By: Mark Krowka
A few lingering cold fronts passed through in March, extending the entertaining collection of some Winter species. The atmosphere finally turned warm and dry. Simultaneously, the sharks, tarpon, bones and permit suddenly ignited! Tastes of Spring and Summer, along with highly anticipated signs of action to come, are in the air for the entire Keys.
Paul and son Jordan Newmeyer, from Michigan jigged pockets and potholes in 4 foot deep water near Buoy Key with 10 pound spin to wind up 71 fish and 8 species, with tough paddling crevalles and spotted seatrout. They left the sporty action to stake out at a specific tide rip alongside of an eventful sandbar near First National Bank, and laid out oozing wedges of fresh cut jacks and ladyfish. For over 2 hours the brisk activity was almost nonstop, while they landed 11 sharks out of 17 bites. Joining them at the side of the boat were lemons up to 150 pounds, tough beefy blacktips up to 100 pounds, and wildly leaping, spiraling spinners to 60 pounds.
PGA Hall of Famer Raymond Floyd used a custom tied yellow and mylar version of the standard Klauser Minnow to catch 81 fish on an eight weight with clear, Monic floating line in the Gulfside area of Clive Key. He repeatedly blind casted into a massive, fertile mullet mud in 3 feet of water to catch 8 species, including trout up to 3 pounds, and keeper pompano.
George Markelson from Islamorada had some bad luck connecting, but had great fishing, going one for 11 on tarpon with live crabs in the early morning darkness on 17 pound line near Tea Table Key. Markelson did, however, make that one count, battling down to exhaustion his personal best, a thick and long 170 pound silver monster after a lengthy bout. With an increasing north wind, George went to the Gulf edge near Man-of-War Key to anchor and chum and enjoy some of the last available and accessible Winter fishing. Jigs of 1/4 ounce tipped with shrimp accounted for 102 fish and 10 species, with 28 racing Spanish Mackerel up to 5 pounds, marauding bluefish also to 5 pounds, and trout to 3 and 1/2 pounds.
Paul and Cindy Faulkner from NC, started their morning going 4 of 8 on tarpon bites with 4 inch lively crabs in a tide seam near Race Channel. On 17 pound spin they landed spectacular cavorting silver kings of 80, 90, and then twin 100 pounders! After an hour run out to distant Little Conchie Channel, the pair dropped down peeled back mullets and ladyfish to land 3 out of 4 shark bites, a 70 pound tail walking spinner followed by a pair of determined 100 pound blacktips. A trip to the Gulf near Blue Bank to anchor and chum produced 80 fish and 13 species, mostly Spanish Macks and trout, all taken on 3/8 ounce bright green jigs tipped with shrimp.
Blane Perry with wife Cookie from VA, blindcasted with the aforementioned Klauser-like pattern on an 8 weight to catch 107 fish and 8 species, with over 50 trout. They ran to a channel near Frank Key and banged out 5 sharks out of 8 bites, 2 spinners and 3 blacktips. They also jumped a giant 170 pound tarpon, and lost a big hammerhead after several tense minutes. These big animals all scarfed down partially opened up and leaking ladyfish. On the second day Blane fished solo to jump 2 tarpon on crabs in the morning on 17 pound spin in Islamorada near Indian Key channel, and then on 20 pound spin, land twin 100 pound spinner sharks and 2 jack crevalles of 12 pounds. These 4 bites coming on the dead ladyfish. Winds lined up favorably enough to allow a trip back to the Gulf near Sprigger Bank, and anchoring while chumming racked up 110 fish and 12 species on the deadly jig tipped with shrimp combo, wrapping on a short trace of 40 pound coffee-colored wire. Among the catches were: Spannies to 4 pounds, trout, keeper mangroves, dusky sharks, and slender Atlantic sharpnose sharks.
Blane Perry with Jack
Frank Delucas from Plantation was restricted into staying in the immediate Islamorada area by high winds and incoming frontal weather with his son Frankie, and his friend Charlie Volpe. Using live shrimp in local channels, the trio caught 17 muttons, 2 black groupers, 2 hog snappers, and even a pair of moray eels! Then on heavier 20 pound spinners with 100 pound wire leaders, they sank down half filleted mullet to catch a 20 pound dusky shark, an 80 pound dusky, a 100 pound lemon, an 80 pound nurse, twin nurses in the 225 pound range, and then a 9 foot, 300 pound plus slashing sawfish! On their second day, the same group enjoyed some slightly more favorable weather to go 3 for 3 in the dark before sunrise on the the tarpon near Channel 5, using live crabs and 17 pound spin to land fish of 70, 80 and 100 pounds. They then took freshly netted mullet back into the Park to a small channel near Palm Key to go 9 for 18 on sharkage, landing 7 blacktips and a single 100 pound bull, and a giant 250 pound nurse. Frank’s third day, with Debra Volpe, began 2 for 7 on the morning tarpon, both 50 pounders, one on a crab and the other scooping up a dead mullet on the bottom. Delucas then added a 2 pound bone on live shrimp and 10 pound spin while staked out in the post-sunrise cloud cover. He then dropped a live crab into a small tidal eddy near Channel 2 and removed a 12 pound permit that was closely shadowed by 2 aggressive bull sharks of 150 and 350 pounds. The permit was tanked into the baitwell and safely relocated and released in perfect condition a secure mile away. Frank carded an additional bonefish of 4 pounds out of a school of mudders with a live shrimp near the Peterson Keys and then added the mutton snapper for a Super Slam!
During strong tides and ideal conditions, Alan Routman from Fort Lauderdale was one for one on the tarpon bite on the last of the falling tide in the dark of the wee hours, a 110 pounder that crushed a crab on 17 pound test spin and 60 pound fluorocarbon leader. Then on the very first surge of incoming tide, he had one firm thump on a large dead mullet and took down a 4 foot long 33 pound jack crevalle on 20 pound spinning. Running to a basin near the Bob Allen Keys was quickly rewarded with a large tarpon sucking in a nickel-sized crab on 12 pound spinning. The 140 pounder displaced a significant amount of slicked off water as it jumped prior to the release. Another move back to a strip bank around Lignum Vitae Key produced a 2 pound bonefish that viciously pinned down a live shrimp. Then on the edge of a basin around Spy Key, a dark headwaking and flashing mass of permit came into view, and one fell all over the quarter-sized crab and melted 10 pound line off the spinner. The 22 pounder was quickly released. While poling back to the bank, a group of 8 tarpon filed by, but not before a 120 pounder among them inhaled the next unfortunate live crab and fought vigorously. While this fat female was covering “ground,” it swam across one of the finger channels in the area, and over a mass of over 1000 jack crevalle, all in the 6-10 pound range. Then through a lighter colored, sandy bottom area with 2 dozen blacktips, and next through a tightly packed wad of tasty lookdowns. After the release, it was back to the red zone, and almost immediately a single, whopper permit coasted by, and Alan’s crab landed precisely in the cross hairs of the wide, white lipped disc. With no perceptible change in direction or level, the line came tight and the permit accelerated, speeding into the deeper, safer water of the basin. The 33 pound wide load fought for 15 tough minutes before allowing a picture. A move was made to a small plateau flat near Barnes Key for the first of the outgoing tide to catch a 4 pound bone out of a school of 20 mudders. The final stop was a channel edge near Indian Key to nail 2 mutton snapper on live shrimp for a rare DOUBLE SUPER SLAM!!!!
Alan Routman 30# plus crevalle, 33# permit, 22# permit