Lower Keys Fishing

By Capt. Nate Wheeler

April was a fantastic month for fishing. Usually one of the best overall months in the FL Keys, plenty of tarpon rolled in on schedule. One thing that made tarpon fishing very difficult this year was the number of sharks. I mean big sharks. Early in the month the bull sharks were quite nasty. Traveling in packs of 3-4 at a time it was very difficult to get them to the boat for a good picture. I resorted to fishing tournament style and quickly taping leaders and breaking them off. Really not a bad plan in general, as this ensures the safety of the fish. The best way to combat the sharks? Catch them! Carrying a 50 wide conventional and some steel or cable leader works quite well. A nice fresh large crevalle jack or that bonita in your freezer makes the perfect bait. Everybody should catch a large shark at least once in their lifetime. Probably the biggest fish most people will catch in their lifetime. I believe putting the heat to them and wearing them down will cause them to leave the tarpon alone. In addition to the bulls some very large hammerheads dominated the scenes.

On the offshore side there was a very mixed bag available. Sailfish as always have started migrating westbound through the Keys on their way to the spawning grounds off the Yucatan Peninsula. In addition some very nice dolphin in the 10-35lb range were caught. Some nice tuna and a few wahoo were also around.

As April turns into May some very nice fishing will be available. This is the time of year when the largest dolphin fish are caught. There are a million ways to target these fish and everyone has an opinion. One of my favorite is to fish lures early and troll very fast early in the morning while searching for the best fishing grounds. Large wahoo are often caught like this. Once the fish are located slowing down and switching over to your favorite ballyhoo rig can be very productive. If the bite gets tough on the real calm days, spending your Friday night on the reef can produce a very good mangrove and yellowtail snapper bite. Large mutton snappers may very well show up in the process.

If the calm water is your fancy, there will be plenty of fish available. Tarpon will show up in even greater numbers and should begin to move down the coast. Any of the bridges up and down the Keys should produce fish. Again if its calm and hot, switching over to the nocturnal bite should produce great numbers of fish and avoid crowds and sunburns. Although most permit have moved over to the deep wrecks to spawn, small fish should still be prevalent out back. One of my personal favorites, the bonefish should begin to really heat up on the gulf side flats. Great time of year to target them as most boats are oceanside in pursuit of tarpon.

Captain Nate Wheeler
Waypoint Fishing Charters
(305) 394-2177