Published On: May 10th, 2022Last Updated: February 6th, 20235.9 min read

Florida Keys Fishing Report – May 2022

How is it May already? This year is flying by as summertime fishing is already right around the corner. May 1st is a special day for us in the Florida Keys because it’s the opening day of the eight-month-long Grouper season! May 1st is nearly a holiday for many anglers, with the ultimate goal being to get their limit on the first day.

Grouper Update

Captain Alex and first mate Steve had a three-quarter day charter with Laura Kennedy and her friends on May 1st opening day of the season. They had a blast, catching four nice Black Grouper and several Yellowtail Snapper. We posted their photo on social media, and Ms. Kennedy commented, “One of the best charter trips I’ve ever been on, and I grew up going on charters .” We love seeing comments like this as customer satisfaction is our priority, building relationships with our clients, and fostering repeat business. The whole group happily enjoyed their fresh grouper that evening; imagine how delicious that was!

Laura Kennedy and friends with their limit of Grouper on opening day of the 2022 season.

Groupers typically hang out in rock caves, natural reefs, and artificial structures like sunken wrecks. Black, Red, and Gag groupers are pretty fun to catch on light tackle and are more accessible as they are closer to shore. However, we also catch deep-water groupers, such as Snowy and Yellowedge, where we have to travel a much longer distance offshore and use electric reels to see them. 

The Hearn party aboard the Reel Attraction with a Black Grouper caught on May3rd.

It is essential to understand that regulations can change from one year to another. Laws can also differ depending on fishing in state waters or federal, Gulf side or Atlantic. Also, the species of Grouper matters because not all Grouper species fit in the May 1st-Dec 31 season. Some Grouper species have shorter seasons, and for others, we are allowed to catch them year-round. Because of this, you should always consult FWC regulations to make sure you are harvesting within the law. 

Permit Update

If the reefs and wrecks aren’t on fire, you have other options this time of year. For instance, If you enjoy a good fight, now is the time of year to catch a beautiful Permit. Since the beginning of May, we have been catching Permit consistently, as long as it is not too cloudy to spot them. Permit are what we call “day makers” because they can make your day when other types of fishing are slow. These fascinating fish are members of the Jack family. Permit have rubbery lips and enjoy munching on crabs and other crustaceans with strong jaws and teeth. 

The Piapak’s caught Permit aboard the Main One with Captain Marty Lewis.

During April, May, and sometimes June, Permit push from inshore out to the wrecks to spawn. This is precisely when we can catch and release them. Because they are spawning, we snap a quick photo and release them unharmed.

Our Captains use their tall towers to spot the schools of Permit as they cruise by sunken wrecks. Once the Captain spots the fish’s signature yellow bellies underwater, they point, and the mate will cast a crab to them. Using light tackle makes it easier to feel the bite and makes it a fun and challenging fight for our customers. Now that the Grouper season is off to a great start and the offshore fishing is starting to heat up, we will probably not be targeting Permit as much.

Mate “Scuba” Steve Bellovich holds up an early May Permit caught aboard the Main Attraction II.

Mahi Update

Of course, we can’t forget the famous Dolphinfish, widely known by its Hawaiian name, the Mahi-Mahi. Our customers love to catch Mahi, so it is our single most requested species of fish to catch. While technically Mahi Season is open year-round, we don’t consider it Mahi season until they begin to migrate through our area, usually in the late spring or early summer. For several years, the Mahi fishing has been slow at the beginning of May, only heating up in late May or early June. We often have to temper expectations for clients who are excited to catch Mahi early in the season.

Star Angler Mark Busch and Mate Alex Lewis with a nice bull Mahi last week.

The later Dolphinfish migration has also been a challenge for some of the local Mahi Tournaments scheduled in May in recent years. However, to our pleasant surprise, the first weekend in May this year offered excellent results! Our boats encountered many schoolies, gaffers, and even a few slammers.

The Main One with Captain Marty Lewis fished the Bull and Cow tournament on May 6th and 7th, catching some Dolphinfish in the 20-30lb range. Main One’s junior angler Alex Lewis finished in second place for the top Junior Angler category, just 1.2lbs shy of first place. 

Bull and Cow Tournament 2022

Main One’s catch from one of the days fishing the Bull and Cow tournament.

The good Mahi fishing has continued as just this past week, Captain Steve, Ben, and Marty have all caught Mahi in the 8 to 30-pound range.

Captain Steve Fitgerald took these anglers fishing for Mahi on the Reel Attraction last week.

In years past, the vessel limit was 60 fish per trip. As of May 1st, 2022, the Atlantic waters limit is now 5 per person, with a vessel limit of 30 fish. While we believe Dolphinfish are a resilient species that feeds and reproduces at rapid rates, taking these precautions in advance is quite welcome. We want this fishery to remain strong for many generations to come, and to be fair, 30 fish provides 60 filets which is plenty of meat for one family. We never want to waste any fish either, so we always recommend our customers vacuum seal the fish while it is fresh to ensure the meat stays delicious and useful.

We hope that the start of May indicates a very productive and consistent Mahi season, but as most fishing professionals know, you can only take one day on the water at a time and see what mother nature has in store for you!

Several of the larger sized Mahi our boats have caught in early May.

Looking Forward

We hope that the start of May indicates a very productive and consistent Mahi season, but as most fishing professionals know, you can only take one day on the water at a time and see what mother nature has in store for you!

If you are interested in Mahi charters or any other species, reach out using our Contact page or by calling us at (305) 289-0071.

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