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Islamorada tarpon is hot! Offshore & flats fishing is good too!

Capt. Rick Killgore
May 6, 2014
Islamorada - Saltwater Fishing Report

We had at least 15 tarpon busting on our live baits the last day within 20 feet from the boat - wow, gotta love that!!! Reid Schermner and his buddy from Holland, Baus, caught 3 tarpon out of 6 on for all those tarpon crashing the baits. Two of the tarpon took about an hour each to catch, so we could get some photos along side of the boat. They were in the 105 - 110 pound range, the other was about 70 lb. This was Baus's first tarpon!

I still have some openings most weeks. Give me a call: 305-439-7317 or rick@fish-killgore.com

I've been full time charter fishing here in Islamorada since 1995, and I started as a mate out of Miami in 1978, growing up on Key Biscayne. I have fish reports back to 1997 on my website. This year the reports are on my Facebook with photos which is linked from my website.

We got another nice tarpon the other night just after dark, like usual. It was a big tarpon:80.5 inch fork length by 36.5 inch girth which comes out to only 135 pounds, but it was a long and skinny tarpon and including the tail could have been over 86 inches long.

For a first tarpon it was one hell of a fight for Frank Koch from Twin Cities, Minnesota. It fought for two hours, and was really a stinker at the end of the battle even at the boat, just an extremely strong, wiry fish. Frank came with his old college buddy Tony Murray, who is a repeat client. Frank found out what epic tarpon battles are all about!

Another memorable day was Joe Conroy and his wife, Carrie, caught 3 tarpon for 3 tarpon on, and had at least 6 or 8 tarpon hitting or flashing on the baits. It was Carrie's first tarpon, which she caught two I think in the 80lb. class.

This is all on "live bait," and you hook your fish by holding the rod yourself! That is a big part of the excitement: feeling the bait get nervous (jumping out of the water), and learning how to hook your tarpon (or any other fish). This is sport fishing, and I teach you how to hook your own fish, fight them, release them, even tie knots or anything else you want to learn.

"I do not use dead bait for tarpon!" Aside from the nurse sharks and mud rays you will catch and waste time on, most of the guides put the rods in the rod holders and wait for the fish to hook itself then hand you the rod - how not exciting. It is a lot easier for the guides to buy frozen mullet or use fish carcasses.

I catch all the bait myself before your trip and keep them in 6 big bait pens at my slip. No wasting time looking for bait. Load em up and go fishing.

Now back to the other reports of backcountry and offshore fishing which are highlights of the last 3 weeks!

Rich Badis and his son, Greg, came down for a couple days fishing. They had a great day in the backcountry catching a lot of fish including two big reds over the slot: one was 28.5" and 31" (about 12 to 15 pounds). They caught more than their limit of big Seatrout (but kept the limit), a few nice mangrove snappers, and a bonus sheepshead sight casting on the flats.

The first day we mixed it up doing a little reef fishing and wrapping it up Tarpon fishing. They caught nice mess of lane snappers, vermillion Snapper, porgies, and a nice grey trigger for the fish box.

Then we ran down and fished a few spots for tarpon. We jumped one nice one off after dark and missed a couple other bites. We caught a couple nice spinner sharks on live mullet. It was slow before dark, but after dark they turned on but we were fishing a short evening trip so we had to pull the plug around 10pm.

Scott Long and his son Michael came out for a few days of fishing offshore, backcountry and Tarpon fishing and once again had a great trip all around. They caught a lot of fish and started it off with a sailfish on the first day after patch fishing all day on another windy April day. They caught their limit of mangrove snapper and a few nice grouper we had to throw back. This is great action for young boys and their fathers. The last hour of the day we ran out to the edge of the reef after the wind laid down a little bit. We started trolling live baits and within 30 minutes hooked and caught this sailfish.

Backcountry fishing, they caught their limit of nice big sea trout, a number of other fish: jacks, snapper, etc. But I don't know if we caught a snook that day? And then Michael lost a nice big shark on 12 pound spin after a big run and getting cut off in the mangroves.

Give me a call, I still have some openings most weeks.

