The May/June time frame has historically been the busiest fishing season in the Keys. This year is no exception, and currently much better conditions than in March and April have squeezed even more boats, both recreational and professional, into available spots. Although Tarpon Fever has officially taken over most of South Florida, thankfully there are plenty of fish, of all kinds, to spread out this ever growing fleet.
Christian Denhard from Pompano Beach joined Jeff Woods from Pittsburgh, PA and went one for three on tarpon bites, with Woods nailing a tough, full-bodied non-jumping 150 pound female tarpon, his very first! This monster vacuumed up a fresh dead mullet from the bottom. Then the duo were one for three on permit, landing a 12 pounder on crab, then two for four on bonefish using live shrimp on 10 pound test mono for a boat grand slam!
Rick Spear with sons Tyler and Braden from Plantation made the run over to Flamingo and drifted near Rankin Key to catch 120 assorted fish on 8 pound spin and 1/4 ounce chartreuse jigs. They dropped down wedges of fresh ladyfish and jacks to land big nasty lemons up to 175 pounds. They finished off the day with a 16 foot, 600 pound plus sawfish, fought and defeated near Big Conchie Channel on 30 pound spin.
Alan Routman from Fort Lauderdale caught 3 tarpon from 5 bites using 15 pound spin and live crabs. His active fish weighed 60, 65 and 100 pounds. His second day was all permit, with 3 silvery discs landed, 2 eight pounders and a 15 pounder all on the same 15 pound line with fluttering, unwilling crabs.
Frank Delucas hosted A.J. Garcia-Menocal and Charlie Volpe, all from Plantation, for 2 tarpon on crabs of 100 and then 180 pounds during dawn fishing near Lignum Vitae Channel. They also took a 3 pound bonefish on a live shrimp, and a 40 pound blacktip on fresh dead mullet. The day was wrapped up with a prehistoric 800 pound sawfish which also scarfed up a large butterflied mullet fished on the bottom. The aggregate weight of these animals made the trio members of the 1/2 ton plus club!
Christopher Troy from Greenwich, CT and Jamie Smith from New Orleans, LA, both Cornell University students, caught tarpon of 100 and 120 pounds on live crabs before sunrise, and then cruised to the Park to jig up ladyfish, jack crevalle, and over 130 trout for a 12 specie, 208 fish outing! They also caught toothy cartilage including blacktips, a spinner, Atlantic sharp nose and a 125 pound lemon. On their second day, Troy & Smith were 4 for 5 on tarpon with small crabs on 17 pound test spin, whipping fish of 70, 90, and then twin 140’s. Day three went 2 for 3 on the silver kings, while besting fish of 100 and 110 pounds both taken on wiggling live crabs.
Sarah Rudy & fiance Trevor Seachrist from Strasburg, PA also spent 3 days in the Middle Keys and moved to the Park to reel up 130 fish taken on 3/8 ounce yellow jigs and a large airborne spinner shark. Sarah & Trevor on Day 2 took a 120 pound tarpon on a helpless crab, and then a 3 pound bonefish on a live shrimp near Indian Key, Trevor’s very first! Their third day was spent in the vicinity of Channel Five, battling to the end 2 giant back to back tarpon of 130 and 140 pounds out of 3 bites, also on live crabs.
Tom Gillingham and Guy Hickman from Vero Beach used fresh dead ladyfish on bottom in several Islamorada channels to jump a 150 pound tarpon, and boat 5 snapping blacktips to 75 pounds, 2 bonnet sharks and a nurse. They also took a 4 pound bone on live shrimp and 2 permit of 14 and 16 pounds on live crabs near Lignum Vitae Key.
Pete Knaus from Utah and Doug Lyle from Colorado were 2 for 4 on tarpon, fish of 110 and 120 pounds. Doug’s 120 was his first ever, inhaling a live crab. Then the pair caught back to back bonefish near Upper Matecumbe Key weighing 3 and 5 pounds, fooled on fresh live shrimp. Their second day began perfectly with a 3 for 3 morning on the tarpon, fish weighing 90, 100 and 120 pounds. They left for Flamingo when the poons predictably turned off at sunrise, stopped a few miles short, and racked up an additional 161 thrashing fish on jigs and light spin from a basin near the Pollack Keys.
