May is a great time for offshore fishing out of Sebastian. Dolphin fishing is a solid bet when Mother Nature lets us make the 15 to 30 mile run to the fish. Go east and fish where you see baitfish or sargassum weed. Water temp should at least be in the mid-70s. If the water is warm enough and there are baitfish, don’t overlook the 70- to 100-foot range. The key is to keep your bait spread looking sharp and fish good water. Fish around weeds, or birds, or fish over reefs. Pick up and run for a while until you see something. Change your baits out if they don’t get hit. Work the good areas north and south and fish the fishy looking spots thoroughly. Keep a wahoo bait in the spread too. A wire rigged ballyhoo with a heavy cone head skirt running just beneath the surface will eventually pay off.
Grouper season opens in Atlantic waters on May 1, so big gags, blacks, scamps and reds will all be keepers on the reefs of Sebastian. Try live baits a few feet off the reef. Heavy tackle will be key for landing these bruisers. Anchor up near the reef and the big boys will find you. When feeding, they roam around looking for chow so be patient. Amberjack will fill in when grouper have the day off. AJ’s will show easily on the fish finder over top of the reefs. Jigging with a squid tipped bucktail or a butterfly jig is a fun way to get hooked up to the hard-fighting brutes. A live bait dropped down will always seal the deal.
American red snapper season for 2019 was announced recently by SAFMC. This year recreational anglers can take one ARS per person for five days (July 12- 14, 19, and 20). Commercial fishermen can harvest 75 pounds of gutted red snapper for 177 days starting July 8. No size limits for recreational or commercial. Remember, when releasing the larger ARS, to use a venting tool when you notice a distended stomach. The combination of respectful release techniques from recreation anglers and reasonable regulations for commercial fishing in the future should keep this amazing resource healthy in the Sebastian area.
Mangrove snapper is a good bet this month too. You’ll find them on all the ledges and rocks from 70 to 100 feet. The mangrove is one of the weariest fish that swims so “getting sneaky” will produce more and bigger fish. Downsize your leader and hook. Hide your hook and attach your bait so it flows and doesn’t spin when you drop. I will use 4-feet of 40-pound flourocarbon leader on a fish finder rig with minimum weight. If you’re feeling adventurous, try a night trip. This is when the mangroves feed and they lose their advantage of keen eyesight. Deploy a chum block and free-line the baits back in the slick. When a big “mango” grabs it, he will rocket to the bottom. The challenge is to stop him before he reaches the rocks. Chumming and free lining works during daylight hours too. You just have to be sneaky with your presentation. Good luck out there and go catch some fish!