Tuna fishing with live chum on the humps off Islamorada is a light-tackle angler's dream. When the sharks aren't bad, you can use 12-pound-test or less, but be prepared to beef up your tackle if the sharks show up.
Rods: Medium-action spinning rods capable of putting substantial pressure on 12- to 20-pound-test line. Fly rods from 10- to 12-weight.
Reels: Large-capacity spinning reels capable of applying maximum drag for the line class chosen. Fly reels in the 10- to 12-weight class, with intermediate lines.
Baits: Live scaled sardines (pilchards).
Lures: Small trolled feathers will work in lieu of live baits, as will dark rubber worms. For casting baits, use hard-bodied lures resembling pilchards.
Terminal tackle: Nylon or fluorocarbon monofilament leader material with live baits or lures. Use leader as light as 12-pound-test when the tuna are finicky and up to 40-pound when the bite is on. Use 3/0 circle hooks with live baits.
What: Blackfin and skipjack tuna.
When: Year-round, but spring and fall offer the best action.
Where: The humps of the Florida Keys. There are three main humps off Islamorada: the Islamorada Hump, the 409 Hump and the West Hump, listed from shallowest to deepest and in rank of closest to farthest from shore. All three hold fish, but one may hold more than the others on any given day. Local knowledge and timely reports are key to success. You can catch the tunas on a wide variety of baits or lures, including live pilchards or cigar minnows, trolling feathers, or butterfly-style jigs.
Who: Lots of Keys captains can put you on the tunas. Here are some names to know.
Whale Harbor Marina
Bud N' Mary's Marina
Holiday Isle Marina
Where to stay:
Set in the heart of the "Sportfishing Capital of the World," Cheeca Lodge & Spa is a sportsman's paradise. Anglers worldwide have long known the lure of Islamorada's incomparable waters.
Choose from a colorful range of Florida Keys fishing charter boats, captained by seasoned skippers who know just where to find each and every of the more than 600 species of fish inhabiting the Atlantic Ocean and the Florida Bay. www.cheeca.com
Check out Cheeca Lodge in this recent episode of Sport Fishing Television: