The Trick is Catching Mahi Mahi; The Treat is Fresh Fish for Dinner

Posted on by Captain Steve

The offshore action is not waiting around for the Great Pumpkin to arrive. Here at Fantastic Sportfishing, we continue to enjoy stellar Fall fishing action in the beautiful waters of South Florida. We’re fishing every single day and we’re pulling up to the dock with stuffed fish boxes and sore arms.

As always, we’d like to thank everyone who fished with us during September and those who intend to fish with us in October. Without you, we’re stuck at the dock. We greatly appreciate your business and hope that you’ll come back to see us soon, especially our junior anglers who are picking out Halloween costumes that will be sure to drive their parents crazy.

The early fall weather has brought a bit of wind and some occasional sporty seas but the weather has also energized the baitfish and the fish that follow. Our morning and evening trips have been producing well for all of our clients and the heat and humidity has made things a bit more comfortable out on the water as an added bonus.

Offshore Report: Mahi, Mahi and More Mahi Mahi:

The Mahi Mahi have been EVERYWHERE in recent weeks! We can’t get away from them! Our clients caught gaffer-sized Mahi (10 – 20 pounds) as well as smaller Mahi under the steady stream of weed patches that continue to be blown in from the Bahamas and from the Eastern Atlantic. We’ve been catching our Mahi Mahi between 300 and 500 feet of water on rigged ballyhoo and bonito strips with blue/white skirt combinations. We’ve also caught many on live baits tossed at the weed patches or underneath frigate birds.

 

The Blackfin Tunas and Bonitos can still be found up on the reefs in the 5 to 10-pound range inside of 200 feet of water trolling Sea Witches and Bonito Strips at 5 – 6 knots. The Tunas and Bonitos are keeping drags screaming and clients smiling.

Kingfish in the 10 to 15-pound range are still biting between 80 and 120 feet of water, with bonito strips, lures and feathers trolled below the surface on planers producing the most fish. “Kings” have also attacked our live baits on the drift as we target Sailfish in 120 feet of water.

Sailfish are Here:

The Sailfish bite continues to improve as the Fall weather patterns take shape. We continue to catch Sailfish trolling the color changes between 100 feet and 300 feet of water. The Sailfish have been attacking Sea Witches (in blue/white and pink/white color combinations) trolled on the surface at 7 – 9 knots but the bite is switching over to live baits. Sailfish are starting to prefer live slow-trolled ballyhoos or goggle eyes dangling from a kite inside of 150 feet of water. The Sailfish bite will only get better as we make our way to Winter.

Shark Fishing Stays Solid:

The shark fishing continues to be Fantastic! We continue to average between 1 and 2 sharks – or more -each trip. During the last few weeks, we’ve seen a flurry of Silky Sharks and Blacktips as they chase the migrating baitfish that head down just off of our beaches every Fall. There have also been some huge Hammerheads coming up to empty a spool every once in awhile. All of the sharks were caught either on Bonito or Kingfish dropped down in 300 feet of water.

As Halloween approaches, the Fall bait migrations should be in full swing on the beaches and on the reefs, which should lead to ever-better fishing. Ask about our Fall Tarpon Charters to catch one of these prehistoric acrobats as they follow schools of bait down the beach.

For those of you planning to visit Fort Lauderdale for the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show at the end of October, now is the perfect time to book a trip with Fantastic Sportfishing to reserve your crew.

Tight Lines,
Captain Steve

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Schools Are In Session

Posted on by Captain Steve

Fort Lauderdale Fishing

Now that Labor Day is in our rear view mirror and everyone has settled into a new school year, the offshore action is not taking recess. Here at Fantastic Sportfishing, we continue to enjoy great late Summer/early Fall fishing action in the beautiful waters of South Florida. We continue to fish every day and continue to return with great catches.

As always, we’d like to thank everyone who fished with us during August and early September. Without you, we’re stuck at the dock. We greatly appreciate your business and hope that you’ll come back to see us soon, especially our junior anglers who are now hitting the books in earnest.

