The Miami grouper fishing season opens on June 1 and runs through December 31. Because of its close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, both reef and open-water fishing is accessible within a short ride from downtown Miami. What follows are some top places for you to go fishing in Miami and try your hand at landing a big one:
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1. Snapper Ledge
This popular spot offers boat anglers quick access to deep water as well as good structure for snapper, grouper and tilefish. It’s about five miles offshore between Government Cut and Elliott Key near the remains of the old Eagle Bay Hotel from the 1930s movie shoot of ‘The Creature from the Black Lagoon’.
North East Wall This wall starts at depths over 90 feet, dropping past 300 feet near Petronia Island. It is very close to shore with good visibility and high numbers of reef fish such as barracuda, snapper, grouper and yellowtail. Snooks are also caught here regularly.
Elliott Key This island lies about five miles southeast of Key Biscayne, creating a straight shot to deeper water that’s loaded with game fish swimming its steep walls along the way to deeper water. Reefs surrounding the island attract plenty of mangrove snapper, porgies, triggerfish and other species not common in Miami waters.
2. Popular Tuna Fishing in Florida
Deep-drop and live-baiting techniques are the best way to catch big Atlantic bluefin tuna, also called “chicken of the sea” and prized as a delicacy at sushi restaurants. Many anglers prefer to use a 30-pound test line with double 80-pound leaders. The bait is tied to one leader and hooked through the mouth on the second leader, which is weighted down by about 100 pounds of lead.
A seven-inch piece of yellowtail or other firm fish works well because it stays on the hook well and can be cut into three chunks for bait before dropping it overboard. Once dropped in 600 feet of water, there’s nothing more you can do but wait 10 minutes to two hours depending on how much weight is attached. The bait has to be totally consumed or the tuna will not bite again.
Starting in July, North Atlantic big game-fishing clubs schedule several major tournaments. Perhaps the most prestigious is the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club’s International Bluefin Tuna Tournament in August; it produces 80 percent of all bluefin tuna tagged by scientists studying the migration patterns of these fish each year.
Another early tournament is hosted by Boston’s New England Fishing Club, which runs its own international event in late July with other clubs around the world that welcome anglers who are members of organizations such as B.A.S.S., P.B.A., A.P.F., and I.G.F..
3. The best way to catch a big tuna is with ultra heavy tackle and live bait
Tuna fishing off of Miami follows the same deep-drop guidelines as many other parts of the world that attract avid anglers who specialize in catching this highly prized fish. When targeting these pelagic predators, it’s necessary to use very heavy gear so as not to lose them as they run after being hooked. Some types of rigs are as simple as tying a three-foot leader to a stout 220-pound mono main line and using a 20- to 40-pound test. A simple unweighted hook with pieces of yellowtail snapper, kingfish or mackerel works well as bait.
Tuna fishing off Miami can be done from any type of vessel but is most popular from charter boats that specialize in this type of deep-drop fishing. Destination charters are rare because tuna tend to stay away from specific locations and migrate constantly. However, the way they follow the gulf stream current provides a good chance for anglers aboard a live-bait boat to catch them during a day trip if they know where the fish usually hang out at any given time during the season.
When lines are put down on a charter boat for tuna, the best deep-drop spots to try are 600 feet or more. This is where big fish can be found hanging out over coral ledges waiting for their next meal to come along. Most of these spots are outside of Miami’s bays but one place worth trying is Elliott Key about five miles southeast of Key Biscayne.
The straight shot from this island into deeper water provides a good chance to find big fish eating yellowtail snapper suspended in 300 feet of water within sight of the coast. Trolling large spoons behind downriggers can also be effective for spotted tuna near reefs and wrecks.”