By: Capt Mark Krowka
As even more people avoid the Keys due to most days reaching and easily surpassing 90 degrees, the fishing mercury escalates even higher. Tarpon, permit and bonefish are plentiful, available and willing. It’s now that special time, the dependable period that always aligns with the most intense heat of the Summer, when the flats fishing hits its apex. The following days were all spent on the Mirage 18 HPX:
David Dee from Tallahassee spent 3 days of light tackle fishing in Islamorada, hosting his brother Jon, and daughter Madison. On day one with Jon, the darkness of pre-dawn brought a half dozen violent bites on live pinfish and 17 pound spin. The tarpons avoided positive hookups, but tugging and pulsating jack crevalles of 12 and 14 pounds stayed buttoned. The next solid take on Jon’s pinfish yielded a welcomed 7 pound cubera snapper, that, despite drooling during a brief conversation about its excellent food value, was released. Brother Jon went on to crank up a 3 pound bonefish on shrimp, and then fooled a 3 foot tarpon with a barred olive and green, foam eyed, semi-floating shrimp fly while flinging it on an 8 weight floating line.
Day two introduced daughter Madison to her very first tarpon, a 50 pounder that murdered a wiggling pinfish near the Tea Table Bridge in the dark. After David put away a sizzling 30 pound plus barracuda that also slashed into a pin, Madison doubled down with her first bonefish, a 3 pounder, while casting live shrimp on 10 pound spin.
The third and final day was their most productive. David nailed a 40 pound tarpon on pinfish before sunrise, and then took another 40 pounder after dawn, also on a pinny. Madison went 2 for 4 on smaller tarpon, releasing one on a pin, and the second on a large live shrimp. Only an hour or so later, she tucked away back to back 4 pound bones on fresh lively shrimp.
David Dee’s tarpon
Jon Dee with cubera
Madison Dee’s tarpon
Madison’s first bonefish
Catching a Grand Slam has not yet become boring for Ft. Lauderdale Orthopedic Surgeon, Dr. Alan Routman. His day began at a tide rip in Indian Key Channel, freelining live crabs. He landed 2 permit out of 3 crunching bites, a 12 and then 24 pounder. He next took a bonefish from an eventful corner in the Swash area on live shrimp. Much later during the cloudy and windy day, he pitched a live shrimp to a 3 foot tarpon that was herding up glass minnows on a shoreline near Grassy Key. The aggressive poon sucked up the shrimp and jumped, nearly 7 feet vertical at one point, and rounded out Routman’s Slam!
Another Orthopedic Surgeon, Thane Morgan from TX and his son Cole teamed up for a double Grand Slam. In downtown Islamorada they put away tarpons of 30 & 40 pounds on live pinfish out of 8 bites. Using kicking live shrimp, they added bonefish of 2 & 3 pounds while casting to small marauding groups of the silver bullets. Cole sightcast to and caught a 15 pound permit on a nickel sized live crab on a flat near Channel Two. Then while drifting back live crabs on 20 pound spinners, they caught tough permits of 22 & 28 pounds to Double Slam! On their next day, they took a pair of permits on small live crabs of 12 pounds and a big silver disc over 30!
Thane Morgan’s permit
Cole Morgan’s permit
Mike Palmer and John Harbilas from Tampa, went 3 for 10 on the dark-thirty tarpons on death row pinfish, landing high jumpers of 30, 50 and 70 pounds. They next used quarter-size crabs to rapidly pick off permit of 10, 15 and 18 pounds, within just a 30 minute period. They took 2 bonefish on live shrimp to team up for a Double Grand Slam! Their second day was of similar productivity, beginning with 3 for 8 on the tarpon bite with the donor pinfish. These gill-rattling battlers weighed 30, 40 & 70 pounds. Then, yet another quick collection of 3 permit, 14, 15 and 17 pounds on the half dollar-size crabs. The bonefish proved more elusive, but John finally took a 2 pounder on a shrimp to claim his Grand Slam.
Mike Palmer’s permit
John Harbilas with permit
Andy Smith from TX, made excellent use of his 2 days in the Keys. His first morning started 1 for 4 on tarpon with struggling pinfish, a wild 50 pounder. At first light, he then took a 3 foot rolling tarpon that engulfed a “V waked” live shrimp from a batch of floating weed outside of Craig Key. He grabbed a 14 pound permit from a boiling tideline near Lignum Vitae Key on a paddling crab. Visibility improved and Smith fired live shrimp on 8 pound spin to capture 4 bones out of 7 bites, fish of 2-4 pounds, removed from small mudding groups to complete his Slam!
Andy Smith & permit
His second day was even better. He first nailed a 3 foot tarpon while slowly skimming a live shrimp on light spin, then took 3 rapid bonefish of 2, 3 & 4 pounds, also on the live shrimp. Permit of 14 & 18 pounds were cranked to boatside after they molested small crabs suspended under a cork near Shell Key. Just one tarpon short of his goal, Andy walked a live shrimp past a single small silver king near Fiesta Key, and watched it lift up its head and inhale. He forcefully guided the active yard long adolescent to the side of the skiff. What better way to follow up a Grand Slam, than with a Double Grand Slam!!