Upper Keys Fishing

by Capt. Dallas Hopper

This summer is almost over and as it’s winding down and we start to change gears, let’s get into what’s biting.

The snapper bite has been nothing short of epic, with limits of mangrove and yellow tail snapper showing up in the chum slick. During the day the yellowtail have been consistently showing up in the 60-90 ft range but at night, is when the mangroves show up.

At night we’ll move in just a little shallower, in the 55-70 ft range depending on the current. Ideal conditions are a light to moderate current, the faster the current the shallower we’ll fish. 15lb tackle is perfect, for the yellowtail I like to go with a 1/0, 1/16oz weighted jig. For the mangroves, beef up the tackle just a little, about 3ft of 25lb flourocarbon leader and a 2/0, 1/8oz jig head.

Peeled shrimp and cut ballyhoo are the norm when targeting yellowtail, small live pinfish and live pilchards are candy when fishing for the mangroves.

There are still large numbers of amberjack and almaco jack holding on the deep water wrecks, small to medium sized blue runner are sure to get eaten. Vermillion snapper are going to start showing back up on the wrecks and rock piles over the next month in the 200-350 ft range. We’ll target these fish with chicken rigs made of 60lb mono and 4/0 mustad circle hooks.

Blackfin tuna are showing up on the deep-water humps this month, early morning and late in the evening is the best time to troll around these hotspots. We like to pull small trolling lures rigged up on 40lb flourocarbon, black/red, blue/white and black/purple are the most popular colors.

Got your fill of fishing? Get your snorkle gear together and get in the water for some lobstering! It’s a great way to take a break from fishing and cool off. Patch reefs in the 10-20ft range has been loaded with bugs, but remember to stay up to date on your local regulations.

Stay safe out there this month and have fun!

Capt. Dallas Hopper

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