Florida Fish Species Breakdown | Catching Snook in Florida

The How-To and Lures for Catching Snook in Florida

Snook is considered one of Florida’s most exciting game fish to target. Their cunning ability to elude coastal anglers while also being excellent table fare puts catching snook in Florida a top fishing choice for anyone that fishes in the sunshine state. Perhaps one of the toughest legs of the Florida Backcountry Slam, snook fishing will test your abilities while keeping you honest with your tactics.

Breaking Down Snook in Florida Waters

The common snook, like many saltwater game fish, has a distinct look. Their tapered head and snout along with a unique protruding lower jaw gives a snook a distinct and recognizable shape. With that said, a snook’s most distinctive feature is its black stripe, which runs the entire length of its lateral line. All species of snook have this black stripe. Their sides are silver in color fading to a dark gray dorsal back. Coloration can vary, however, based on the time of year and where you may be snook fishing.

Snook can be found in coastal waters of the western Atlantic Ocean from the mid-Atlantic U.S. to southeastern Brazil. The main population of snook are concentrated around Florida, particularly in the shallow brackish waters of southern Florida. Snook fishing in south Florida is right in the heart of their range. Anglers can also find resident populations of snook on the Texas coast.

Snook range from 3- to 15-pounds. Large snook over 20-pounds can be caught consistently during the late spring season and when fishing deeper pockets of coastal waters. Anglers catching snook in Florida generally can expect fish in the 15- to 25-pound range, however, 30- to 40-pound fish have been landed, but they are a much more rare catch.

Similar to fishing for tarpon, snook provide a thrilling angling experience. They are one of the best fighting saltwater game fish on the Florida coasts, known for their long runs and jumps. They also provide a challenge to anglers, as they will commonly seek out cover and other underwater debris to try to avoid being reeled in and ultimately breaking you off. Snook eat extremely well and provide large fillets even on smaller fish. It is a mild and flavorful meat and tops many coastal anglers favorite fish list. A slot limit restricts the harvestable size of snook with a limit of one per day. The Florida snook season is spring and fall with most waters closed to snook fishing during summer months when fish are spawning.

How to Catch Snook in Coastal Waters

No matter if you are a seasoned Florida angler or a first timer, snook will test your patience, skills, and persistence. Catching snook in Florida is a challenging but exciting adventure. Here is how to catch them.

Snook are more active in low-light conditions such as dusk and at night. They can still be caught under sunny parts of the day, but outside of prime snook feeding times, they are much more difficult to get to bite. Snook are sight feeders and will sit in cover waiting to ambush prey.

Current is also a major factor for snook fishing in south Florida. Snook will use current around inlets and shoals to position themselves to ambush bait forced to them through changing tides and these coastal currents. Because of this, the best tide for snook fishing is an outgoing tide, especially one several days around a new or full moon.

The best time for snook fishing is April through October. Remember that much of Florida waters are closed for snook fishing during the summer months, which coincides with the spawning season. Focus on aggregations near the end of the spring season as snook start to group up for spawning. They will gather around the first current break inside major passes and other coastal current swells near cover such as docks, piers, and jetties. To find fish, most anglers chum with live sardines in these areas to locate groups. In contrast, you can search around looking for signs of surface activity that would indicate feeding fish.

Being patient is the key when figuring out how to land a snook. Minimize disturbance and work methodically over every piece of water that looks good. You want to use long casts because larger snook are boat-shy. Wading can also be effective where conditions permit. Finally, remember the key to catching snook in Florida involves three factors; (1) Current, (2) Structure, and (3) Lures.

Top Snook Fishing Lures

The Florida snook season allows anglers many different opportunities to catch them. You will find any number of anglers casting live bait, some throwing artificial lures and yet many others casting TFO fly rods trying to hook a big snook on a fly. So what are the top baits, lures, and flies for catching snook in Florida?

Snook on Live Bait

Fishing for snook with live bait such as sardines and threadfins work the best. In fact, just about any small fish on a snook live bait rig works well. Shrimp and crabs are other live bait choices many anglers use when fishing in coastal Florida. Chum is not necessary, but it is extremely helpful in finding fish and triggering them into feeding mode.

Artificial Snook Fishing Lures

Live bait may not always be an option or it may be a matter of preference to fish with artificial lures. No problem. Catching snook in Florida using artificial lures produces some of the largest fish. A bucktail jig is one of the more versatile lures for snook. Choose a white variation with a splash of color for contrast. Jerkbaits can also be thrown in various locations. These work when you have to fish at various depths to follow moving baitfish that snook are feeding on. Saltwater soft plastics like swimbaits are also a proven snook fishing setup. Colors that work well are all pink and white with flashy highlights of red or chartreuse. Finally, topwater plugs such as the full-sized saltwater Zara Spook can’t be beaten when fish are actively feeding near the surface.

Choices for Catching Snook on a Fly Rod

Many anglers choose a fly rod as their weapon of choice. Fly angling for snook can be tough especially when fishing thick mangroves or other heavy covers. One option is to add a heavy monofilament weed guard to your flies to help save them from snagging up and costing you a bunch of money. Foam poppers work well fished in and around this heavy cover. Other choices of flies include the Deceiver, Seaducer, Woolhead Mullet, and Bendback. If you are fishing in the flats, try muddlers and light-weighted Clouser minnows.

Snook are formidable adversaries on any type of tackle. This exciting game fish found in the coastal waters of Florida is a test for even the most experienced angler. Catching snook in Florida comes down to understanding them, implementing the right tactics, and putting the best snook fishing lures to work.

Florida Fish Species Breakdown | Fishing for Tarpon in Florida

Guide to Fishing for Tarpon in Florida

Tarpon is one of the most exciting game species you can fish for along the Florida coast. Remarkably powerful and massive in size are only a few ways to characterize these incredible fish. Many anglers may think only an exotic destination can produce fish of this caliber; however, some of the best tarpon fishing is relatively close to home. Fishing for tarpon in Florida tops the list as one of the top tarpon fishing locations in the world.

Tarpon, often called silver kings locally, put on show after show for anglers that have the chance to set the hook on one. This hugely popular Florida game fish is known for its highflying acrobats and fierce fights. Combine that with sizes that commonly reach 100 plus pounds and you have one of the most exciting fish battles you can handle. Let’s breakdown Tarpon fishing in Florida from where to find them to how to catch tarpon around the sunshine state.

A Brief Guide to Tarpon

Tarpon is a long, cylindrical fish with a thick body, forked tail, darker green or steel blue dorsal coloration with pronounced silver sides and belly. Their size can range from a few pounds to an average of around 50- to 75-lbs. Top tarpon fishing locations around southern Florida, however, consistently produce better than average size tarpon.

Fishing for tarpon is almost entirely for sport. Their unmatched acrobatics once hooked is a thrill for even the most experienced angler. Fishing for tarpon in Florida is a catch-and-release fishery. The state permits one tarpon tag per person only if that person is pursuing an International Game and Fish Association (IFGA) record. The catch-and-release restrictions in Florida waters are not an issue as tarpon are a bony and strong-smelling fish, which makes them almost unpalatable and difficult to eat.

A Tarpon feeds aggressively, which is one characteristic that makes them such a popular game fish. Even though they grow to impressive sizes, most feed on smaller prey like shrimp, crabs, and worms. Their main diet, however, consists of small fish such as mullet and sardines. Tarpon typically swallows their prey whole, which can make hook setting challenging for anglers not use to fishing for tarpon.

Best Tarpon Fishing in the World

The Florida Keys and the Florida Gulf Coast top the list when anglers talk about places to target record class tarpon. Florida may be the best place to tarpon fish, but their range includes the Gulf Coast, the Caribbean including around the Virgin and Cayman Islands and also scattered throughout the Bahamans. In the farthest reaches of their range, tarpon can be found as far north as Nova Scotia and south to the coast of Argentina.

Tarpon are unique in the sense that they can endure various habitats. Along Florida, they can be found in both salt and freshwater. It is not uncommon to catch large tarpon miles up freshwater rivers and within large coastal estuaries. Keys spots for fishing for tarpon in southern Florida are large shallow flats, inlets, channels and at the mouths of large rivers.

Florida Tarpon Season

The best tarpon fishing dates vary depending exactly where you are planning to fish. Tarpon is a migratory species and seeks out waters with temperatures in the mid-70s and above. They will follow warm coastal currents and move from area to area following schools of forage. There is no closed season on tarpon fishing in Florida. The tarpon generally arrives in the Florida Keys starting in March and as April approaches, they start to spread further north. In most years, fishing for tarpon in Florida is good from late March through late November until fish begin to migrate out of the Gulf and Florida waters to more southern Caribbean coasts.

 

Tarpon Fishing Tackle Recommendations

Fishing for tarpon in Florida can be accomplished successfully using an array of fishing techniques and tackle. Prime tarpon fishing areas like those in and around the Florida Keys will see many anglers using both fly fishing and spin fishing gear for tarpon.

Artificial lures are the most effective for catching tarpon. Small fish imitations like soft plastic swimbaits and hard baits such as twitch plugs and walking topwater lures prove most effective over the course of the Florida tarpon season.

Live bait is another option, particularly when the bite is tough or depending on where you are fishing. Live bait seems to work better in more inland waters where tarpon are actively following schools of baitfish. Sardines, pinfish, and mullet all work well when using live bait to fish for tarpon.

Fly fishing for tarpon also is a successful method for catching these fish. The best tarpon flies include ones like the Tarpon Sinking Toad, Gurglers and the Kreh’s Cockroach. In addition, baitfish imitators like streamers work well for sight fishing fish in shallower waters.

Tarpon fishing rods, reels, and line have to be beefy enough to handle not only large 100-lb fish but also handle energetic fights of smaller fish. Large 7-foot, medium to medium heavy action rods paired with 30- to 50-pound test fishing line on a quality spincasting reel is the standard when chasing tarpon off the Florida coast. Baitcasting reels can be used when fishing for tarpon in Florida, but they work best in more inland situations where tarpon are caught near structure and a reel with some more bite is required.

Fly rods for tarpon fishing vary depending on your style of fishing. Inland setups are typically a 5 to 7 weight fly rod matched with 10-to 20-lb bite tippet. As you move to more open water such as coastal flats or shallow offshore areas, bump up to at least a 9-foot 11- to 13-weight tarpon fly rod. Pair these rod setups with high-quality reels with an exceptional drag. Use 150- to 200-yards of 30-lb backing with a good fluorocarbon bite tippet. Carry several different tippet sizes to compliment the sizes and styles of flies you are planning to cast.

4 Tarpon Fishing Tips Everyone Can Use

  1. Tarpon is unlike any other saltwater game fish – Landing a tarpon is extremely difficult. Successful days are counted by the number of bites and fights rather than how many are landed because they are so challenging to get to the boat. Their hard, boney mouths make setting the hook tough. Remember to be sure to set the hook, continually apply pressure, and keep setting the hook as the fight pursues.
  2. Plan fishing trips for Tarpon thoroughly – A tarpon fishing trip is a big deal. Pre-planning your day or trip to Florida is important. Compile a trip checklist that includes all the gear you will need to be successful. This should include items like tackle, lures, clothing, and eyewear. Most importantly, decide and book a Florida tarpon fishing guide based on good reviews and recommendations.
  3. Know how to handle a tarpon – By law, tarpon over 40-lbs must be kept in the water. Even smaller fish should be cradled in the water to maximize their survival after being caught. Never pull a tarpon over the rails of your SeaHunter™ boat or grab them by the gills if possible.
  4. Don’t skimp on tackle – Fishing for tarpon in Florida will quickly test your tackle. These large fish and their fight will exploit any fishing tackle that is substandard. High-quality rods, reels, and line make a difference. A tarpon fishing trip is a worthy expensive so don’t cheat yourself by using lackluster gear that will not hold up when trying to land one of these fish.

To wrap up, fishing for tarpon in Florida is an experience unmatched by almost any other game fish. These massive fish put up incredible fights, which require top-end tackle and honed techniques to land. Take advantage of this great fishery off the Florida coast next time you are seeking to challenge yourself and try to catch one of these true monsters.

SeaHunter Boats | Center Console Fishing Machines

The Center Console Advantage

SeaHunter center console boats are an adaptable type of vessel that can be used for a variety of activities. These boats are typically single-decked with an open hull and a center oriented console. Some models have cabins located in the bow of the boat but the main feature of center consoles is the boat deck. The open concept allows for easy maneuverability and ensures that nearly every feature of the vessel is within reach.

Fishing with Center Console Boats

Once upon a time, a 25ft boat with twin motors was an exceptionally sized vessel. Now, we have center console boats equipped with quad motors that can hold 700 gallons of fuel. These boats, like the ones manufactured by SeaHunter Boats, have completely changed the game. Not only are center console boats absolutely perfect for fishing, but they allow anglers to fish for a variety of species and explore different ecosystems like never before.

In addition to superior versatility and range, center console boats possess unmatched fishability. For example, if you hook a fish at the transom, you can easily move around the boat to the bow if the fish makes a run. You can cast from virtually anywhere on the boat, utilize an outrigger setup for trolling, and run kites off of any end of the boat.

SeaHunter Boats

SeaHunter Boats was formed in 2002 with performance, control, and comfort as its driving foundational elements. Prior to founding SeaHunter, Ralph Montalvo owned and operated the largest FAA repair company in the United States. As a result, SeaHunter was established on the basis of a strong aerospace heritage. By using the most innovative technology and advanced materials, SeaHunter exceeds NMMA (National Marine Manufacturer Association) standards.

These boats are designed for professionals and weekend warriors alike. From the bow to the stern of each and every SeaHunter, every detail has been perfectly engineered for both functionality and safety.

Which Model is Right for Me?

SeaHunter offers an array of center console boats that are perfect for a multitude of conditions.

TOURNAMENT 45

The SeaHunter 45 is a quad powered behemoth equipped with three large live wells. Complete with 2800 maximum horsepower, the SeaHunter Tournament 45 is capable of reaching 60 mph speeds. If you’re looking for a boat to take you 600 miles on a single tank in any condition, the Tournament 45 is your vessel.

TOURNAMENT 39

The hull of the Tournament 39 is a true deep-V design which ensures an unbelievably smooth ride. With several power options and outboard configurations, it’s easy to see why the Tournament 39 has been SeaHunter’s most popular center console boat for years.

TOURNAMENT 35

The Tournament 35 is an excellent mid-30 foot center console boat that does not sacrifice comfort or storage. With more than 400 gallons of total fuel capacity this vessel is ideal for your next offshore adventure.

TOURNAMENT 33

If you are looking for the features of a larger center console packed in a smaller size, then you need to check out the Tournament 33. Despite its compact design, the Tournament 33 boasts fully insulated fish boxes and three standard live wells. For a smaller center console boat loaded with features, the Tournament 33 finds a sweet spot.

TOURNAMENT 31

Versatile, speedy, and comfortable, the Tournament 31 by SeaHunter is one of the best 31-foot center console boats on the market. Anglers wanting a vessel for drift, kite, and bottom fishing, look no further than the Tournament 31.

FLORIDIAN 28

Perfect for wherever your fishing takes you, the Floridian 28 was designed for anglers that want it all. Its deck layout is modeled after SeaHunter’s larger models meaning lots of storage for bait and gear.

Center console boats can be used for lots of different activities due to their versatility. However, make no mistake, these modern-day center console boats are fishing machines. Boats from companies like SeaHunter have changed the game while providing anglers with everything they need to go farther and fish longer.

Florida Saltwater Fishing Species | Redfish

Fishing for Redfish in Florida

Few species have grown in sportfishing as massively as redfish. An aggressive, tough fight paired with size and numbers have made redfish one of the most sought after fish in the backcountry waters of the Florida Everglades.

Understanding Redfish Biology

In order to successfully target redfish as an angler, it is important to know some background and biology of what makes redfish.

Redfish are the biggest and most formidable of the drum species. While the majority of the drum species are not typically seen as gamefish, the Red Drum, aka the redfish, has become infamous for anglers for its bulldog type fight and unique tail spot.

The key to being successful for redfish is knowing the best times to fish for them. One of these best times to target redfish is during their spawn till when they migrate off-shore. A redfish’s spawn in Florida can happen as early as mid-August to around early fall. The area to target redfish during the spawn is primarily inshore around inlets.

After a redfish spawn, they will slowly migrate back offshore. This, along with the spawning run, is likely the time to catch a true trophy bull red as they make their way out to deeper water. They can be caught in the channels leading out to sea and can also be caught as they congregate around underwater rock piles just offshore. While the adults migrate, the juvenile redfish will hatch and stay in backwater estuaries till they grow quickly in size and mature.

Fishing for Redfish

Redfish, because they are part of the drum family, typically are considered bottom feeders. They relate to sandbars, oyster bars, and grassy flats. However, redfish are not picky and do not feed entirely off of the bottom.

One of the most exciting ways to target redfish is to aggressively twitch large poppers and then have a large redfish engulf it in a massive strike. One of the best times to do this is when observing the water and seeing mullets or other baitfish disturb the surface. Chances are they are being chased and imitating an injured baitfish with a popper is the way to go.

Another great way to fish for redfish is by imitating mullets subsurface. Casting out a soft plastic jerk bait and twitching it near the bottom or tying it on a drop shot rig can prove to be effective.

While lures work well for redfish, so too does just simply throwing out live bait. Shrimp pushed onto a hook, pieces of crab or even just a worm on the bottom are great baits for redfish. This is due to the amount of bottom-feeding redfish do around sandbars and oyster bars. Redfish will cruise the bottom looking for juvenile crabs and oysters, among other things. Targeting the grounds they feed on with cut bait is a natural presentation that entices more than just a few bites.

As with most fish, live bait is also a great option to catch redfish. Hook a small baitfish, cast it out, and allow it to remain close to the bottom. Redfish cruising the bottom for food won’t hesitate to bite.

Knowing the feeding habits, biology, and locations redfish are found, is necessary to be successful for this aggressive game fish. It is no surprise, that after gaining the knowledge of how to catch a redfish and then finally catching one of these hard fighting fish, that an angler would be hooked for life.

