Let's Talk Tuna--Fishing for Blackfin in Islamorada, Florida
Islamorada, the Sport Fishing Capital of the World, is a great place to book a fishing charter if you're hankering for some exciting blackfin tuna fishing.
Location, location, location
The Florida Keys have long been known as a key destination for anglers, thanks to their location and a unique geological feature offshore called The Humps. These underwater mountains rise more than a thousand feet off the ocean floor, triggering a natural upwelling of seawater and perfect conditions that attract baitfish. These smaller fish are food for larger fish up the food chain, such as tuna, dolphin, wahoo, sailfish, marlin, and sharks. The Hump offers a lot of good fishing opportunities, but arguably none better than for blackfin tuna.
Situated some 15 miles off the coast of Islamorada, The Hump may be the single best-known fishing spot in all of South Florida. The locals are all familiar with it, and when newcomers ask about the incredible offshore fishing in the Keys, they soon learn about it, too.
In the summer months, blackfin tuna can typically be found in one of three locations:
- The Islamorada Hump (about the size of a football field);
- The Marathon Humps (two humps about 200 yards long each); and
- The West Hump (about 900 yards in circumference)
Best time of year to catch blackfin in the Keys
Blackfin are a highly migratory species and never stay in one place for very long. They travel in large schools, roaming in search of baitfish, typically following bluewater current rips in the 160–220′ range. Blackfins appear around The Hump during the spring, and again in September and October.
Best time of week to fish for blackfin in Islamorada
The Hump is so popular that on some weekends it can resemble rush hour on I-95 in Miami. If you can schedule a trip during weekdays, you'll find it not so crowded. Check with an experienced Islamorada fishing guide as to his recommendation before booking your trip.
Best time of day to fish for blackfin
Blackfin have notoriously keen eyesight. They bite best in low light conditions, so if you’re specifically targeting these fish you want to be on the water before dawn and in your fishing spot when the sun comes up. The tuna tend to bite well into the morning and also again in the late afternoon, and they’ll bite all day long on cloudy days in all three places.
Method of catching blackfin
There are two tactics in targeting blackfin tuna: Trolling or live chumming. Both are effective. You'll want to use the lightest flourocarbon leader possible, as you would with any gamefish with exceptional eyesite.
- Trolling: You can cover a lot of water by trolling continuously back and forth over the hump. There will be a lot of current on the humps, so you'll cover the area quickly. Because blackfin tuna can be boat shy, you'll want to put your bait a good distance behind the boat.
- Live chumming: You'll need a good livewell and a plentiful supply of pilchards (saltwater sardines). As you start your drift, throw overboard a small amount (2 or 3) of pilchards, keeping a slow steady line of bait over the side. Then put out your baited rods. You want to chum before you drift over the hump and get your bait out, so that when the chum and hooked bait get on top of the hump, the tuna will rise to the surface to eat them.
What size blackfin can you expect to catch in the Keys?
The average blackfin tuna on the Islamorada Hump is 4-10 lbs. The average blackfin on the Marathon and West Humps will be 20-30 lbs. The smaller fish are typically found closer to the surface, so go deep (300-350 ft.) if you want to catch the big guys.
Ready for a fishing trip?
A knowledgeable Islamorada fishing guide is your best bet. We're proud to feature some of the best fishing charters and guides in the industry.
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