This spring, local anglers have brought many fish tales back to the docks. Shallow-water cubera snapper, mako sharks, sailfish, blackfin tuna, cobia, permit, kingfish and more.
It seems if it swims, it's being caught right now.
For anglers, it may be tough deciding what you want to target. But what do you do when your go-to plan isn't coming through? Luckily, this time of year there is usually something else biting when one species may not be.
Capt. Jason Stock explains it: "Have a game plan, but don't have a game plan."
What he means is target a species, but don't stick to it too long if what you are doing is not successful.
"If one thing isn't working, always have a backup plan," he said. "If it's rough, the kingfish like it; if it's calm, the permit like it. If the tide is ripping, the pelagic fish like tuna and cobia really like it."
By being prepared for everything and anything. The past few weeks, Stock has landed cobia to 70 pounds, permit to 40 pounds, tuna to 30 pounds and kingfish to 40 pounds -- all while fishing in less than 80 feet of water. Oh, and that doesn't include the monster bull and hammerhead sharks, goliath grouper and an early-season tarpon landed on the way in from an offshore trip Thursday after catching tuna in 80 feet of water.
"Anything you want to go after is biting right now. I've been slow-trolling threadfin for kingfish while I look for permit, and that's also when big cobia can show up. Recently, we caught a big cobia and five minutes later, we were doubled up on permit.
"People laugh at me because I bring a lot of rods, but you need them if something fires up. A quick flurry can last 10 minutes. If the conditions change, the fish can turn on instantly, and that's when you need to be ready."
Part of being ready for anything includes having the bait for a variety of fish. On rough days, Stock may prepare for the week ahead and spend time catching pass crabs, the bait of choice for permit and tarpon. The morning of trips, he loads his livewell with a variety of white bait, threadfin and pinfish. If the by-catch includes a bonita or mackerel, he may save that as bait for a large bull or hammerhead shark, both of which hang behind schools of fish.
When looking for action, the best bet is to start at larger structures in the Gulf of Mexico like reefs and wrecks. These larger structures attract bait, which bring the predators. Popular reefs include the 3-mile and 7-mile, and both are proven fish havens.
Keep your rods rigged and ready, eyes peeled and be aware of your surroundings. Who knows what you might run into?