The Opening of Dolphin Fishing in Islamorada

Dear Fishermen,

I know it’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to write a fishing report.  I’ve been busy moving and rigging the new Conetagious. It is a World Cat 33TE, just like my last boat.  I’m happy to say Capt. Shannon is running the old Contagious which is now called The Warbird.  It was a pleasure to have him as a mate/ co captain and I wish him the best.  I know he will do great!  He will be running fishing charters out of Robbie’s Marina as well.

The beginning of dolphin season has started out as strong as ever.  I can honestly say the first month has produced some of the nicest slammer size dolphin we have seen in years.  Nearly every day we have caught a respectable sized slammer.  The frigate birds have been pointing out these larger dolphin while they feast on the abundant number of flying fish around.  But as of late, the sooty terns have been getting into the act.  A frigate bird is nice to find, but when the sooty terns are on the big fish, it is a real bonus.   First of all, there are more terns on the water to help find the fish, and they also pin point where the fish actually are.   The frigates may stay as far as 200 ft away from the fish, where as the terns will be within 30 to 50 ft.  Most of the large fish have been super aggressive this year, so dead ballyhoo has been the norm.

Occasionally, we’ve had to break out a live bait to encourage a smarter fish to bite.  Our largest bull this year was an impressive 48 lb bull caught by Alan Gray.  We’ve had several other nice fish in the 30’s and 40’s.  I anticipate catching a real monster this year from what I’ve seen so far.

The nice thing about the Islamorada area is the variety of fish.   May has been a perfect example.  If the dolphin fishing is slow, there is always something to fall back on.  The other day the ocean was full of boats running around with little luck finding dolphin. So rather than suffer, we decided to go try some deep dropping.   It didn’t take long to locate some fish and we were pulling in some nice vermilion snapper and porgies.  We even managed to catch a really nice 20lb snowy grouper.  The trick to having good success is to find good bottom and having a light current to help hold bottom.  We’ve had our best luck from 400 to 550 ft of water.  We typically use a three hook chicken rig with a variety of baits.  Squid is a must, but live pilchards and cut bonita work well too.

The outer reef and wrecks have also been holding nice mutton snapper and groupers, along with some really nice permit.   There has also been a good number of sailfish traveling down the reef out to 200 ft.  They’ve been overlooked this year because of the great dolphin fishing, but are a good second choice.  But, be prepared to get a attacked by a large number of bonita.

I expect the good dolphin fishing to continue throughout the summer. Some days may be better than others.  I always say the gulfstream is a fisherman’s best friend.  The gulfstream current averages 3mph, so you can understand why we get such great fishing on a consistent basis.  Everyday we are blessed with a new body of fish to work with.

I want to congratulate my anglers Don Deleon, Dr Travis Bennett, Bill Keller and mate Dan Naumoff for winning the Islamorada Area of the Florida Keys Dolphin Championship.  They caught a 39.7 lb bull and 27.4 lb cow to place 3rd overall and 1st in the bull and cow combo. It was a great start to the dolphin tournament season.

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