By Capt. Mark Krowka
If there is a trickier month to fish in South Florida than February, it is likely March. Not yet warm enough for reliable flatsfishing, and not cold enough for the remaining migratory Gulf fish to be consistent. Water temperatures are still stuck in the 70’s and the main body of white pelicans are currently firmly embedded at Everglades National Park, our Florida version of the Ground Hog seeing his shadow. Even with Nature’s constant deceiving curve balls, catches remain strong on the Maverick 18 HPX.
Father and son Paul and Jordan Newmeyer tallied up 105 fish with 13 species, beginning their outing in the scary dark near Islamorada with larges halves of fresh cut ladyfish on the bottom of local channels on a falling tide. They landed twin 8 pound jack crevalles and were then ripped by a powerful bite and a 1/4 mile run. The steamrolling animal finally revealed itself as a 7 foot plus 350 pound no-nonsense bullshark. The pair then moved to a Gulf edge near Pontoon Bank and collected big trout, keeper mangroves and speedy Spanish mackerels all taken on 8 pound spin and jigs tipped with shrimp on light, coffee colored, singled stranded wire leaders.
Another father and son team of Alan and Zach Routman from Fort Lauderdale fished nearly the same route and methods to catch a pair of throbbing crevalles and two 40 pound snapping blacktips before sunrise. They jigged a basin using yellow bucktails, untipped, to nail 102 fish and 12 species including large trout and leaping ladies.
The theme continued with Charlie Johnson of Maverick Boats and son Will using dripping butterflied mullets predawn to jump a 100 pound tarpon and land a toothy barracuda over 20 pounds on 20 pound spin. They moved to the Gulf edge near Sandy Key to anchor and chum up 103 fish with 12 species including aggressive Spanny macks up to 4 pounds on 10 pound spin with compact bullet jigs tipped with bits of shrimp. During the return trip home, the duo stopped and poled a thin strip bank to search for permit and Will dropped his large lively shrimp directly into a patrolling formation of big crevalle to connect with and subdue a 20 plus pounder on 10 pound spin!
Will Johnson toothy cuda
Will Johnson’s Big jack crevalle
Vic Unterbrink from Deerfield Beach, fished a half day in the Gulf near Schooner Bank with 10 pound spin, bright green jigs tipped with shrimp and light wire to rack up 102 fish and 15 species that included 33 spanish mackerels up to 6 pounds, chopping bluefish to 5 pounds, succulent pompano to 2 1/2 pounds and seatrout up to 23 inches.
Adam Ruck from Illinois, sinkered down small fresh dead ladyfish on 20 pound spin near the Channel 5 bridge in the early a.m. to jump 2 large tarpon, and land an 80 pound nurse shark and then jack crevalle of 14 & 16 pounds. Ruck moved to anchor and chum a Gulf dropoff near the Bamboo Banks and cranked up 68 fish with 12 species, the usual spanish macks, big mangroves to 2 1/2 pounds and plump trout to over 4 pounds.
Andy Smith from Texas fished back to back successful outings. On day one, he counted up 106 fish and 8 species while drifting and casting pure jigs in the area of Blue Bank with some impressive sloshing keeper trout to well over 4 pounds. He started the next day at the same area to harvest 57 fish, mostly trout, ladies and jacks and then moved to an area near first National Bank to drop down juicy ladyfish and jack steaks on 20 pound spin and 100 pound wire leaders with 9/0 circle hooks to go 15 for 18 on 10 lemons to 150 pounds, 3 bulls to 5 feet, one blacktip and one silky.
Newlyweds Sarah and Trevor Seachrist from PA, (married in Islamorada the day before!), spent two romantic days on the water. The first was busy with 125 fish and 13 species taken on chartreuse jigs tipped with shrimp. Many of their seatrout were in excess of 3 pounds, with a handful over 4. Their second day began with 5 tarpon bites in the morning darkness, all scoopng up fresh dead mullet from a local Islamorada channel on 20 pound test spin. They landed a 60 pounder followed by a solid 150 nurse shark with two 8 pound crevalles. A trip to the Gulf near the end of Nine Mile Bank produced 89 fish on shrimp tipped jigs with 10 species including keeper lane and mangrove snappers, span macks and trout both to over 4 pounds.
Sarah Seachrist and trouts
Mo Smith from Cordova, TN and renowned international race car driving instructor Nico Rondet from France spent an action packed day on Gulf waters, several miles off Schooner Bank while anchored up and chumming. They took 107 fish and 14 species on the deadly jig/shrimp combination. Their spanish mackerels weighed up to 6 pounds. On their next day, they upped the body count to 126 fish and 16 species, and then sped back into Islamorada to let down large and greasy slabs of ladyfish on 20 pound spin to have only one bite. The thump was massive, and 45 minutes later the 18 foot 1,000 pound plus sawfish was coaxed onto the flat for a release. It was Smith’s first (and he hopes last) saw!
Nick Patricoff from Miami and Steven Trembly from Palmetto Bay went 2 for 4 on tarpon in the blackness of the early morning in Islamorada while drifting back medium crabs on 15 pound spinning and 60 pound mono filament leaders. The 50 and 90 pounders put on a high flying clinic while dramatically framed in the beam of the spotlight. Steven added a 16 pound permit, also on a crab just after first light. They took 60 more fish, including 18 trout, on jigs sweetened with sections of live shrimp from areas off Man O’War Key in the Gulf while anchored and chumming.
Steve Trembly’s permit
Crack angler Mike Riolles from Rhode Island, got the day rolling right with a 3 for 5 tarpon performance while staked out and suspending live crabs in a tide rip near Lower Matecumbe. His aerial performers weighed 80, 85 and 125 pounds. Riolles relocated to the Gulf in 12 feet of water to ice the cake with 138 fish and 10 species on small jigs and shrimp. The main body of his harvest was made up of an incredible 61 spanish mackerel!