 

Finding & Fishing Structure in Saltwater

Offshore Fishing Techniques

Few things are more import to an angler than structure. When an inshore fisherman thinks of what structure means to their fishing, they gravitate towards rock piles, sunken trees, and contour break lines. However, finding and fishing offshore saltwater structure is entirely different but every bit as vital to having a successful day fishing.

Reefs

Locating Reefs 

Off the coast of the Florida Keys, one of the most vital types of structure an angler can fish is reefs. Numerous different types of gamefish use reefs as feeding grounds. From sharks to sailfish, reefs provide an opportunity to pinpoint structure to fish offshore. 

Not only are there natural reefs an angler can fish, but too, the Florida Fish and Game has created artificial reefs to promote and support fish life. 

(Learn about fishing reefs in this segment of The SeaHunter)

To locate reefs an angler must rely on their electronics either from locating reefs themselves or by following GPS waypoints found online. Don’t be afraid to check with bait shops or locals either for help finding reefs.

As with all types of structure, some reefs are better than others and gamefish are constantly on the move following their food. Don’t be afraid to explore different reefs and even come back to reefs that did not produce much fish in the past.

Fishing Reefs 

To fish a reef, an angler can deploy a variety of tactics. Vertical jigging and casting out a live bait are go-to’s for any offshore angler, however, drifting a reef edge with the wind can be just as rewarding. 

Large sailfish are often caught on the edge of a reef at certain times of the year during their migration. To target these fish, a kite helps get lines away from the boat while running flatlines with live bait that is drifted behind the boat. The key is keeping your drift just right along the reef edge to entice a large sailfish into biting.

Another way to fish a reef edge is to find where the Gulfstream blows into a reef. Often you will find a current eddy that traps bait within it. These bait balls attract anything from bonitas, to tunas, to sharks and give an angler an excellent opportunity to catch fish. 

Casting lures on conventional tackle or streamers on a fly rod work well in this situation. Just be aware of boat position and keep far enough away so as not to spook the feeding tuna off but close enough to cast to.

Shipwrecks

Locating Wrecks 

Shipwrecks for offshore fishing, like reefs, can provide an incredible opportunity for anglers to catch fish. Baitfish use these shipwrecks as a haven and fish like cobia, amberjacks, African Pompano, and barracudas, aren’t far behind. 

Just as the case with reefs, to locate shipwrecks GPS coordinates of known wrecks are found online. For the more secretive wrecks, locating them is a matter of reading electronics and knowing what to look for. 

(Learn about fishing shipwrecks in this segment of The SeaHunter)

A wreck will read on down scan sonar as an uneven bottom with fish stacked above it. Often you are not looking for the full shape of a ship, but instead, parts that have broken and been worn over time. 

Fishing Wrecks 

To fish successfully around shipwrecks an angler must keep in mind how fish position themselves around a wreck. 

Many times, an angler won’t anchor in the right spot in relation to a shipwreck. The best thing to do is take a look at your electronics and take a minute to understand your drift. The key is to find out where the fish are hanging in relation to the shipwreck.

Larger predatory fish may hang off to the side of a wreck or roam a distance out. One of the many draws to shipwrecks is the large grouper and snapper that often congregate to on or just around shipwrecks. A prized catch, they are not only a great gamefish but too provide a phenomenal meal.  

A technique to use when wreck fishing, is to anchor above the shipwreck and start chumming heavily to draw fish off the wreck or in from surrounding areas where they may be roaming. 

The exciting part of fishing a shipwreck is you never know what is going to bite. In one day you could catch over ten different things and you have no idea what is going to hit next. 

The freedom in this is you can fish in a variety of ways.  You can freeline pilchards, you can drop bait down to the bottom, and you can Carolina rig on to the bottom. There is no wrong way to fish a wreck. 

A different presentation, however, will yield different bites. Often times too when reeling in a fish off a shipwreck other varieties that are living on the wreck will chase what you are reeling in. 

Casting out a live baitfish on a hook next to a shipwreck after throwing out chunk bait is a great technique to bring any fish up from the wreck. Vertical jigging large marabou and haired jigs around and over a wreck also tricks a variety of fish into eating.

Shallow Structure

Coral edges and banks in 20 to 35 feet of water, provide excellent shallow structure when deciding to switch it up from deeper water structures. 

Often times, it is shallow enough to sight fish to hungry predatory fish below in the clear water. So having a good precise cast is necessary.

(Learn about fishing shallow structure in this segment of The SeaHunter)

All types of groupers or barracudas use these areas to stalk baitfish that are blown up by the current. It can be especially productive, but if there is little to no current, an angler must make their own drift. Staying stationary and not making a drift usually ends with not catching anything so it is important to make your own drift to have a successful day on the water. 

Finding and fishing offshore structure is the key to catching fish. Whether it is reefs, sunken shipwrecks, or shallow water edges and banks off the coast, learning to fish these areas gives an angler the edge to offshore fishing.

How to Catch Yellowfin Tuna—Light Gear & Big Fish

Increase Your Chances of Catching Tuna

An exceptionally powerful, fast, and unreal fighting fish for an angler to catch is the yellowfin tuna. These fish not only put up a fight that rivals any fish in the ocean but they are also easily one of the best table fares to bring home. Fishing for these incredible fish, however, is not easy but with these tips, you are certain to find success for yellowfin tuna.

Conditions & Locations for Yellowfin Tuna

As with all types of fishing, timing your fishing trip is everything. Yellowfin tuna are often caught post-frontal with winds 20 to 25 knots. 

As for locating yellowfin tuna, though yellowfin can be caught worldwide in almost every ocean, there are few better places in the world than just past the Florida Keys in the Bahamas. 

Every spring, a fishery just northeast of Bimini that is sometimes called the Tongue of The Ocean produces world class tuna fishing. A deep channel cuts between islands almost three thousand feet deep. Just make sure to check into Bahamian customs before fishing the Bahamian waters. This can also give you an opportunity to check in on where the fishing is happening too! 

In the Tongue of the Ocean, a hard east wind in early spring creates a large current rip that attracts not only yellowfin tuna and other species of tuna but also big dolphin, marlin and all other Pelagic fish species.