The late summer/early fall weather continues to deliver calm seas with occasional afternoon showers that consistently ignite the evening bite. Our early morning trips have been producing well for anglers who don’t want to get through the rain showers to find the fish.

Offshore Report: Mahi, Tunas and Fishing Live Bonitios:

The Mahi Mahi are back in schools just like kids all over the country. The Mahi Mahi schools have exploded over the past few weeks with our clients catching gaffer-sized Mahi (10 – 20 pounds) under the weed patches that continue to be blown in from the Bahamas and from a few tropical storm systems that have been churning out well east of us in the wide-open Atlantic. The  Mahi were caught on rigged ballyhoo, bonito strips and live baits tossed at the weed patches.

We continue to find Blackfin Tunas up on the reefs in the 10 to 12-pound range inside of 130 feet of water trolling Sea Witches and Bonito Strips at 5 – 6 knots. Bonitos are also mixed in with the Tunas and demand attention like a needy pet. They have been walloping our tuna baits and screaming drag for our clients.

What’s nice about the Bonitos is that we can keep the smaller ones to use as live bait for sharks and other species. What sets Fantastic Sportfishing apart from nearly every other charter boat in South Florida is that we use tuna tubes to keep the Bonitos alive to use as live baits. Bonitios do not live very long in a boat’s livewell because Bonitios need to be moving quickly through the water to stay healthy. Tuna Tubes simulate this speed of water across a Bonito’s gills to keep them frisky until we need to hook them up. It’s something that our clients love to see because these are big baits and we’re “swinging for the fences.”

 

Kingfish in the 10 to 15-pound range are still around between 80 and 120 feet of water, with bonito strips, lures and feathers trolled below the surface on planers producing the most fish. “Kings” have also attacked our live baits on the drift as we target Sailfish in 120 feet of water.

Sailfish are Coming

The Sailfish bite continues to be good even though the Fall weather has not yet arrived. We continue to catch Sailfish trolling the color changes between 100 feet and 300 feet of water. The Sailfish have been responding well to Sea Witches (in blue/white and pink/white color combinations) trolled on the surface at 7 – 9 knots. They have also been eating live slow-trolled ballyhoos inside of 150 feet of water as the schools of Ballyhoo start to make their way south for the Fall.

Strong Shark Fishing:

The shark fishing continues to be outstanding. Throughout August and early September, we continue to average between 1 and 2 sharks – or more -each trip. The Sharks are lurking around the schools of Tuna and Bonitios (sharks like to eat sushi too) and we’re able to get a live Bonito back into the water to get the bite. We continue to catch large Hammerheads, Blacktips, Reef Sharks and even the occasional Thresher Shark. All the sharks were caught either on Bonito or Kingfish dropped down in 300 feet of water. Check out this huge Thresher Shark!

Take a look at this huge Amberjack that our client caught when we dropped a live Bonito down onto a wreck to hook a Shark. You never know what is down there looking for a lively meal!

As we make our way through September and into the holiday season, we should start to see more bait show up on the beaches and on the reefs, which should lead to ever-better fishing.  For those of you planning to visit Fort Lauderdale for the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show at the end of October, now is the perfect time to book a trip with Fantastic Sportfishing to reserve your crew.

Tight Lines,
Captain Steve

Posted in Kids Fishing, Sport

The Summer Fishing Forecast: Hot!

Posted on by Captain Steve

sw air

We’re almost to Labor Day but the fishing off Broward County has not taken a vacation. Here at Fantastic Sportfishing, we continue to keep the rods bent and the clients smiling. We’ve been fishing every day with full boats and crews to keep tabs on the hot areas and where the baits are holding up.

Firstly, thank you to all of you who fished aboard Fantastic Sportfishing during July and the first few weeks of August. We love what we do, and we love helping you catch the fish that make this area one of the renowned angling destinations in the world. We greatly appreciate your business and hope that you’ll come back to see us soon, especially our junior anglers who spent part of their summer break offshore with us.

