Diving and Fishing the Florida Keys

By: Capt. Tony  Young

April is one of my favorite months to dive and fish, I see it as a transition month for many species. For the upper Florida Keys, this is our last month of targeting Wahoo on the nearshore sites, and we start to see Mahi Mahi come through as the water begins to warm up. It is also a great time of year to bottom fish wrecks for Mutton Snapper and African Pompano, before the water continues to warm to its summer temperatures. If you’re gearing up for a day of fishing in early April, this article is for you.

Fishing the wrecks is an absolute blast and keeps you guessing every time you put a bait down. Although drifting for muttons on the bottom is everyone’s preferred method, throwing the anchor and getting a chum slick going is a good way to fish if you have the patience. This will open you up to catching the large yellowtail snapper in the mid water, muttons on the bottom, and possibly Wahoo or other Mackerel on your surface lines. We often get slicks going and jump in to dive after we catch a few fish, you will be amazed at what is swimming right below your boat. Gearing up for a bit of everything will keep you catching fish and put a good variety of groceries in your boat.

Anchoring on wrecks isn’t always an option and sometimes is not the best method for the conditions you have that day. If you see other boats drifting a wreck or if there are divers in the water, it is best to set adrift and get in line with the other boats. This is the same for if you are diving, be sure to respect the boats fishing and give them enough space to complete their drift. One good tip for divers is to shorten up your float lines on busy days. This will keep you from getting tangled up with your dive buddies and possibly other boats. If you are seeing a certain fish on your drops and know the boats fishing are not set up for it, let them know and help them out. Same goes for those fishing, if you’re loaded down on live baits, throw a few freebies in for the divers. Those live baits will circle the divers’ flasher rig and help attract fish in for them. Always better to work together on a busy day.

For divers, one of the mistakes we make in April is focusing too hard on the flashers for Wahoo and not paying close enough attention to the water surface. On a full day spent freediving, we usually see Mahi coming through and if you’re not paying attention, they will pass you by. Have a mid-sized reel gun ready to go and clipped off to your flasher rig. The Mahi swim by fast and you will want to shoot a shorter, more maneuverable gun for those fish. I prefer a 55’ Hatch Amero gun with spectra slip tip and 60-meter reel. If the shot is good, let the fish swim for a few seconds and see what else comes in. This is a great way to lure a fish from a distance that you would not have otherwise seen. This goes the same for fishing, make sure you always have at least a line or two on the surface, this will ensure that you get a chance at any fish swimming by your boat. I like having at least one live bait rigged on a circle hook with wire, this way you can land any mackerel that hits it. Pelagic fish are hard to figure out, one day they could be stacked up on one spot then another day in a completely different area. But if you’re putting in the work, you might as well make the most of every spot you visit.

March and April are by far my two favorite months to spearfish, I love the transition of species with the changing water temperatures. April is also the final month before Grouper and Hogfish open up on May 1st. Once that happens, we focus mainly on the reef and target those species. If you haven’t signed up already, be sure to visit www.livelikejeff.com and get registered for the fourth annual Captain Jeff Leonia Reel and Steel Classic! This tournament is hosted on May 1st, opening day for Grouper and Hogfish, by the Safe Harbor Angler House Marina in Islamorada.

There are divisions for both male and female in scuba spearfish, freedive spearfish, and rod/reel. This tournament is an absolute blast and has tons of great prizes and food for everyone! All proceeds from this tournament will go to support the Jeff’s Juniors summer kids camp, in his memory! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out at my number below!

Dive Safe!