Gear for Yellowfin Tuna

All fish species require not only good gear, but knowledge of how to use that gear. Fishing for yellowfin tuna is no different. The advances in fishing technology over the past few years has put the angler at the advantage and it is simply knowing how to leverage this gear that leads to not only successful day on the water, but too a more fun day catching fish.

Rods

The yellowfin tuna in this area off the Bahamas can range from 10 pounds to over 400 pounds. Long pectoral and dorsal fins paired with a very large tail in comparison to body size, make the yellowfin tuna extremely fast and very powerful. And consequently—very fun to catch! 

The gear that was needed traditionally, was large heavy reels and rods with huge backbone. Now spinning gear has evolved. 

An angler can chase these giant 80 to 100-pound yellowfin tuna on spinning gear that never would have been adequate enough in the past before the advances in technology. This lighter gear makes the fight on a yellowfin tuna vastly more fun than the heavy rods and reels from the past. 

Regardless of the type of tackle you are using, once a yellowfin is hooked, be ready for an incredible fight. They are just simply a powerful fish that not only taste great but make an amazing gamefish. Their strong and aggressive runs put an angler to the test. 

Radar & Bottom Readers

One of the most crucial tools when you are yellowfin fishing, is to have a good radar. A good radar can read up to 15 miles out, helping you locate fish. 

Another vital piece of equipment is your bottom reader. A bottom reader gives an angler an idea of just what is underneath. 

A yellowfin will mark very differently than other types of tuna. Where a blackfin tuna will mark as tiny dots very close together, a yellowfin tuna will mark as a zig-zag, or a small “s” shape on the bottom.

Techniques for Yellowfin Tuna

There are a vast array of techniques an angler can use for tuna, but the key to having a successful day is to have a variety of baits and a variety of techniques in which to chum with those baits.

Find the Birds

One of the best places to start fishing for yellowfin tuna is under the birds. When you see birds and they are dipping or diving down to the water and picking stuff off the surface, you know the tuna are there. 

This is because tuna push little baitfish up to the surface, thus attracting the birds to come into feed. An angler can leverage this by starting off trolling to cover water where the birds are feeding. 

Trolling for Tuna

One of the best things to do when starting your day looking for tuna is to troll. Trolling is essentially prospecting– you are not setting up a drift and chumming just yet. After locating the feeding birds, you roughly know you are in the right area. 

While you are trolling under the birds, look for busts and try to figure out what species these birds are on. Use your bottom reader and radar to help you identify what species of fish are under you. 

Set a Drift

Once you are certain there are yellowfin tuna in the area, get upwind and set a drift. Start chunking, or cutting, up your bait fish and throwing them out. You are leaving a strong scent trail that will disperse as soon as it hits the water.

This scent trail will lure a yellowfin tuna in from deep and entice them to come to the surface. By doing this, you are essentially leaving a crumb trail that spans 200 to 300 yards behind you, leading the tuna right to you. 

After throwing out chunk bait, start sticking out your live baits with hooks. After keying in on the chummed water, yellowfin will be more than willing to come up and grab one of your live baits. 

Be ready for that infamous yellowfin fight but also don’t be surprised if you catch many other types of fish too as a bonus while yellowfin tuna fishing. Reel hard and be ready for anything. 

There is no doubt that after fighting the extremely fast and powerful gamefish, and incredible table fare fish that is the yellowfin tuna, that you will be hooked for life. With these techniques on how to locate yellowfin tuna, leverage your gear, and entice yellowfin into biting, there is little doubt that success will follow suit.

Catching Tarpon, Snook, and Redfish in the Florida Keys

The Ultimate Guide to Catch Them All

Florida is known for world class fishing. From huge silver tarpon to aggressive and sometimes tricky snook, to big bull redfish, Florida knows how to produce monsters.

Where to Catch Tarpon, Snook, and Redfish

Found in various waters across the state, some of the best fishing for any Florida species, including tarpon, snook, and redfish, is in the backwater of the Everglades. No doubt, the Everglades produce the biggest and baddest of these monsters. 

Going into the Everglades to fish can be a challenge, and often going deep into the Everglades requires experience and knowledge of a skilled guide, but the rewards are unbelievable fishing for many species. 

While certain areas of the Everglades are treacherous to navigate due to rocks and hidden oyster bars, it is often these areas where an angler can find the best of luck. Virtually endless waters hidden away from outside fishing pressure can produce size and number for tarpon, snook, and redfish, as well as other unique catches, as this area is home to over 300 species of fish.

Reading the Water

The first step to catching any fish, including tarpon, snook, and redfish, is knowing how to read the water. 

While blind casting miles of shoreline could produce fish, it more often than not pays dividends to stop and observe the water for a clue on where the fish might be. And not only where the fish might be, but too their behavior. Are they actively feeding? Are the predatory fish schooling bait? Or are the fish tucked tight into cover and not moving until something falls on their nose? 

Watch for any little hint on the water’s surface. A swell of water might indicate a rising hungry fish. Splashes on the surface could mean aggressively feeding fish or baitfish fleeing for cover. A little mud kicked up on the bottom could indicate a spooked fish fleeing but that the predatory fish are actively roaming to find prey. 

A lack of activity on the water’s surface could suggest that most fish are tucked into cover waiting to ambush prey, or that the conditions are not right in that area and you need to move to find the active fish. 

All clues on the water or water’s surface should be keyed into by an angler as they hunt their target species as it greatly ties into an angler’s success.

Tides

Tides are a massive factor when it comes to fishing in a coastal area. The Florida Everglades is no exception. Knowing what times to target fish during moving tides can be the huge factor between an okay day of fishing and an incredible day of fishing. 

Something to keep in mind, however, is how far you are fishing from the coast. Immediate coastal areas can have tides that fluctuate water levels 3 feet or more, while further inshore can have an average tide fluctuation of 8 to 12 inches. 

 

A strong north wind will blow water out and change water levels more drastically than tide does at times. A time of lower tide makes target species more available, and sometimes more aggressive as much of their cover is revealed during this time. 

Baitfish in times of lowered tide, lose their hiding spot as well. Actively hunting predatory fish take advantage of this, just as an angler should. Aggressively feeding fish equals an amazing day on the water. 