The late summer weather has settled in with calm seas and afternoon showers that have been turning on the evening bite. Our early morning trips have been producing well for anglers who wish to avoid the hottest part of the day.

Offshore Report: Mahi, Kings and Tunas:

Even though the Mahi Mahi have become a bit scarcer, we’re still finding some gaffer-sized Mahi under the weed patches that continue to be blown in from the Bahamas and the wide-open Atlantic. Most Mahi were caught on rigged ballyhoo and bonito strips.

We continue to find tasty Blackfin Tunas in the 10 to 15-pound range inside of 130 feet of water trolling Sea Witches and Bonito Strips at 5 – 6 knots. Bonitos are also mixed in with the Tunas to pull drag for our clients.

tuna topia

Kingfish in the 10 to 20-pound range have been between 60 and 120 feet of water and have been particularly aggressive on the bonito strips, lures and feathers trolled below the surface on planers. “Kings” have also attacked our live baits on the drift. We also catch large Barracuda when trolling for Sailfish near the 100-foot depth.

Kingfish

Let’s Go Sailing:

The Sailfish bite has been a nice surprise. Normally Fall and Winter species, we continue to catch Sailfish trolling the color changes between 100 feet and 300 feet of water. The Sailfish have been responding well to Sea Witches (in blue/white and pink/white color combinations) trolled on the surface at 7 – 9 knots. There is nothing like watching the acrobatic show that these fish put on for everyone aboard.

3 hour sail

Shark Fishing:

The shark fishing continues to be steady. Throughout July and early August, we’ve been fishing for them and each trip has caught at least one shark, with most trips catching several. We’ve caught Hammerheads, Tigers, Blacktips and even the occasional Thresher Shark. All the sharks were caught either on Bonito or Kingfish dropped down in 300 feet of water. There is nothing quite like the slugfest you experience with one of these huge specimens. Both angler and tackle get a workout!

As we make our way into September, we should start to see more bait show up on the beaches and on the reefs, which should lead to ever-better fishing as we the fall months approach.  Since kids will be going back to school in a few weeks, now is the perfect time to finish the summer break on a high note – book a trip with Fantastic Sportfishing now. Before you hit the books, finish up your “Offshore Studies.” We’ll be happy to be your tutors.

Tight Lines,
Captain Steve

Posted in Fishing Techniques and Tips, Kids Fishing, Sport

Bite the Bullet

Posted on by Captain Steve

Bonito For Live Bait

When you want to “swing for the fences,” the best way to raise a big pelagic species in the Southeast Florida area is to slow-troll a False Albacore or small Blackfin Tuna. Species such as Wahoo, Mahi Mahi, Yellowfin Tuna – even larger Sailfish – cannot resist a nice, juicy “bullet” trolled right in front of them. Here at Fantastic Fishing, we love nothing more than to troll a few “bullets” to put you on the trophy fish of a lifetime.

A “Bullet” is the nickname often used to describe a False Albacore (also called Little Tunny – in Southeast Florida, many anglers and crews refer to them as “bonito”) or a Blackfin Tuna, typically weighing in at between 2 to 6 lbs. False Albacore/Little Tunny are members of the Tuna family while the Atlantic Bonito is actually a member of the Mackerel family.

During the Spring and Summer months, False Albacore/Little Tunny and Blackfins can be found mixed together in large schools up and down the coast in depths from 50 feet out to 400 feet. Wherever you find them, you’ll find predators “nibbling around the edges” of the school. So, let’s match the hatch and give the predators what they want.

The first step is the catch the bullets. Small trolling feathers or spoons – or a mix – will work. Use 20 lb. – 30 lb. trolling outfits to catch the bullets. We prefer tolling between 4.5 and 6 knots. You don’t want to spend time fighting the bullets – you need to get them to the boat quickly yet gently. The sooner to the boat, the fresher the bullet. Ideally, you want to catch multiple bullets at a time so that you can start trolling more than one bullet.

