Over the past week, fish activity has increased along the gulf geaches. During a relief trip to the lower Keys last week by boat, we encountered swarms of mackerel, ladyfish, bonito, tarpon and jacks hammering pods of tiny minnows all the way from Clearwater Beach to Marco Island. The entire southwest coast was teeming with striking fish. In some areas, big tarpon were also seen joining in the melee. Finding the fish is easy — drive down the coast a half-mile off the beach and look for birds. As you get closer you usually get an idea of what kind of fish are attacking the minnows. Each has a particular type of splash as it strikes. Bonito often show up as a white wall of foam and charge the bait schools side by side across the surface. These feeding frenzies can provide great opportunities to catch speedy ocean fish on fly fishing tackle. An ideal setup is an 8-weight outfit rigged with a floating or slow-sinking line, and a leader of 30-pound or more test fluorocarbon. Since the target fish are already worked into a frenzy, you do not need fancy flies. Anything shiny that resembles a small sardine will work. They key is casting in exactly the right place. For fish such as bonito, casting to the perimeter of the school seldom works. You have to land it right in the foaming frenzy to get a bite.
Ed Walker charters out of Tarpon Springs. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.