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DIY trip April 6 to 13. I need some advice please.

roost4uroost4u Posts: 12 Deckhand
Hello, I have a one week trip planned and I have some questions. I'm renting a boat for 5 days and I've been watching tons of videos to help me catch fish. I've still got some questions that need answered though. I have a 24ft center console reserved. 

1. How far out do I have to go for the larger fish like amberjacks and grouper? I assume you don't chum for these fish but just use cut bait on the bottom. 

2.  I'd like to try and target snook. Is it better to go to the bay side to do this? I assume the bay side has a higher risk of running into shallow water so is it too risky to try and fish the edges of the mangroves in a boat like this?

3. I'll be fishing out of Tavernier. Will I need to go far to target tarpon? I'll be soloish (wife will be with me and she doesn't drive boats or fish) so I won't be looking to land a huge one and I assume it will be impossible by myself anyway. Just looking to target one big enough that I can manage by myself. 

Thank you in advance for any help. 


  • DodgerDodger Posts: 346 Deckhand
    For tarpon and/or snook I would hire a guide on the first day. Since you have already reserved the boat maybe try to find a guide that will come aboard your boat like Piner Wahoo does. He posts on here regularly but not sure he will venture that far north. Bayside and bridges would be best for tarpon. Backcountry mangroves for snook. Grouper and amberjacks are on deeper wrecks on the Atlantic side in 100 plus. You can catch grouper on the bottom on deeper reefs less than 100 but it is hit or miss in my experience. Fresh cut bait and live pinfish are great choices for bait.
  • WadeFishermanWadeFisherman Posts: 474 Deckhand
    edited March 28 #3
    When is your trip? That will help us give you more specific advice…confusing title thread…
  • roost4uroost4u Posts: 12 Deckhand
    When is your trip? That will help us give you more specific advice…confusing title thread…
    Sorry, It's April 6th through 13th. 
  • WadeFishermanWadeFisherman Posts: 474 Deckhand
    No, it will not be impossible by yourself to land a tarpon. Find a bridge, especially at night or before 1st light for some great action. You are coming at the right time.
  • dihrddihrd Posts: 271 Deckhand
    Check to see if your rental is allowed out at night. 
  • roost4uroost4u Posts: 12 Deckhand
    I'll have to check. They said I could keep it overnight if I have moorage but otherwise I have to have it back before dark. I chose to return it every evening since I'd have to pay for moorage at the resort I'm at. I also wasn't sure what additional liability I'd be assuming if I kept it overnight. 

    I was thinking I'd have to fish away from the bridges for tarpon because I won't be able to control the boat while I fight a fish. I figured it would be futile to try and stay on anchor. Possibly I'm misunderstanding what you mean by find a bridge. Can I catch fish 100 yards from a bridge or do I need to fish under the bridge? A lot of the videos I've seen show them fishing under the bridge. Specifically in the shade line. 

    I hate to be annoying with so many questions but can anyone tell me how far offshore I need to go for grouper or mutton snapper? I'd like a chance at catching some fish over 10lbs if possible. I'm going to have fun trying either way. I'll likely only keep one or two fish since I would have to cook them in our condo and I won't want to do that more than once probably. If I get one I'll probably try to eat a barracuda since I ate one of those before and I found it to be super tasty. 

    I bought a cast net and I've been practicing with it so hopefully I'll be able to get some live bait if I happen to run into some. My plan right now is to spend the first 2 days exploring and trolling for whatever I can get. I may get some chum and try to fish a patch reef. My third day I don't have the boat so I'll formulate a plan and purchase anything I need for the next 3 days. I've wanted to fish the keys my whole life and I can't believe I'm finally going to do it. 

    I appreciate the suggestions for getting a guide but for me it's not all about being guaranteed to get a fish. I've learned how to catch salmon without paying a guide and I find it very rewarding to actually hook up and get one on my own. If I don't actually catch a tarpon then so be it. I can always come back and try again.  

    Thank you all for your replies. I certainly do appreciate it. 
  • DodgerDodger Posts: 346 Deckhand
    I would anchor up on a deeper reef like 75 or deeper and chum like crazy. Have a rod set on the bottom with a heavier leader like 40 lb + and rig that with a pinfish or a whole squid or big chunks of fresh cut bait. I have not figured out the big muttons yet bet that has always worked for me on grouper. I know muttons are smart and they say to use a really long 30 lb leader like 30 feet.or more. I also know muttons like fresh ballyhoo. 
  • tdericksontderickson Posts: 84 Deckhand
    I'd be careful eating a barracuda from the Keys.  Ciguatera(sp?) doesn't sound like much fun
  • BottomBumpinBottomBumpin Posts: 1,965 Captain
    I would say find and explore Hawks channel.  you can slow troll while watching your machine then set up and bottom fish when you see something fishy...  check the recent thread 'strangest thing you caught yellowtailin' and you can get lucky..  they are prob on the outside edge of Hawks.. Tarpon will be all over the channels in April so you wont have to be 'in the shade' if you can't manage it..  get out early and watch for em gulping air then set up around that area..  its fun just exploring for next time too..  you will learn something new every time.  good luck!
  • jtdjtd Posts: 16 Deckhand
    we’ve done a good bit of do-it ourself and a few charters around Matathon. The patch reefs have been productive for a mix of species for us - chumming and live bait, shrimp or pilchards or ballyhoo have been the ticket… ditto on random structure N of Marathon. Key has been figuring out which way the current is going, and anchor to get your chum moving to the structure. Me and the kids had a blast with Piner last year - he’s awesome! We did a deeper reef fish charter with a captain who was too serious for us, but we caught a lot of fish…. Piner had us on huge tarpon…no other boats around… wild! My son started going to the gym half for dating and half to better tangle with tarpon 😂 
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