The following videos shows our crew catching and rigging up live bonito:

 

Here’s the challenge for you and your crew: Unless you have “tuna tubes” installed in your boat to keep the bullets alive, you need to bring the bullets aboard, rig them and get them back into the water so that you can being trolling them – and be quick about it!

You need to have your live bullet rods staged and ready to go. Typically, we’ll use either 50s or 80s with 2-speed features on stand-up rods to troll live bullets. Make sure that the terminal tackle includes a Bimini twist connected to a wind-on leader of at least 200 lb. test, connected to a heavy-duty ball bearing snap swivel. We prefer our leaders to be at least 150 lb. test mono connected to a trace of Number 9 wire (105 lb. test) or greater. The type of species you’re targeting will dictate whether you go lighter or heavier with your wire leader to reduce visibility. If you’re targeting yellowfin tunas, you may not want to use wire at all. If there are sharks around, you want to step up to a heavier wire.

As for hooks, we prefer to use 10/0 J hooks. Why not circle hooks? If you’re targeting Wahoo, you don’t have the luxury of the fish swallowing your bait and then letting the circle hook dig in on its way out of the fish’s mouth. You need the hook to grab and grab quickly. If you’re only targeting tunas or billfish, you can get away with circle hooks.

Once you bring the bullet aboard, cover it in a damp towel so that you can manage the bait without harming it too much. Again, you need to be quick about it. You can either run the hook from your 50 through the bullet’s nostrils, up vertically through the upper lip of the bullet or you can bridle the hook to the top of the bullet’s head by running a rigging needle through the eye sockets. Once done, get the bullet back into the water with the boat slightly in gear.

At this point, you hopefully have 2 fresh bullets swimming behind the boat and you’re making less than 2 knots of forward speed. Slowly drop both bullets back and be sure to stagger them: One bullet short and one bullet long. The trick here is to troll the bullets with enough speed to keep them swimming and to make your way to deeper water but also not so much speed that you kill the bullets and cause them to spin/. You will likely need to do “in and outs” with the throttle to avoid drowning the bullets. A dead bullet does you no good – you will be firing “blanks.”

The next step is to make your way out of shallower water to deeper water to find the Wahoo, Tuna or billfish. You want to do this as quickly as possible – all while not killing the bullets – so as to minimize the possibility of having a bullet bitten in half by a Barracuda or Kingfish. This is typically a depth of 250 – 500 feet. Slow troll your bullets until a) you get a shot or b) your bullets die. Once you catch a fish or your baits die, you get to head back to shallower water to start the process all over again. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

You will be amazed at the size of the species that will attack the bullets and the ferocity of the bites. Most strikes are top-water bites that will make you weak in the knees. When you’re “swinging for the fences,” don’t be surprised when you hit a Grand Slam.

Call us to book your Fantastic Fishing Trip today!

Posted in Fishing Techniques and Tips, Sport

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Father’s Day Fishing Trip

Posted on by Captain Steve

fahter's day

You know, Dad likes to fish anytime, not just on Father’s Day. However, the Father’s Day fishing trip always has us busy and this year is no exception.

We had a great family on board and when asked what they would like to catch? Just put us on some fish was the answer… My favorite answer to this question. But today we struggled at first with this somewhat easy task.

The radio for the fleet was reporting plenty of Kings and Bonito in the area. And yet, it had been over an hour of fishing and we still had nothing in our box. We’ve had the hits but missed every fish. It seemed an eternity before we finally stayed connected and just catching one King gave me hope our drought was over.

Now some folks like Kingfish, others aren’t too fond of them. Our group could take or leave them so after boating 6 or so, we opted for some off shore Dolphin fishing.

In order to catch Dolphin, you must find something to fish to. Plenty of seaweed has been around and with it being Father’s day, plenty of boats were out too. We got to the pretty blue water and began our search. Scattered grass and some big patches of weed were in our area. Little Bar Jacks that hide beneath the weed were also present. And finally, a Mahi! Easily too small to keep as was the second.

But we continued and finally began catching some we could keep. No real big ones but the action was consistent as 1 after another made it into our box. They weren’t together, just coming one at a time.  And being about 7 miles from shore, our time had come to go home.

