Key West Fishing – When the Fishing Gets Tough, the Tough Go Fishing

A last burst of blustery weather finally closed out one of the windiest Mays in memory and a hard month of Key West fishing. Winds averaging 20 knots and above and several days with showers blowing in from low pressure troughs hanging over the southwestern Gulf made for some tough offshore fishing conditions lately even though the bite itself was generally really good. And with several days in the past two weeks maxing gusts above 30 and even 40 knots, life has certainly not been easy for the shallow-water guides either. Trying to pole the Flats and hold a boat on skittish Bonefish and Permit was often nearly impossible as May this year exceeded March in terms of wind, and the National Weather Service repeated marine warnings for the southern Keys day after day.

However, for those who had their sea legs under them, the constant strong winds from the southeast generated perfect conditions for great deep-sea fishing out of Key West. Experienced Key West captains know that sporty water can produce a lot of fish as weed lines get pushed together into huge mats and bait fish are stirred up and disoriented. The early May trend of massive 40-50 pound Mahi-Mahi showing up on the docks continued in what some captains are calling the best start to Dolphin season in years. Some big Wahoo also hit the Dolphin spreads, and Sailfish, Blackfin Tuna, and a few Blue and White Marlin releases have kept the offshore fishing exciting. Anglers in the know chartered the big sport fishing boats and rode out the seas in comfort while enjoying a prime trophy game fishing setup.

The Dolphin fishing should be staying good through summer as the Gulf Stream and southeast winds keep the weed lines heavy. Although the size of the fish will decrease as the big ones move south, the numbers will increase as the smaller schoolie fish accumulate to feed around any floating debris in the area. Captains will watch for the weeds and the birds that will help them locate the fish. Once a school is found, plenty of chunked chum and the old trick of leaving the last hooked fish in the water will be used to attract these voracious and curious fish and hold them at the boat while the fish boxes get filled.

Over Memorial Day weekend, May 23-24, the Yamaha Dolphin Masters Invitational brought 32 teams of anglers to Key West for a 1-day Dolphin fishing tournament. Teams vied to boat the heaviest 3-fish stringer of the day and earn a $13,000 payday. Boats cast off into beautiful early summer weather conditions, with clear skies and light winds promising great fishing. By the end of the day, many boats had scored some nice Mahi-Mahi, with lots of high 20-lb. range fish. Biggest fish and the overall win were both bagged by the Blue Hooker team lead by Key West Captain Vinny Argiro, with a 42-pound Bull Dolphin anchoring an 84.8 pound 3-fish bag that brought home a $16,800 pay off for the team.

Some of the most exciting fishing of the tournament happened aboard the Outer Limits and the Mr. Z, two boats owned by Captain Jay Miller and boasting a long and successful history in the Dolphin Masters contest. Just after lines-in a 7:00 am, the Outer Limits got a big hook-up, and a 14-year-old team member got his first billfish release with a nice White Marlin. Then, just about the time Outer Limits got lines back out, the crew on Mr. Z got into something far bigger than a Dolphin. With the team anglers using 30-pound line and light Dolphin gear, it took a two-hour battle to gain the successful release of a 400-pound Blue Marlin. Even though many nice Mahi-Mahi were hauled in on the Outer Limits and Mr. Z during the remainder of the day, they were all put in the shade by the world-class game fish that two lucky fishermen got to battle at the start of the competition.

Despite the tough weather in May, it really looks to be shaping up for an amazing summer of Key West fishing. Tarpon fishing started out early and stayed good. The Dolphin fishing has been very strong, Billfishing has been exceptional so far, Grouper season started off well, and the reefs, wrecks, and deeps have all been producing solid catches of nice-sized Snappers, Cobia, Jacks, and big Hammerheads as well as lots of other Sharks. Grab yourself a piece of the action now by reserving your own charter at