Robert Mashal and Charlie Wu from Newton Mass. used dead baits on bottom in Islamorada to land a bonnet shark, a 70 pound nurse, 50 pound blacktip, 2 stingrays, one large jack crevalle and two girthy tarpon of 130 and 140 pounds for Robert, and then a 150 for Charlie, all taken on 25 pound test spin with 100 pound mono leaders. On their second day, they opted for the action of the backcountry and focused on a bountiful mud near the Dump Keys and caught 100 assorted small gamesters on jigs and flies. Robert and Charlie then scrambled back to Islamorada attempting to find and land Charlie’s very first bonefish. He caught 2 almost immediately on live shrimp on 8 pound spin.
Bill Curley from Philly took 2 tarpon in the morning darkness of 85 and 110 pounds on live crabs, then fished an edge near Panhandle Key at low light and had a handful of permit shots, when a group of 10 appeared and fought over his live shrimp. A 10 pounder tailed up on the crustacean and was fought and landed. With quickly worsening incoming weather, Curley dropped out a live shrimp in a trough near the Peterson Keys and bagged a 4 pound bonefish to complete his grand slam! They next day in heavy winds Bill defeated a 140 pound tarpon out of 3 bites on live crabs and then grabbed another bonefish on live shrimp.
Eddie Berger from Maryland put in an arduous day of fighting fish after fish near Shell Key. He used fresh dead baits on bottom to land 2 stingrays, 3 bonnets, 2 black groupers, 3 jack crevalle of 8, 10 and 12 pounds, a 300 pound nurse shark, a 350 pound bull shark and a 130 pound tarpon, all before noon! He added 2 bonefish of 3 and 4 pounds on shrimp and then a small, dinner plate-sized permit of 4 pounds, for a grand slam plus, plus, plus!
Mike Palmer and John Harbilas from Tampa jumped a 120 pound tarpon and then landed a 75 pounder on medium size live crabs in Tea Table Channel before dawn. They also caught a mutton snapper on shrimp, and a 15 pound permit that munched and crunched a quarter-sized live crab. Then the pair found plentiful schools of mudding bones on an outside shoreline of Windley Key. Using live shrimp on 10 pound spin, John & Mike exploded for 11 bonefish landed out of 15 bites, including 2 hectic doubleheaders for a boat super slam!
David Leider from Miami had 3 dark-thirty tarpon bites on live crabs and landed 120 pounder. He then took a mutton snapper on a big live shrimp, followed by a 2 pound bone also on shrimp removed from shorelines near Lower Matecumbe Key. A short time later, he lasered a long cast to a pair of already spooked permit near West Key. One stopped on the crab and came tight to complete his first grand slam and first super slam! And, at the end of the day, he even added an 80 pound tarpon on fly!!
Jim Holland from Vancouver, WA nailed a 110 pound tarpon on crab while freelining in a tide rip near Indian Key Channel. An hour later, he was retrieving a fly from a tarpon shot when the line unexpectedly came tight in his hand. He stripped in a 3 pound mutton snapper. Next, he extracted a 3 pound bonefish from a pair of cruisers near Buchanan Key while pitching live shrimp. Then came 2 permit on crabs of 10 and 15 pounds that ate from a weed-filled tide rip near Long Key Viaduct. These ‘mitts completed his super slam! He followed up the next day with 2 big tarpon of 110 pounds on crab and 130 pounds on dead mullet. Then he faked out a 3 pound bonefish on live shrimp and followed up with a 16 pound permit on crab. Holland somehow found time for an 85 pound tarpon on fly out of 3 bites! Jim is one of the very, very few flats anglers who now has: a grand slam on bait, a grand slam on fly, 2 super slams and an individual double grand slam on bait. All were taken in Islamorada, Florida, USA. Besting these quality fish here, and not abroad, is certainly an accomplishment.
Maverick Tip: Even though the water is frequently crowded almost everywhere in the state during May and June, violating someone’s zone can always be avoided. Generally speaking, down wind or down current of any boat is NOT the place to cut in. With most inland fish, tarpon, bonefish, permit, snook and reds, an intimate knowledge of the terrain, and particularly the way fish move there is absolutely necessary before attempting to fit into areas already occupied. The great rule of thumb is: if you’re unsure, don’t. The car that is already parked is never at fault in the accident.
– by Capt. Mark Krowka