Islamorada Flats Fishing Update: March 4

Whoever said something about a “Winter of discontent” was right on the money! Right when it looks like that we are going into a spring pattern another cold front smacks the whole of North America! Oh well we did have a great week of weather last week and this latest cold blast will move on and there is light at the end of the tunnel. The good news is that mullet were starting to show around Flamingo in the channels and on the flooding flats. Along with the mullet come tarpon, big tarpon at that. Snake Bight channel will hold bait and thus tarpon and as of last week the big girls were showing up. We hooked a few on live ladyfish that were drifted behind the boat in hopes of hooking into a big blacktip or spinner shark. There were tarpon caught out to the west as well around the East Cape and Sandy Key Basin area. These are some of the first tarpon to come to town following the first push of mullet and they are the bigger fish, not the little guys that winter here. As I mentioned above, the spinner and blacktip sharks are pretty thick around the backcountry right now and they are a blast on light tackle. To target these hard running and high jumping beasts use whole live baits, not chunks of bait. Blacktips and spinners are hard chargers and love a whole live jack or ladyfish under a float or hanging from a kite. That’s right a kite! More and more guides are fishing live baits under kites in the Gulf and the backcountry waters. The bite on a kite bait is tremendous to say the least. when a big shark homes in on a struggling fish on the surface the strike is more like an explosion on the surface. You won’t believe the speed at which a shark will tackle your bait as it splashes on the top of the water. Captains Jim Dalrymple and Mark Johnson have had some tremendous catches of outsized sharks using this method and I saw some fantastic film footage of Captains Tom Roland and Rich Tudor doing the kite thing with sharks on their show “Saltwater Experience” it is a blast! Don’t pooh-pooh the idea of shark fishing, the bulls, blacktips, spinners and lemon sharks that are common to our waters put on a great fight on 15 to 30 pound gear and these guys will go up to and beyond 300 pounds. Soon enough the tiger sharks will show up in the shallows and that will pucker up your backside when the beast comes to the boat! The Gulf once again takes the cake for just plain fish after fish action. I had my long time clients/buddies in town this past weekend and the weather was perfect for going to the Gulf. We had bait fish at the transom in no time and soon it was game on! All kinds of snappers and spanish mackerel were eating our baits and then it got hairy. Cobia in small groups of 4 to 6 fish began to circle the boat looking for a fight. Chris and Jim hooked into many cobia up to 32 inches on 6 – 10 pound spin tackle and man do those cobia go crazy. Running and jumping all around the boat before finally coming alongside for the release. These fish ate live shrimp and pinfish on 1/4 oz Hook Up jigs. The largest that we landed was 20 pounds and I think Jim is still hurting after the thrashing he took catching that fish on light tackle. Capt. Kip Daugherty told me of a 40 pounder that his client caught on 10 pound spin tackle as well. Good times! Keep up with the action from the water with my daily fishing reports on Clear Channel Radio and watch for my show “Reelin’ in the Keys” on Mondays and Thursdays at 7pm and Fridays at 8:30 pm on Comcast channel 5. Take a look at the Captains and Guides listing in this issue and get on the water while you are here.