Likewise, if you were fishing during an area of high tides, the fish will be more spread out. Often lurking shallow in newly flooded structure or grasses, snook, redfish, or tarpon will push shallow to ambush baitfish that also moved up. Targeting these areas and keeping an eye on the water’s surface indicates a lot of clues to locating fish in high water.

Tips & Techniques to Land the Beast

Tarpon 

From sleek chrome scales that are nearly reflective to acrobatic fighting moves clearing feet out of the water when hooked, there is no doubt that tarpon are some of the biggest and baddest fish in the Everglades. A trophy sized tarpon is one of the most prized catches in Florida. 

While trophy sizes of any species can be hard to locate, there is still undoubtedly fantastic numbers of quality sized tarpon for anglers to target in the Everglades. 

Tarpon can be found lurking in channels or mouths of rivers stalking for baitfish. Like many predatory fish, think of and locate places of ambush to find the tarpon. Though tarpon can be found year-round in certain areas some of the best time to fish for them is mid-spring through July. 

The best lures to use for tarpon can range from soft plastic jerk baits, to live baitfish and shrimp, to large plugs. Fly fishing for tarpon is also extremely effective and large streamers or popper flies are typically used to entice tarpon into eating.

 

The key is to identify what the tarpon are feeding on, most likely though mullet, a silver-colored baitfish in Florida, is a pretty safe bet to imitate. 

It is a common saying that almost every angler has heard, “Match the Hatch”, but it rings true time and time again. Key into what the fish are eating, duplicate the look, movement and behavior of that prey and often success follows suit. 

Though targeting trophy sized tarpon involves heavy spinning or baitcasting rods such as the TFO Inshore Series in a 5 power or larger, or a 10-12 wt fly rod, it is possible to catch juvenile tarpon on smaller gear and also end up catching a variety of other species, including snook and redfish. 

Just be ready for when you do finally hook into a tarpon; when a tarpon is hooked, you are no doubt in for a show, often clearing feet of water with huge jumps. Tarpon tend to throw hooks easily with violent head shakes, so be prepared to lose fish. However, when you do finally land a tarpon in the Everglades, it is more than worth the effort.

Snook 

Snook are an extremely popular sport fish, and like the tarpon, have both size and numbers in the Florida Everglades. 

Hard fighting and often difficult to pull out of cover, the snook when hooked tend to run for the Mangroves. Often tangling and breaking off line, the best bet to landing a snook once hooked is to reel down and fight hard to get them into more open water. 

The key is to hold the pressure on them. Letting up on the pressure allows fish to head for cover, tangle your line, and get free. 

Snook can be found just about anywhere with trees, ambush points, or cover of some sort. The biggest of snook, however, are often found in surprising places. The smallest nook or cranny a snook can fit into is often where a large one will lay in wait for baitfish. Do not be afraid to cast your bait tight into cover or trees as you never know what monster could be hiding.

 

Though snook fishing can involve intricate casting, knowing how to read the water is equally important. A push, a wake, or a surge of water could all be indicators that there is feeding fish in the area. Pay attention to the water. 

Typical baits for snook are the classic soft plastic jerk baits, tube jigs, or bucktail jigs. Colors that seem to excel in catching snook are white or bubblegum colored. 

Fly fisherman can also easily target snook in the Everglades. Either a 7 wt to  8 wt fly rod is recommended but some fly fisherman do go up or down a weight depending on the size of snook they are after. 

Muddler minnow patterns or any sized streamer pattern in white are a go-to fly for snook. Poppers, as for tarpon, are also a staple of snook fishing as it indicates injured baitfish and therefore an easy meal.

Redfish 

A previously underrated fish species, the redfish is a copper-red colored drum species with an alluring tail spot, often thought to be a diversion from predators. Redfish have become increasingly popular as a sport fish and have more than a few die-hard anglers consumed by their aggressive, bulldog type fight. Some true trophy redfish lurk in Florida’s Everglades. 

Redfish are often attracted to oyster bars or shallow grassy flats and locating one of the two is a good place to start targeting them. Redfish are not too terribly picky and anything from shrimp, to worms, or minnow imitations work well. 

An extremely fun and exciting way to target redfish as well is on poppers. Like snook and tarpon, a topwater take from a redfish is heart stopping, to say the least. 

Fly fishing for redfish involves the typical baitfish streamers, as well as crawfish and shrimp imitations. A heavy fly rod, around an 8 wt or 9 wt is typically used, however, sizing up to a 10 wt rod or larger is great for also targeting tarpon.

Fishing Gear for Tarpon, Snook, and Redfish

The gear you take with you to target these species is essential to your success. Much of the gear, especially rods you own, can overlap and be used for different species. Though it does not hurt to have a few rods of the same power with different lures or leaders tied on to be ready to switch techniques or species at the drop of a hat. 

A dependable, well balanced rod is an absolute must in the Florida Everglades as there can be true monsters lurking. The last thing you want is to be underpowered and lose the tarpon, snook or redfish of a lifetime. 

One of the tried and true rods used by guides and anglers across the state is the TFO Inshore Series. The Inshore Series comes in a large variety of sizes to cover any fishing situation you may find yourself in while fishing the Florida Everglades. 

A great starting point is the TFO Inshore 5 power rod. This powerful rod casts anywhere from 1 oz to a 1.5 oz bait. Pair that with 12-15lb braid and you have a deadly combo for throwing a big plug for angry tarpon, snook, or redfish. 

Going with a more sensitive, medium light to medium rod such as the TFO Inshore 3 power or 4 power rod can help in casting soft plastics. It also helps with intricate casting under mangroves to deliver your bait exactly where you need it to entice a bite from any species. A lighter tip allows you to feel the action with your bait and detect even the lightest bite from a hesitant fish.

 

The leaders you use are vital to being successful on the water. Any fray in the line can end up costing you a fish, so make sure to bring many different sizes to repair old leaders or tie lighter or heavier ones based on the conditions you are fishing. 

For lures, sometimes the saying “the more the merrier” is true. However, often times the traditional tried and true staples such as white jerk baits and soft plastic flukes, topwater poppers, and jigs in various sizes are all that’s needed to have a fantastic day catching fish.  