In the end, we had 6 Kings, 8 keeper Dolphin, we had released some 15 Jacks and probably almost as many small Mahis. But our group was quite pleased with the Father’s day fishing trip.

Remember, dad will go fishing anytime! LOL

Captain Steve

Posted in Sport, Uncategorized

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The Bite Is On

Posted on by Captain Steve

3 hour sail

If you are looking for fish to bend the rod, you should be fishing right now! The bite is on here in south Florida. Mahi-mahi, Tuna, Kingfish and others are bending our rods with frequency. And all this action has been within a few miles of shore.

 

While I try to spin whatever we’re catching into good news, I don’t have to work at it this month. The picture above is from our Southwest Airline group. Each year they come for their annual get together and always need fish for their fish fry on the last evening. They won’t go hungry this year, that’s for sure.

 

Kings and Bonitos, along with some Tuna are mixed in the reef area. Depending on the water color, Mahi-mahi and Wahoo may also be there. But that’s not all we’ve been getting. A few sharks and Sails have been mixed in as well. Most of these fish are being caught trolling.

 

And after all the time I’ve been doing this, I still get a thrill when someone catches a Sail and says they can scratch that off their bucket list. It just makes me smile as it did with this gentleman and his prize.

If you are looking for action, for edible fish or just to bend the rod, now is the time. The bite is on!

 

Captain Steve

Posted in Sport, Uncategorized

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Springtime Fishing Begins

Posted on by Captain Steve

tuna topia

While some of you are living where the weather has been unseasonable, here in south Florida our springtime fishing started about a week ago. And our all day trip today was proof positive of this.

 

Our 3 guests had but one day before heading to Bolivia. They are volunteering to help build churches in areas that cannot afford them. Certainly a noble cause and perhaps even lending to a fun, fish filled day.

 

With the forecast of rain, we opted to catch our own bait. Chum and the usual areas were not providing so our trolling gear was deployed. It took maybe 20 minutes for our first bite and the action was near nonstop the rest of the day.

 

First were the Kingfish in the reef area. Bites were coming one or two at a time. While our guests had never used this kind of tackle before, they adapted quickly and soon were beating Dom to the rod when a bite came. They were having so much fun, even after the 2 per person limit was reached, we continued catch and release for a while before venturing just a bit further off shore.

 

The top picture is Dom holding a Yellowfin Tuna. This small Tuna was schooling with the Blackfin Tuna. We had stumbled into Tuna Topia and some nice sized fish were biting. Yellowfin are rare in our area and we ended up with 2 along with a hoard of Blackfin.

 

We took a break from this action to put the boys on something bigger. The Amberjacks cooperated nicely for this purpose and the guys enjoyed posing with their catches before releasing those back to the sea.

Our troll home was still producing more Tuna but these were considerably smaller than the ones from earlier. We had plenty and were releasing them as we went until the time came to return to the dock.

 

This is the kind of action you expect from springtime fishing. I look forward to fishing again today.

 

Captain Steve

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Best Time To Fish

Posted on by Captain Steve

Tuna fish

Almost every day people call for information and one of the questions they ask is “When is the BEST time to fish”. In some cases, they are asking about a particular month or time of year. But mostly, it is more about the morning or afternoon trip. Which is better? Well, let me give you some tips about the best time to fish…

 

First and foremost you should know we fish year round here in Fort Lauderdale. Unlike hunting, which has open and closed seasons, fishing can be done 365 days a year. It is true that some species might be off limits at times… Groupers are closed right now until May 1. But many other species are available.

 

Twice each day, as the sun climbs and falls, the morning and afternoon bite is the strongest. When the sun is high in the sky, fish feeding near the surface cast a shadow down into the water. Predators use this for their feeding pattern. So, the lower the sun, the better your chances. Early morning and the late afternoon are usually the best.

