No matter where you cast a fishing line, April is the best time to catch a bucket-list fish in the Greater Fort Lauderdale area.
From trophy largemouth bass in the Everglades to tarpon in the Intracoastal Waterway to sailfish and snapper offshore, now is when all those fish are biting.
Anglers have their choice of inshore and offshore species. Many visitors have their hearts set on hooking an acrobatic sailfish on one of the many local fishing charter boats specializing in catching and releasing the hard-fighting billfish.
It used to be that January was the prime time for sailfish off Greater Fort Lauderdale, but that has changed over the past three years, with March and April now offering the best opportunity to catch one or more of the gorgeous fish. On a good day, top captains can release 10, 15, or even 20 sailfish!
Most sailfish are caught by kite-fishing with live bait. Charter boats fishing out of Hillsboro Inlet in Pompano Beach and Port Everglades Inlet in Fort Lauderdale fly a fishing kite and usually, two or three fishing lines are clipped to the kite line to get the baits away from the boat and splashing on the surface. The commotion attracts sailfish, which typically travel in groups, so it’s not unusual for boats to fight two or more sailfish at a time.
Most of the fishing is done along a color change, where the water changes from green to deep blue in 100 to 150 feet of water. Anglers fishing in those depths and using the same tactics also catch king mackerel, more commonly known as kingfish.
Kingfish weighing between five and 50 pounds are more commonly caught by trolling dead bait and lure combinations in 120 to 180 feet of water. Those depths are only a mile and a half off the beach, which means anglers get to spend less time running offshore and more time fishing.
Blackfin tuna weighing 20 to 30 pounds start showing up in April a little farther offshore, between 180 and 220 feet. Most charter boat captains drift with live bait for the tuna. Chumming helps attract tuna behind the fishing boat, and anglers have success tossing out a few live baits at a time or cutting up pieces of sardines, chunks of bonito, and glass minnows. The best times to catch tuna are in the early morning and late afternoon when the sun isn’t as bright.
The coral reefs off Greater Fort Lauderdale are home to mutton snapper and yellowtail snapper. Charter boats fish for the tasty snappers, as do drift boats, which can take out 20 or more anglers at a time. Snappers can be caught chumming in 60 to 80 feet of water, with the best fishing at night.
Spring is when tarpon fish appear around the inlets and under bridges over the Intracoastal Waterway. The fish known as the silver king will eat both live and dead bait fished between bridge pilings and along the shadows cast by bridge lights on the water at night.
Snook fish hang out in similar locations. While virtually all tarpon fish are released, most keeper-sized snook – which must measure between 28 and 32 inches – are kept for dinner because they taste so good.
Water levels in the canals in the Everglades are at their lowest in April, which means outstanding fishing for native species such as big largemouth bass, bluegills, and warmouths, as well as exotic species including peacock bass, oscars, Mayan cichlids, and jaguar guapotes.
One of the best places to launch a boat or hire a guide is Broward County’s newly updated Everglades Holiday Park at the end of Griffin Road and U.S. Highway 27. The low water forces fish out of the vast Everglades marshes and into the canals, where they can be caught using topwater lures, jerkbaits, and live and plastic worms. Now is also the best time to catch those species on a fly rod.
What to Know Before You Go
Another great thing about fishing in April is that the winter cold fronts have stopped, so temperatures are warm, and the ocean is usually calm, which is something all fishermen can appreciate. Instead of fishing in big waves, anglers can enjoy much easier fishing in the gentle sea conditions. Check out monthly weather conditions here.
What’s Up Ahead in May
More blackfin tuna and their cousin, the bonito, will appear in local waters. And the first push of colorful dolphin fish arrives in May, although the best fishing for them occurs in late summer and early fall. Spring rains slow the Everglades fishing as water levels in the canals rise, allowing fish to travel back into the marshes.