Neal Watson, dive legend and operator of Dive Bimini, a Guy Harvey Outpost Dive Center, will head the judging team for Key Largo’s first King and Queen of the Reef. A costume party and gala kicks-off …
Taking the Back Country in the Blazing Mako
By Sue Cocking, Guy Harvey Outpost staff writer
Even though the Guy Harvey Outpost Blazing Mako Festival and Fishing Tournament is still four months away, it’s not too early to sign up your team or start plotting a strategy for claiming $10,000 in prize money– particularly if you enter the inshore division.
The tournament date of June 18 falls squarely during the peak of the inshore fishing season in and around the Florida Keys and two days before the full moon. Catching, measuring, photographing and releasing the eligible back country species of permit, bonefish, tarpon, snook, redfish and the funfish category of shark, ladyfish, jack and trout for points, cash, and bragging rights won’t be as challenging as during other seasons of the year.
Anglers will be allowed to enter a maximum of five fish in each category using live bait, artificial lures, or fly tackle. More points will be awarded for lures and fly rod.
“This is a great time of year to catch all these species,” said seven-year veteran Keys light-tackle guide captain Richard Black, who fishes from a 17-foot, 8-inch Hells Bay Professional skiff.
Black said his strategy would be to locate small tarpon first thing in the morning in Florida Bay– likely near Snake Bight– and fish with fly rod (if the angler were capable), or with small Mir-O-Lure plugs or light jigs. Snook and redfish tend to inhabit the same territory at that time of year and likely would bite the same offerings.
Once you’ve racked up enough points for those three species, Black says step two would be to blind-cast a jig or plug for ladyfish. You could enter the larger ones in the funfish category and keep a few to hang off the skiff while anchored to attract lemon sharks to within fly-casting range.
“In a good spot with good current, you could catch five sharks on fly pretty quick,” Black said.
Then if you are lucky enough to have sufficient sunlight in mid- to late afternoon, the guide said, you could look for bonefish in Florida Bay or on the ocean side of the Upper Keys. Bonefish almost never turn down fresh shrimp, and they also are likely to bite small jigs and shrimp-patterned flies.
“I know some anglers I’d lead off with fly and switch to bait,” Black added. “You have to fish the conditions. If conditions are crappy and you have to cover more water, you would use a spinning rod.”
Black believes it will take 1,500 to 2,000 points to score a top-three finish.
Even if you don’t accumulate nearly that score, it will be more than fun to try and then you get to celebrate at the awards party at the Islander– a Guy Harvey Outpost Resort in Islamorada.
Sue Cocking chronicles the Guy Harvey Outpost travel and adventure experience in regular blog posts on GuyHarveyOutpostNews.com/. For 21 years, Cocking covered the full spectrum of outdoors adventure opportunities in South Florida and beyond for the Miami Herald, including fishing, diving, hunting, paddling camping, sailing and powerboat racing. She is a certified scuba diver and holder of an IGFA women’s world fly fishing record for a 29-pound permit.
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