 

If you are here on vacation and have the ability to avoid the weekend, that can be advantageous. With spring break going on, lots of people are out there fishing.  If you cannot avoid the weekend, I recommend a 6 hour with an early start or an afternoon 6 hour. Both give you that early morning, late afternoon bite.

 

But… I’m on vacation. I don’t want to get up early. Or… We have dinner plans and need to be back by 5. The fact is no matter WHEN you fish, your crew is going to do their very best to find and catch you some fish!

And if you live here, get up for that early morning bite. Or push your dinner plans back an hour. But in all truth, the absolute BEST time to fish is when you can.

 

Captain Steve

Posted in Sport, Uncategorized

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Fort Lauderdale Fishing Report

Posted on by Captain Steve

Mahi Mahi Sword

With some changing weather and spring just around the corner, things are changing as the ocean warms. While some fish are still migrating south, others have started their return to the north and cooler waters. The next few months should make for some exciting fishing.

 

Tuna, Wahoo and Dolphin should become more plentiful. Kingfish and Bonito should also show their presence in the reef area. But you’ll have to be on your game and get the fish into the boat quickly. Sharks will also be around and while have a fish is better than none? They usually eat the good half.

On our sport boat, we have been having excellent action on the wrecks and reefs with Barracuda and Amberjack. Mostly light tackle is being used with live bait for some great fights! A few Kingfish and Wahoo are also being caught this way. You just never know.

Our most recent Swordfish trip was a huge disappointment. Making 4 drops during the day netted one hook up and one miss. The hook up was a big fish and we fought it for almost an hour. We got the weight off and had the leader twice but this fish was not to be caught. His final run parted the main line. I’ve learned this is part of the game but absolute hate not seeing what we had on.

 

Our drift boat is have some good action as well. Captain Patrick’s most recent catch is posted on our Facebook page. Snapper, Triggerfish and other reef fish are plentiful. You can find the page here: https://www.facebook.com/Fanntastic-Fishing-1476203306014764/

 

Whatever you choose as far as fishing? Be it sport or drift, things are improving and fish are cooperating. Enjoy the day, keep the rod bent and you’ll be rewarded. Tight lines.

 

Captain Steve

Posted in Sport, Uncategorized

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Daytime Swordfish Fishing

Posted on by Captain Steve

Fort Lauderdale Fishing

Our most recent daytime Swordfish fishing trip was a HUGE success! The word from the Swordfish grounds had been great for the last week or so. And it just so happened we have a trip booked just for that!

Daytiming for Swordfish is highly specialized fishing. You’ll be between 1500 and 2000’ of water with a bait on or near the bottom. We use an electric reel for this. The main reason is… No one wants to wind up all that line and weight if you don’t get a bite and have to reset.

Our guests are local and it turns out the money they paid for their trip with was some lucky money won at the local Casino, compliments of the Indians. So we loaded up early and were off to the grounds.

Our boat make this trip in about 90 minutes from the dock. We did see a few things that looked promising on the way out but nothing panned out and our first drop got us a near instabite! The rod bent, the drag stalled and we were on!

This fish was a small one but still legal and it seemed like the bite was still good as we boated the fish without the use of a gaff. 50” lower jaw fork length and into the box he goes! A quick run in the boat to get back to our previous position and the second drop of the day was on its way down.

This time it took a bit longer to get a bite. We are tight again. This time it took 40 minutes before seeing this fish. He jumped about 150 yards from the boat and then again maybe 200’ from the boat.

This fish was bigger with a 57”LJF and we used the dart and then the gaff to boat him. It’s only 11:30 and we have 2 in the box!

Fort Lauderdale Fishing

All good things must come to an end. We again positioned ourselves in front of the fish and did get 2 more bites. But both came off around 800’ out. This was the story on the radio as well, bites but not staying hooked. None the less, our group was extremely happy with their bounty.

Daytime Swordfish fishing isn’t exciting when you’re doing it, not till you get that bite… Wait, that’s ALL fishing. LOL It’s the excitement of that coming bite that keeps us coming back.

Captain Steve

Posted in Fishing Techniques and Tips, Sport

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