We had a tough weekend of fishing this past weekend, mainly due to the Pompano Rodeo tournament and all the boats fishing it. There was a lot of competition for fish over the weekend. But the fishing is already improving with good catches of snappers and other bottom fish on our drift fishing trips, some mahi-mahi starting to bite again and tunas/kingfish returning to the reefs. Our drift fishing trips aboard the Catch My Drift are seeing some good catches of snappers lately. Mutton snappers are biting in decent numbers, as well as yellowtails and mangrove snappers becoming more and more aggressive. May and June are known as the snapper spawn months in south Florida. The bigger, more cautious snappers throw caution to the wind as they venture out to feed and bulk up for their annual spawning season. We’re catching them good on both the day and night trips. Mixed in with the snappers are all the usual culprits of porgies, grunts, triggerfish and jacks. We’re getting a good variety of all sorts of good eating bottom fish, most of them keepers.
Grouper season opened up just a few weeks ago and there are some monster groupers being caught out there. Gag groupers, blacks and reds are the main ones that we’re catching. The season was closed over the last 4 months, giving the groupers are good chance to recover in numbers and re-inhabit the local wrecks and reefs. We had to throw back a lot of nice size groupers over the past few months, but finally we can keep them again. Snappers and groupers are 2 of my favorite fish to eat, and many of our anglers come out in search of catching dinner. There is still a luck factor involved and we still have both good days and bad days in regards to the fishing, but your chances of coming home with some fish fillets has increased immensely this month. Cobia, a large reef hunter that likes to follow stingrays, turtles and other slow moving marine creatures are a possibility this month too. If you’re in search of catching a larger fish on the drift boat, try fishing a whole sardine bait with a lighter sinker than everyone else is using. Ask the mate to rig you up with the ‘hero or zero’ rig, he’ll know exactly what you are talking about. This rig is for fishing the mid-depth or surface water column rather than the bottom (where the snappers are). Although your chances at catching anything go down dramatically, if you do get a bite, it will be something big like a kingfish, tuna, mahi-mahi or cobia. This technique is not for those fishing for action but for those looking to try for bigger fish. They don’t always bite but when they do, you’re a hero!
Sportfishing charters are doing very well too. The mahi-mahi are still around. Although they got beat up pretty good during the weekend tournament, the best thing about fishing Fort Lauderdale is that we have the Gulfstream current here, which brings with it all the pelagic and migratory fish. Every couple of days a full new batch of fish arrive off our coast as they migrate northward using the Gulfstream like a big conveyor belt. This is a great month to fish for mahi-mahi, tuna, wahoo and kingfish. Tunas are especially prevalent on the reefs this month. Most of them are smaller, football size tunas. These are still great eating fish and there are no size limits for tuna so they are keepers. Bigger tuna are mixed in with them too and blackfin tunas can reach sizes up to 30 pounds at times. Kingfish are here and biting decently. Slow trolling live baits works well for catching kingfish. They will be here in better numbers in June – August though, when the waters warm up. Mahi are elusive and you have to go out in search of them, but they do school up so if you find them it could be a goldmine of fish. You have to work to catch them though and put in a lot of time trolling offshore to find them out there. Sometimes they even venture in on the reef and we catch them when targeting other species… bonus! Wahoo we catch when trolling and you catch them when you least expect it. Maybe the bonitos are biting and you are catching bonito, bonito, bonito, but then suddenly you get a bigger bite and it happens to be a wahoo. You catch all of these pelagic fish by trolling and you never know what you’re going to catch. That’s fishing!
Wrecks are holding some good fish too. Amberjacks are the big game fish on the wrecks these days and they are biting excellently. May is probably the peak month for our amberjack fishing and these AJs are some of the strongest fighting fish you will ever come across. They are pure strength and put on a helluva fight, even on our heaviest tackle. No other fish puts on as strong a fight as these bruisers do. And the fact that they are so aggressive makes them a great target on our half day trips where fishing time is limited. Big groupers and cobia are other bottom fish you may catch when dropping live baits down around the shipwrecks. The great thing about wreck fishing is that you can do it quick. We hover over the wreck and drop a single rod down to the bottom with a live bait. If you don’t get a bite in the first 5 minutes, reel it in because no one is home. Go to another wreck, rinse and repeat. It’s fast fishing for big game results and that’s why I like it. And you never know what else might be lurking down there. From tilefish to barracuda, horse-eyed jacks to big game sharks, you can catch anything around the shipwrecks in 200-400ft of water.
May is my favorite month to fish in Fort Lauderdale. Everything is in season and there are some big ones around. My advice is to try to fish when the weather conditions are less favorable. Flat calm sunny days are nice to be on the water, but the fishing is much, much better on the rough days with stormy skies with a lot less boats on the water to compete with. Of all the year, May gives you the most potential to come home with a great catch. Not every day is that banner day, but every day has the potential for greatness. Good luck on the water everyone. I’ll sea you on the water!
Capt. Andy Roydhouse