Nighttime is the right time for snapper fishing, but snapper fishing on the reef is outstanding, regardless of time of day. But if you're stuck in an office all day or looking to beat the heat, head out at night.
And when I say at night, I mean in the dark. An 8 p.m. departure is ideal. You'll still have sufficient daylight to anchor up and get your chum slick going.
Speaking of chum, the more, the merrier, as the warmer waters disperse the chum very quickly. I take a full case with me for a four-hour trip. You can always re-freeze what you don't use and save it for your next outing.
The preferred depths on the reef are 40 to 60 feet, but the patches are also offering up good numbers of yellowtails and mangroves. The patch yellowtails take the same cut baits used on the reef, while the mangroves prefer small, live pinfish or pilchards.
The Atlantic wrecks are providing excellent action on mutton snappers, with fish in the 10- to 20-pound range the norm. Live baits are the ticket -- ballyhoo, pilchards and pinfish.
On the deeper wrecks, there are amberjack and jack crevalle to give you a workout. And dolphin and tuna fishing offshore continues to produce lots and lots of fish.
We're still seeing the majority of dolphin in the smallish range, so please be vigilant about measuring. Dolphin must measure 20 inches to the fork of the tail to be legal. Not 20 inches total length -- a distinction many anglers apparently are unaware of, based on some of the fish I've seen on cleaning tables around town.
Shark fishing in Florida Bay is extraordinary. Part aquarium encounter and part big-game sportfishing, catch-and-release fishing for sharks on light spin tackle provides top-quality entertainment for anglers of all ages and abilities and is especially family-friendly.
During our shark trips in the bay, we are seeing copious numbers of spiny lobster, portending another good season of bug-hunting. The two-day recreational lobster season is July 30 and 31 this year, so you have just three weeks to get your tickle sticks ready.
The week's best catches
The SeaSquared crew spent much of the week on the reef and wrecks, taking advantage of the outstanding snapper bite. Our anglers loaded up on good-size yellowtails, mangroves and muttons. Shallow-water shark fishing in the bay provides non-stop action on lemon sharks ranging from five to seven feet. Double-digit landings are the norm, with all fish released unharmed. And Capt. Jeff Knapp is still finding some hungry tarpon at the Seven Mile Bridge.
When summer snapper season kicks into high gear, we can always count on reports from Capt. Kevin and Barbie Wilson, of Knee Deep Charters out of Geiger Key Marina.
John and Allie Thyer, along with Lori and Gary Gill, all from Bunker Hill, Ill., had an awesome two days of fishing aboard Knee Deep. They got their limit of yellowtail and mangrove snapper, and John landed two grouper weighing 17 and 28 pounds.
Cheryl, Chris, Tim and Katy, from Riverview, Fla., also caught their limit of mostly large yellowtails, with a 12-pound black grouper as a bonus. After a fresh fish lunch at Geiger Key Marina, Barbie took some of the group on a kayak adventure, where they found a Cuban refugee raft in the mangroves.
Capt. Chris Johnson is a member of the Yamaha National Fishing Team and specializes in offshore, gulf/bay, reef/wreck, sailfish, shark and tarpon fishing with SeaSquared Charters out of Porky's Bayside Marina in Marathon. You can reach him at 743-5305, http://SeaSquaredCharters.com and http://Facebook.com/MarathonFishing.