Tight lines, Rick Killgore
305-439-7317, or rick@fish-killgore.com

Islamorada Fishing Forecast:

Wow! This is the time of year we all have been waiting for. It is: fish, eat, and sleep every day. I am writing this now at 4:30 am before another charter, so it will be short. I'm not sure if keeping a schedule like this will keep me young, or make me old. Thank God though; business has been good for me in spite of the recession everyone is talking about. One thing is sure, the fishing is still good!


In May the TARPON are here in mass. This is when we can release more than 10 tarpon in a day, and if we did not have to take pictures of most of the tarpon (in the water along the boat side), we would be able to catch over 20 in a day. That is if we fought them like we were in a sailfish tournament, by catching them as quick as possible by running down on them for the release then cutting the leader, I swear I have had days were the tarpon are biting so good we could have caught over 20 tarpon and maybe even 30. Instead, we fight the tarpon for 15 to 45 minutes so as to tire it out sufficiently so as to handle it safely (for the tarpon) along the side of the boat for photos, then remove the hook, and finally resuscitate it.

Now the big mangrove snapper are migrating from the bay out to the reef to spawn, and this is when we can catch 2 6 lbs. snappers. This is a nice bonus to tarpon fishing, because all of the local restaurants will cook your catch, for a discount too.

Of course the bonefish, redfish, and snook (now closed for harvesting them) are still biting excellent on the flats and in the back country creeks, along with all the other rod bender critters like jacks, trout, ladyfish, little goliath grouper and big sharks.


The PERMIT have moved out to the wrecks to spawn and this is when you can hook double and triple headers, and at least catch a couple or a few between the break offs in the wrecks or to the sharks. They get schooled up over the wrecks, sometimes 500 permit in a big ball. You can almost not miss, unless they got lock jaw which most likely is because there was another boat in there busting their butts a half an hour before you arrived.

The mutton snapper and grouper can be good on the wrecks too this time of year. So it is always good to give the permit a rest by dropping a live bait down for dinner.

The black fin tuna of good size (10 20 lbs.) can also still be on the humps, and when it is calm I have actually run out to hit them in the morning, then run back inshore to tarpon fish. It does make for an interesting day, as you can see in the photo of Lad Farian and friends a couple years ago. They caught four tarpon and those black fins. Big amber jacks are out on the humps this time of year too. We catch them on live bait and also fun on vertical jigs.

DOLPHIN are the go to fish for the offshore fishing, and May is when you will start catching those "slammers" (dolphin over 25 lbs.) on a regular basis, along with all the "gaffers" (12 20 lbs.), "heavy lifters" (5 10 lbs.), "schoolies" (3 5 lbs.) and "shakers" (do I have too describe?). This is when most of the BLUE MARLIN are caught while dolphin fishing, so it pays to be ready. Also some good size wahoo are still caught while dolphin fishing and many guys troll a wahoo rig out and back from dolphin fishing offshore.

Be ready for the triple tail under the floating debris. This is an added bonus to a cooler of dolphin, because they taste like a snapper. Do not gaff them! You have to net them. It is illegal to gaff them because years ago it was a common practice to gaff them when they would not take a bait. If you get stopped by law enforcement, and there is a gaff hole in a triple tail you are going to have a lot of explaining to do.

Target Species:

tarpon, permit, sailfish, blue marlin, dolphin, tuna, wahoo, grouper, snapper, amber jacks, snook, redfish, bonefish, big sharks

More Fishing Reports:


Tarpon, Offshore, and Flats Fishing on 23' custom SeaCraft, and 17' custom flats boat. Specializing in live bait fishing, fly fishing, sight casting, trolling with natural baits and lures, wreck fishing, reef fishing, swordfishing, and even spearfishing. Charter fishing since 1978 from Miami, and full time charter fishing Islamorada since 1995. Chasing your trophy, Rick's patience and zeal is priceless. Showing kids and women the thrill of fishing and the area's natural wonders is a pleasure.

Contact Info:

271 Hibiscus St.
Tavernier, FL 33070
Phone: 800-698-5773
Alt. Phone: 305-439-7317
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