Spring is by far one of my favorite times of the year to fish here in east Central Florida. We are transitioning away from our winter patterns which typically provides us with better weather days to get out on the water. It’s obviously not as hot and calm as the summer months, but there are still plenty of advantageous opportunities to go fishing.
A great example was this past Saturday. Anglers awoke to light winds and calm seas. Many anglers chose to venture offshore due to the near perfect conditions and, let me tell you, it didn’t disappoint.
In most cases, anglers will head out on search of dolphin (mahi, mahi). No doubt, they are an amazing fish to catch and eat. That’s why they are a staple on most restaurant menus. When is the last time you frequented a restaurant that didn’t have a blackened mahi sandwich on the menu? My point, exactly. What makes dolphin so fun to catch is that they are very visual; their colors are incredible with gold and blues and they go airborne once hooked which creates one heck of a sight. They grow very quickly so it’s not unusual to catch some really big ones in the 30-40 pound class. The typical fish caught off our coast is 10 to 20 pounds on average. We have been waiting for signs that the dolphin run is on and I think this past Saturday gave plenty of proof you should be out there dragging baits when the weather cooperates.
Another fishery that has really gained steam in the last 5 to 7 years is tilefish. With the cost of electric rod & reel combo’s (Ex. Diawa Tanacom 1000) coming down to where recreational anglers can afford them, it’s really changed the game for catching these deep water fish. Typically, you are targeting these fish in 600-700 feet of water. Unlike traditional bottom fishing methods where you are looking for a reef, wreck or some kind of bottom structure, these fish live in burrows scattered across muddy bottom — and they defend them fiercely. If you have ever targeted snapper or triggerfish using a “chicken rig,” it’s very similar, just with a lot more weight and another hook or two added to the setup. You are drifting for these fish, so the goal is to get your bait to the bottom and let the weight bounce across the muddy bottom stirring things up to entice a bite. Both squid and fresh cut bait work well. Did I mentioned these fish are delicious? Ohhh my goodness!
April and May are prime months for yet another incredible fishery we have access to here in east Central Florida: yellowfin tuna. This fishery is also referred to as fishing the “Otherside” due to the fact you are traveling east of the Gulf Stream in search of these fish. It’s a long run, so you need a boat that has both the size and range to get there and back safely. I’ve personally covered over 300 plus miles of ocean in a day and came home with only one skipjack to show for it; and then there have been times it was like fishing Jurassic Park, and we absolutely loaded the boat!
Anglers rely heavily on their electronics for this type of fishing, specifically, their radar. You’re looking for flocks of birds that are feeding on bait balls the tuna have pushed up to the surface of the water. They will show up as blips on your radar screen and once you see one, you run like hell until you get to the site of the crime. Never troll your baits through the middle of the school; I believe everyone learns that lesson the hard way. You want to troll your baits on the outer edge of the school. Be sure to try and position your boat so you are not casting shadows into the water as you troll the outer edge. Many times it will scare the fish and they will sound and you will have to wait for them to resurface. Beef up your gear because these fish are no joke.