It is not always about the lure so much as it is about what the angler does with it paired with the knowledge of locating fish that determines success. Which is why it is vital to match your lures to the proper line and rod to make your presentation as realistic as possible to fool fish. 

The quickest way to being successful on the water is being prepared. By matching your bait size and line size to the power rod you are using, you can put the odds in your favor.

Learning how to catch tarpon, snook, and redfish breaks down to reading the water, knowledge of tides, choosing the right gear, and lastly– getting out there.

How to Complete the Florida Backcountry Slam

Florida Backcountry Slam | Tarpon, Redfish, and Snook Fishing

As an angler, nothing is better than pushing your angling abilities and knowledge to the test. In the backcountry of Florida, anglers are doing so with fishing slams. A slam when it comes to fishing is when you catch a certain number of species in an area. While it may not seem daunting, it can be extremely difficult to complete. 

In the Everglades of Florida, there are primarily two different kinds of slams. A Flats Slam and the Backcountry Slam. The flats slam involves catching a bonefish, a permit and a tarpon in a single day. 

The Backcountry Slam is the challenge to catch a tarpon, redfish and a snook in one day. Especially when throwing artificial lures or when fly fishing catching a redfish, tarpon and a snook in the same day is not easily done.

 

Watch & Observe Your Water

When a hurricane comes through the Everglades, it can give a system a fresh start. Though right after a hurricane is not advised to go fishing, the weeks and months after one can be phenomenal as the storm brings in new nutrients and typically a good shot to complete a Florida slam— a secret experienced anglers know.

On any day of fishing, especially after a hurricane that changes the waterscape, it’s important to observe your environment first. From there, an angler can develop a plan for how to fish. Observing the water first is especially helpful for determining which species to chase and how you are going to target them.

The Backcountry Slam 

1.      Tarpon 

Tarpon are a unique target in Florida’s Everglades and can grow from very small sizes to extremely large sizes. Especially when fishing with a flyrod, hooking and catching these aggressive jumpers can be an absolute blast. Even the small ones fight and behave the same way as a large tarpon would.

 

Smaller tarpon are more cooperative when it comes to biting and if you find one you are bound to find more as they are typically in big groups. Which in turn leads to multiple bites and an incredible day of fishing. 

They come in handy when fishing for the Backcountry Slam as they do everything the big ones do without an hour-long fight—leaving you with more time to find and locate snook and redfish. 

A favorable situation to catching is where current is coming out. If you move slowly and carefully on the water, the fish won’t feel you. In doing so, an angler can hit the mother lode right at the mouth of the creek. 

If you come in too hard or spook the fish on the outskirts, those fish will end up spooking all of them. And then its game over for that area. Be patient and you will catch a lot more fish.

2.      Redfish 

As the day progresses, and light becomes more overhead the tarpon may stop biting, providing the perfect chance to chase number two in the Backcountry Slam—the Redfish. 

Redfish are usually found the same way all the others are by observing the water. Looking for baitfish, or for sandbars is a good way to locate redfish. 

Though keep in mind after a hurricane it can be extremely important to adapt. Old sandbars could now be washed away by the storm surge, while new ones are formed in places they never were before. It provides a new learning experience as the topography has changed.

3.      Snook 

Snook are best caught last in your slam as many snook feed in low light as the sun is going down, and into the night. Casting plastic, especially plastic jerk baits along mangroves can provide success for snook but keep in mind that braided line is your best bet for landing one as large snook will run in and out of timber as they fight. Monofilament would break from sharp snagging branches and the power of a snook.

 

Covering ground is sometimes necessary to finding snook and the opportunity for both a small or trophy snook is there. As with the tarpon, not spooking the fish and being patient can provide the best results.

Fishing Arsenal to Get the Slam Completed

Fishing the backwaters in the Everglades can provide an experience like no other. Fishing the Slam for different kinds of fish species, however, requires an angler to be prepared and flexible. 

Having different leader material on hand as well as good pliers are essential. Being on the water all day to complete the slam, you may find the need to switch up leader line weight and repair any that have frayed from usage. Keep an eye on your line and re-tie with any frays or nicks in your line or leader. 

For fishing lures bring a large variety of plugs, jigs and soft plastics to find what each of the three species are eating on. Experiment with different colors to find what is working for that day and don’t be afraid to switch it up.

For fishing rods, the same is true. Bringing a variety of different weights and sizes ensures you have the rod to get the job done. Some of the best inshore fishing rods for this type of situation are the TFO Inshore Series. The finesse approach with light jigs is best suited for the TFO 2 power rod with a lighter tip comes in handy. 

To cast for snook under mangroves with soft plastics a 6’9” TFO Inshore 4 power rod works phenomenally. This rod is great for detailed casting but also has the backbone to get fish out of cover. Also having a 5 Power medium heavy rod for bigger plugs is good to have onboard. 

Keeping multiple rods on deck with different baits ensures that you are ready to go when the opportunity arises. Fishing and completing the Backcountry Slam is no easy task and any advantage you can get over the fish is vital to being successful. 

Few types of fishing Slams are more challenging or rewarding than the Backcountry Slam in the Florida Keys. Persistence, patience and a little bit of luck leads to one incredible accomplishment.

Sailfishing the Florida Keys

How and When to Catch Sailfish in the Florida Keys

Few types of fishing have more allure than sailfishing in the Florida Keys. Sailfish are the fastest fish in the ocean with the ability to scream drag and get any angler’s adrenaline pumping. Although sailfish are found across the world, one of the best places to target them is right here in the US, in the Florida Keys. However, to target them successfully, there are some things you must first know.

When to Catch Sailfish

There are certain times of year when conditions align perfectly to fish for sailfish. The most experienced anglers in the Florida Keys know when they wake up and find a wind out of the east to northeast at medium speed, just before a full moon, that the bite will be insane. It is time to go sailfishing. 

Sailfish are migratory, and if an angler can catch them just right on their migration they are in for an incredible day of fishing. Though sailfish can be caught year round, the best time to specifically target them is generally from November to April. 

