Florida Keys Fishing Trip Planner: August

In the heat of summer, test your mettle against blackfin tuna and other Dry Tortugas foes.

August Fishing in the Florida Keys

Blackfin Tuna

Blackfin Tuna

Live-chumming blackfin tuna at the Marathon Hump allows anglers to cast flies to the marauding surface feeders. Pat Ford

The Middle and Upper Keys offer exceptional blackfin tuna fishing in late summer, says Capt. James Chappell, of Catchalottafish Charters. “From August to the first half of November, fish are consistent and solid-size 10-plus-pounders,” he says. “We get a push in the spring, but it’s unreliable with all the sharks.”

The best structures offshore are the massive humps that protrude from the ocean floor. “Marathon Hump, 409 Hump and Islamorada Hump are the best,” says Chappell. “I live-chum blackfin with pilchards. I like any sort of visual fishing, and chumming also allows for different techniques such as catching tuna on a fly rod.”

When live-chumming, Chappell uses 20- to 30-pound spinning tackle connected to 15 feet of 25-pound fluorocarbon leader, terminating with a 2/0 Mustad or Owner Mutu circle hook. In the winter, blackfin move in toward the reef to feed on the baits that move with the fronts, says Chappell.

cero mackerel
Toothy cero mackerel can’t pass up a live pilchard. At times, the ceros are so thick that wire leaders do little good, as the mackerel cut through braid to release their hooked brethren. Doug Olander

Run to the Dry Tortugas

Tortuga blackfin tuna
Blackfin tuna consistently top the tackle buster’s hit parade, and the Dry Tortugas provide visiting anglers easy access to this exciting and dependable fishery. Doug Olander /

Once you’ve made peace with the lack of facilities and creature comforts, the fishing around the Dry Tortugas offers just about anything you want, especially out on the offshore rips for dolphin, tuna and billfish.

Summer is the traditional time for small-boat anglers, as the weather is suited to making the crossing and safely exploring in comfort. Good runs of blackfin tuna hang with mackerel schools that head south into these waters.

mackerel jump
Mixed in with the cero mackerel, blackfin tuna and false albacore catches, anglers might run into kingfish. This king mackerel aired out for a topwater popper. Doug Olander /

Fishing Tackle Considerations

Blackfin Tuna boatside
A hefty chum slick can ring the dinner bell for blackfin tuna. Doug Olander /

Spinning rods loaded with 20-pound mono will cover most blackfin fishing. For jigging, go heavier with 50-pound braid. “If I get something nice hooked up, I want to be able to get it up and out of he water ahead of the predators,” says Florida Keys captain Steve Sanchez.


Depending on how long you plan to fish, you probably won’t be able to carry enough chum and live bait. Charter captains routinely load their livewells with pilchards before leaving the dock to give themselves a head start. Carry live and frozen shrimp, ballyhoo and as much chum as you have room for.

For terminal tackle, load up on extra leader in the 30- to 50-pound range. Sanchez also points out that trolling lipped Rapalas in the late-summer heat is a winning strategy, especially when compared to sitting still in the hot humid temperatures.

Florida Keys: A Fish for Every Season

Check out this Florida Keys calendar guide, formulated from interviews with respected Keys captains, that highlights a different species each month of the year.

Check out this Florida Keys fishing guide, formulated from interviews with respected Keys captains, that highlights a different target species each month of the year. Courtesy Andy Newman / Florida Keys News Bureau