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5/3/04 09:26 PM
Stuart, Florida Inshore-Offshore Report: 05-04-04 [Post#: 1543 ] Reply to this post

May is here and it just happens to be one of my two favorite months for both inshore and offshore fishing. Starting offshore, the big story in May will be the dolphin bite. Last year the beginning of the month was a blowout with strong east winds, but the remaining 3 weeks more than made up for it. Historically, dolphin show up in the Keys the end of April in big numbers. By early May you can find them in 80-200 feet as they migrate northward towards the Treasure Coast. Can you imagine the results if a size limit were in effect statewide? Dolphin are eating machines and grow at an alarming rate. By the time the numbers of the peanut sized fish that are currently killed in the Keys actually made it to our area, there would be a fishery of unbelievable proportions. Remember, limit your keep, don’t keep the limit! By far, trolling is your best bet for dolphin; dragging ballyhoo, rigged squid and mullet. Try to get at least two baits down using downriggers, planers or 16 oz. cigar weights. Covering various water columns will increase your odds drastically. I prefer red or purpose with black skirts on my downlines (good wahoo colors) while on top using naked baits or yellow, green and pink skirts which work great. I suggest that you forget wasting time catching greenies unless you want to target kings or sailfish. Run out to 80 feet and start trolling. Keep an eye out for color and temperature changes, weedlines, any floating debris and working birds. Always have two spinning combos ready on standby. A 2 oz. jig with squid or cut bait will come in handy if you stumble upon dolphin schools or manta rays holding cobia. Usually you have about 30 seconds to react before they are gone, so be ready for them. Keeping squid chunks or sardines nearby will often prove to be the difference between a single fish in the box or multiple fish in the box. You can hold a school near the boat by chumming them. A little at a time while tossing those standby jigs will hook you up. Always leave at least one hooked-up dolphin in the water if you are in a school. This keeps his buddies around the boat.

Other species to target are kingfish, cobia, wahoo, sailfish and summertime bonita and cudas. Live bait works best for kings in close from 40-80 feet. A short steel leader with a treblehook stinger attached to a 3/0 live bait produces excellent results. In close, keep your eyes peeled for big manta rays and toss a jig about 30 feet in front of them for that cobia hiding in their shadows. Sailfish can be anywhere. To increase your wahoo odds, speed your troll up to 8-10 knots. I’ve caught most of my “hoos” in 250-350 feet, but you never know. I saw an 86 lb. wahoo caught in 60 feet of water to win a tournament in the last 30 minutes before lines out.

Surf and bottom fishing is also great in May. From the surf, look for bluefish and pompano still lurking about. Cutbait or spoons for blues, sandfleas or crabs cast far out for the pompano. Look for plenty of whiting and some croaker in close to shore. I almost forgot to mention the snook and tarpon that will be cruising the shorelines. It’s a great time to cast for snook in the surf. Casting diagonally with top water mirrolures, spooks, bombers, DOA Baitbusters & Terrorize, red tail hawks produces hook-ups. The snook are feasting on whiting near shore. If you catch a whiting, re-hook it and toss it out with a 3/0 live bait hook. It’s a good bet it will catch the eye of a hungry snook.

The tarpon will be cruising a bit deeper in 10-30 feet of water. Drifting live mullet, pinfish or sight casting DOA Baitbusters and Terrorize top the list. With the weather getting increasingly warmer, it’s best to fish very early or late before these guys head for the deep water to cool off. Bottomfishing is strong this time of year on the outside, with larger than average mangrove snapper and grouper. I prefer a long leader (30’) for the muttons using grunt heads for bait. They tap it a few times, but wait until he grabs it and runs, then stick it to him! Always throw a flatline or two out to increase productivity. You can catch dolphin, kings and sails while you’re bottom fishing. It’s easy, it’s maintenance free, and it makes sense.

Inshore, the St. Lucie Inlet will start holding more snook showing up early for their summer spawn. The detached jetty, the perimeter of Sailfish Point (high-water best) and the south side of the Inlet, close to shore will produce fish. The crossroads area from Marker #239 north to the “quarter” bridge (east of the channel to the sand bar) holds early morning tarpon all summer long. On Catch 22 we drift finger mullet in this area until bout 9:00 a.m. while ready to sight cast DOA Terrorize on standby rods. The water in this area near high tide can get really clean and with a 10 foot depth average, you can see bottom very well. I use 20-lb. spinning rigs with a 6-8 foot 60 lb. leader. You can fish lighter, but expect a long battle when that hefty tarpon takes hold. Last year a 9 year old boy on one of my charters hooked a 60 lb. tarpon on 10 lb. test. Forty minutes later and a mile up the River the tarpon was brought to the boat and released. This fish made five runs into the channel forcing me to play water-traffic cop trying to wave boats off. Plenty of tarpon will appear in the St. Lucie River also. The last three years were banner tarpon seasons here. Who needs to go to the Keys to fish, we have it all right here!

Area bridges should hold mangrove snapper, sheephead, black drum and croakers. Live or frozen shrimp on the bottom on light tackle seems to work the best. The night-time snook hang out near structure and shadow lines where the water is moving. May is the last month of open snook season until September, so now’s the time.

In the grass flats, big trout will dominate the scene. Start as early as 5 a.m. and fish until 7 a.m. with topwater lures in skinny water. Docks along the west side from Walton Road north to Fort Pierce are hot. From 7-10 a.m., go to 3-5 ft. deep with soft rubber baits (DOA CAL series and glo shrimp) or live shrimp on a popping cork. On windy days, fishing from a boat, try drifting popping corks 100 ft. behind the boat and set them in the rodholders. Cast your rubber baits downwind to increase your odds. Don’t forget the spoil islands either early or late. Look for diving birds and there’s sure to be trout around. Most trout in these areas will be under 18” so fish as light as 6 lb. test with no leader. The redfish will be close to shore on the west side or under the mangroves on the east side. Johnson’s gold spoons top the list as the lure of choice.

Channel markers in the Indian River have been pretty dormant the past 6 months with big sheephead and tripletail being noticeably scarce. Hopefully, with the water clarity much improved, the river will come alive with the snapper, flounder, tripletail and goliath grouper reappearing. Further north, the Port Canaveral area (the tripletail capital of the world) has shown a big increase in the tripletail numbers which means they should be heading south soon. Around channel markers, start casting soft rubber baits or live shrimp on a jig head from a distance and work a 30’ radius around the piling. Finish off on the bottom, no more than 5 feet from the marker. Lift up an inch or two every 10 seconds. If you feel dead weight, count to 3 and set the hook. Tripletail are sure to run from the boat and towards the piling. Keeping the line from brushing barnacles is difficult but a must if you want to boat that fish. They are strong, ugly and ornery, but one of the best tasting fish you will ever eat and well worth the battle!

Big and Little Mud Creeks are the hot spot for tarpon between 5-8 a.m. Lots of unmolested tarpon lurk inside Big Mud with the yellow boom blocking the entrance. If the Creek is still closed, try fishing the entrance and the channel leading into Big Mud from the main channel. There’s nothing like seeing that giant silver fish leaping when he’s attached to the end of your line.

Good luck and tight lines!

Capt. Bob Bushholz

(772) 225-6436

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