Upper Keys Fishing

by Capt. Dallas Hopper

The days are getting longer, the weather is calming down and its feels like that mid day sun will never cool off. It sounds just like summer time here in the keys, let’s get into the fishing.

The mahi showed up a little late this season but now were finding them pretty consistently in the 250-600 ft range. Look for grass lines, debris, frigate birds and royal terns working, all these signs will point you in the right direction. After finding a body of water that looks promising, we’ll start by putting out a four line trolling spread with a mixture of lures and rigged ballyhoo. We like to troll around six knots, this speed works well for us.

Once we find a school of mahi we then make a switch over to 20lb spinning gear with 60lb leader and a 6/0 mustad long shank hook. These fish usually aren’t too picky, you can throw just about whatever kind of bait you want. Squid, ballyhoo, pilchards, bonita chunks, goggleye all seem to get the job done. When searching for mahi you’re going to have to cover ALOT of water, a quality pair of binoculars will make the search for these fish more successful.

There has been a nice bite going on around the deep water wrecks in 200-300 feet here in the upper keys. A variety of bottom creatures have been making their way to the fish box, mutton snapper, black and red grouper, amberjack, almaco jack and even some vermillion snapper.

Dropping live and dead baits out here should bring you plenty of action or if you’re looking for a change of pace try working some vertical jigs and just hang on! When fishing around the wrecks you’re tackle has to be on it’s A game, anything less and you’ll be headed back home empty handed.

In the shallower water along the edge of the reef there has been a steady bite of yellow tail, mutton and black grouper. Were focusing on the rocky bottom in 110-140 feet of water.

For the grouper we’re using 50lb class tackle rigged up with a heavy duty three way swivel and 15-30 ft of 125-200 lb test for leader. Give em some big baits, grunts, speedos, blue runner, yellowtail or even rainbow runner wont go unnoticed.

When targeting the mutton you’ll have to scale your tackle some , they’re a bit line shy. We’ll start off by using 30-40 ft of 50-80lb fluorocarbon, but on the days when this fish are super finicky we’ll drop down to as little as 40lb. Live cigar minnows, pinfish, de-boned ballyhoo, and live ballyhoo are prime baits to fooling these fish.

The kids are getting out of school this month and the weather is absolutely gorgeous, take a day off and go get offshore. If you’re around the upper keys and looking to do some fishing, give us a call we’ll get you out there.

Capt. Dallas Hopper

Fantastic II Charters “guaranteed fish”
305-451-2890 • www.charterkeylargo.com

Coastal Angler & The Angler Magazine