Fishing the keys

Islamorada Hump

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Taking advantage of calm seas and light breezes, my clients Nathan Eolvin, his three buddies and I headed out in my 24 foot Sea Hunter. We were leaving from the Islamorada Yacht Basin at Lorelei in search of Mahi-Mahi. The fish have been in the 20lb range and I've been very successful using a favorite of mine -- smoked buckhead jigs slow-trolled.

The Islamorada Hump -- one of several famous deep-water "sea mounts" provides an upswelling that makes it home to everything from vast clouds of plankton -- the underpinnings of the world's marine food chain -- to the baits and the predators that chase them. It lies some 400ft down at GPS: 24-48.175′ N; 80-26.674′ and is some 15 miles offshore.

Blackfin tuna from the Islamorada hump with Greg Poland and anglerAs we headed out to the Hump, we attached  jigs to fluorocarbon leaders to our Ohero light action combo rods and reels. Ohero is a supporter of my charters, and their product certainly withstands the incredible pressure I put on it. The manufacturer of Ohero line and tackle also owns a tackle shop in Tampa called Tampa Fishing Outfitters, and the store is as close to a store I would find here in the SportFishing Capital of the World as anything north of Key Largo I've seen. You can purchase their excellent product online as well, at Just4Fishing.com.

The trick to finding Dolphin (not the "Flipper" kind -- but mahi) is to find weedlines. These lines -- anywhere from a few yards long to a few hundred -- are a collection of garbage ranging from bird feathers to (mostly) un-anchored weeds. Their connection and floating in lines is caused by wind and tides, and results in small fish seeking shelter. And we all know that where you'll find bait, you'll find the predators that seek them out for lunch.

Once we reached the hump, the action really turned on. If you've ever fished it, you know that even coming up to it puts an energy level in the air that you can physically feel; it's different. There haven't been many times that I've seen it devoid of feeding birds. The mountain causes cold, deep waters to hit the wall, rise into the hot waters of the Gulf Stream (The Marathon Hump sits directly in the Stream's flow), and the result is truly one of the most unique -- and productive -- fisheries here. And "here" isn't exactly short of FishySpots.

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The weed lines turned out producing a few small (10lb) fish, but that's not what I wanted for my anglers. I was surprised at the small sizes, but fishing is fishing, not catching. When we arrived at the hump, I positioned by boat so we could vertically drop diamond jigs -- one of my favorite ways to hand a serious-tuna experience to my anglers. I wasn't wrong this time. Dropping the jigs resulted in almost immediate hookups, and the pulls were coming from schooled blackfin tuna. The powerful fight the fish provided -- along with a dinner you've never had unless you've eaten truly fresh tuna -- made the experience one Nathan and his friends are likely to try again.

Remember -- if you're a guide or thinking of being one, take it from somebody that makes a good living at it. It's not about catching fish. It's about that experience. Ensure your anglers a fun day -- regardless of how cooperative the fish happen to be?

And you'll both win.

Captain Greg Poland, Editor Keys Edition

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. Finding a weed line with bits to pieces of trash from some uncaring individuals, we cast out our buck tails and motored along the lines in hopes of a twenty pounder. To our surprise, the lines were loaded with fish but all fell in the ten pound to less than the best and after tiring our arms on the weed-lines, we arrived at the hump.

Grilled Tuna for this angler too

The back-up rods were to of Ohero gear and light action rigged with Diamond jigs, to which we fished the Hump in a vertical jigging motion, in hopes to attract a Black Fin Tuna Attack. With this, we were off in pursuit of dinner, all the while looking towards the surface for the sign of exploding fins of Maui. The Black Fin Tuna was engaged in an awesome bite with the Diamonds, sometimes never reaching their final destination of a taunt line, “Fish On!” I shouted as the battles pursed. It was Game on at the Hump as in angling light equipment, you would gain a little line and whoosh; you would loose a lot of line in a back to fro struggle of man vs fish or freedom vs dinner; in this case, after an exhausting day of catch and release of to many to count, we headed in with three nice 15 pounders for the grill. All three Black Fins were cut at the chin, just behind the gills to bleed out and soaked in ice cold ice waater.

Blackfin Tuna from the Islamorada Hump

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