What Rod to Use for Sailfish

One of the most important pieces of equipment an angler uses is undoubtedly their rod. For offshore fishing traditionally there are three types of rods. 

  1. Trolling Rods 
  2. Rods with Lighter Tips for Casting Baits 
  3. Rods in Between for Jigging Heavy Structure 

Between all those rods, there is one specific rod that is multipurpose and covers all those bases. The TFO SeaHunter Series  rod was designed with the versatility needed for all types of offshore fishing and is one of the best offshore rods available. There are four different models to choose from with different power and line rating to choose from to span the various offshore applications.

The tip is light enough for castability with bait while having a powerful butt that can move big fish. 

One of the things lacking in some offshore rods is an incorrect butt length for fighting a big fish where an anglers hands are too far away from their body, resulting in lost fish and unnecessary strain. However, the TFO Seahunter Series is field tested with this kind of detail in mind. 

From the proper butt length to the Fuji guides, and heavy-duty reel seat, it remains the best choice when offshore fishing—especially for sailfish!

How to Catch Sailfish

One of the first things to do when sailfishing the Florida Keys is to locate and approach a reef slowly. Keep your eyes on the water and watch. Observe the conditions that are before you. Is the water color cloudy or blue? Which direction is the wind blowing? Paying attention to the water is a key trait in being successful for sailfish. 

These reefs are located in about 30 feet to 50 feet of water. At the edge of the reef, there is a sharp drop off into deeper water of usually right around 150 feet. This edge is key. 

The edge is typically a couple yards in length where all the sediment and dirty water from shore is swept off the reef and into the open ocean. If the color of the edge turns from cloudy to a purple-blue in a short distance, the current is pushing into the reef creating a very distinct line to fish. 

An angler can choose either side to fish first depending on where they believe the fish are. So take your pick.

Team Work Catches Sailfish

Fishing for sailfish in the Florida Keys is a team sport. Each person has a specific job to help catch and land a sailfish. You need someone running flat lines, someone watching them for a bite, another guy running the boat and possibly another guy running the kite.

Kite Fishing

Kite fishing is a unique and important technique for sailfish—and not to mention extremely effective. A drop line hangs off a kite that flies downwind to get multiple lines away from the boat. When a fish takes the bait, a clip is released and the rod is freed from the kite. The fight is now on! 

Though kite fishing is important it is also a tricky technique that requires some skill. As the kite surges with the wind, the baits are pulled in and out of the water. The zone you want these baits at is right on the surface. 

Flat Lines

At the same time, to target sailfish, run flatlines out behind the boat with live bait. Keep in mind the sailfish are swimming into a heavy current which happens to be on the side of the boat that you run flatlines. 

Somedays the conditions are perfect. Your setup is right on target with the wind blowing the boat straight down the reef and in the zone. More often than not, kite fishing is the most productive way to catch sailfish, but some days the fish are traveling just right and hit the flatlines first. 

Nonetheless, sailfishing is a team sport where the most successful anglers are the ones that work together.

Expect the Unexpected

Sailfish are tricky fish to catch and conditions must be just right to catch them. The beauty in this, however, is that on these perfect condition days, there are many other fish who are also taking advantage and feeding aggressively. 

The water teems with life on these days with baitfish and predators, so don’t be surprised if you catch more than you bargained for. From sharks to bonitas, to tuna there are not many dull moments when fishing offshore. 

When you do hook into a sailfish, hold on. These acrobatic fish clear heights out of the water on massive runs that screams drag out of your reel. Occasionally, a fish will choose to go deep and the length of fight that follows will be one not easily forgotten. 

Sailfishing in the Florida Keys is not only challenging but equally rewarding. Few other fish can pull drag out of a reel faster or come close to the acrobatic show of the sailfish.  The fastest fish in the ocean does more than just get your heart pumping, it creates bonds through teamwork and makes a memorable catch that will last a lifetime.

The Perfect Fishing Rod Arsenal

Saltwater Fishing Gear Setup and Fishing Rod Arsenal

Putting together an arsenal of fishing gear is about being ready for any situation that arises on the water. Any style of fishing from muddy bass ponds, to high mountain lakes, to salt flats each, have their own unique tools to catch fish. Particularly, for backcountry salt-water fishing you need a variety of rods, leaders, and baits to get the job done. You will find that being organized and prepared for any situation is a deadly combination for catching fish.

To start, some staples to bring on the boat are both 40lb and 20lb leader material. By bringing the leader line, you can repair any broken leaders or change the length for the situation. Also, don’t be afraid to bring some extra line for your spool just in case of gnarly backlashes that can’t be fixed. 

Another staple to not forget is a good pair of pliers, or better yet a pair of pliers with a cutting or nipping tool. You not only need a good multipurpose tool to unhook fish but also to aid in cutting off tag ends from lure and leader tying or possibly opening split rings and replacing hooks. 

Go to lures to have in this arsenal would be an assortment of jigs in different colors and sizes as well as big plugs and a variety of soft plastics. 

Having a lot of rods with you allows for adaptation for whatever the water throws at you. It is good to have rods that span from super lightweight 2 power all the way up to heavier 5 power rods.

For finesse fishing, a TFO Inshore Series 2 power, light rod is the perfect choice for extremely light jigs. For a slightly larger lure a TFO 3 power, medium light rod is also good to have for just a little extra power while keeping sensitivity. For accurate detailed casting, a 6’ 9” inshore 4 power, medium rod is ideal for throwing light soft plastics such as flukes under mangroves. A TFO 5 power, medium heavy rod then comes into play for big plugs to entice angry snook or aggressive tarpon.

It also never hurts to have a few rods of the same power either with a different bait tied on and ready to cast or to have a different leader strength or length pretied. 

While this may seem like a lot of rods for a single day of fishing, you never know what you are going to encounter. Perhaps the fish are super finicky and won’t just inhale a large bait that you are throwing on a 4 power, medium rod. You want to downsize but realize that a 2 power, light rod may not have enough backbone. Having that 3 power, medium light rod is going to come in handy and you will be glad that you are over equipped than under-equipped. 

By having a variable amount of rods rigged with different baits and different leader lengths you can be ready for any opportunity that arises and catch that fish.