Maryland, was in Islamorada as the weather warmed up a few more degrees, and drifted near Channel 5 in the darkness of the wee hours with small crabs on 17 pound spin to go 3 for 4 on high leaping, silvery tarpons of 80, 90 & 125 pounds. Berger rounded out the rest of the day by adding 100 fish, and 10 species, toothy Spanish, ladies, jacks, runners & bluefish while jigging with bright green nylures tipped with dime-sized portions of shrimp.

Pete Knaus from Tooele Utah paired up with Johnny Smith from White Haven PA to reap more benefits of some in between cold front warmth. Johnny used 30 pound spin and a dripping, freshly butterflied mullet to beat down a dirty 200 pound bull shark, his very first Keys fish. He then landed his first 3 zipping bonefish, taken near Whale Harbor while using 10 pound spin and live shrimp. Pete bagged a trophy 31 pound permit outside of Lower Matecumbe that fell all over a quarter sized live crab on 15 pound test spin. They added 1/2 dozen bonnet sharks and a radiant 4 foot silky.

Pete Knaus & 31 pound permit

Phil Faircloth from Orlando, jumped three massive tarpon all well over 100 pounds on dead mullet on the bottom near Indian Key Channel. The tarpon bite halted and the next takedown proved to be a wide and vicious bull shark of 250 pounds plus, and nearly 7 feet long. He then cranked up 2 electric bonefish from a flat adjacent to Peterson Key Banks, using live shrimp and 8 pound spin and then he took a sturdy 12 pound permit, also on shrimp from the same area.

Alan Routman from Fort Lauderdale, used dead stinky mullet on the bottom to land 3 bonnets, 3 crevalles to 10 pounds, a heavy 200 pound protesting nurse and a violent 175 pound bull. He then switched to live shrimp and 10 pound spin to nail 3 speedy bonefish up to 4 pounds and a long running 14 pound permit, all near Shell Key.

Ian and son Connor Norris from Dania, teamed up to spank 4 tarpon out of 5 bites drifting crabs in the dark on 17 pound spin near Channel Two Bridge. These tremendous jumpers weighed in at 100, 110, 120 and 140 pounds. Connor then whipped a solid 90 pound blacktip shark on 20 pound spin on a juicy and wreaking dead blue runner. Ian battled and defeated a 22 pound permit that destroyed a live crab, and moments later, Connor boated his very first bonefish that fell for a live shrimp.

Ian Norris & 22 pound permit

Guitarist/performer Conner Norris & his inaugural bonefish

Jack Train from Boston, joined Pierce Scanton from Ketchum, Idaho to cash in on a few days of the warmest recent weather in the Keys. Fishing in the heart of downtown Islamorada, Scranton landed 2 tarpon of 110 & 140 pounds on live crabs with 17 pound test out of 5 bites. The next day, Train hat tricked with 3 poons of 90, 110 & 130 with Pierce adding an 80 pounder, all on the same tackle. On day three, the pair each took an 80 pound tarpon early on, then Scranton collected a 24 pound permit on a crab, a 9 pound boney on a shrimp, and then a 2 pound colorful mutton on shrimp for his Super Slam!!

Pierce Scranton’s 24 pound permit

– by Capt. Mark Krowka