August Fishing in the Florida Keys
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.
Run to the Dry Tortugas
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.
Fishing Tackle Considerations
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.