Key West Sport Fishing in Februaury: Showing the Love

Key West sport fishing charters has been on a consistent hot streak for the past couple of months, and the Key West sport fishing charters in February action shows no sign of breaking that streak. The reef, the wrecks and the Backcountry have all been blazing hot. Offshore takes a bit more patience and looking around, but with the Gulf Stream running warm and blue only about 12 miles off the south shore of Key West, the pelagic gamefish are there in numbers once you find them.

Key West Fishing Charters

Temperatures in the mid to high 70′s and even touching 80 a couple of times last week have kept the tourists in town and the bite on. The unseasonably warm winter has lead to water temps that are staying up around 75 to 78 degrees, keeping a Mahi-mahi bite that was once a summertime thing going strong all winter. At a time of year when these fish would usually have migrated south looking for warm water, boats are bringing in big catches of schoolies and gaffers, with some big Cows and Bulls pushing to the 40 lb. range mixed in. A quiet day of trolling can get busy real fast once a captain finds a weedline or some floating debris out along the edge of the Gulf Stream. Anything that holds baitfish will have Dolphin around it.

The same abundance of Ballyhoo and Flying Fish that have been keeping the Mahi-Mahi here and eating are also bringing a good number of Wahoo around. There have been several reports of anglers pulling in multiple Wahoo on one trip, particularly last week during the February 3 full moon. Speaking of Wahoo, a Wahoo-only freedive spear fishing competition was inaugurated out of Conch Republic Seafood Company in Key West January 30th through February 1st. Some top local and international gunners showed up for an event that drew sponsorship from Spearing Magazine and Pelagic Offshore Gear to put together a total purse worth over $15,000, with individual prize packages going in excess of $4,000. Not bad at all for a first time specialty tournament. However, windy weather and rough water made for some tough diving conditions and no fish were shot by the few who ventured out. Despite the challenges that are a part of this demanding open-water sport, a lot of hot spearos hit town, had a good time, and left with high hopes for next year.

In other competition news, the last days of January also saw the 5th running of the Key West Cuda Bowl go off successfully. Both the fly and spin fishermen among the 33 teams and 56 anglers in the tournament hooked up with a lot of Barracuda during the two 8-hour fishing days. By the end of the first day, 3794.75 inches of Barracuda had been caught and released even though some anglers reported seeing fish but having a hard time getting them to eat. When it was all over, Steven Brown of Warrenton, VA had logged 268 inches of fish while out with Captain Pat Bracher of Overtime Charters and took home the spin division championship. Steven also bagged a 53-inch fish, the largest Barracuda in the spin gear division.

Nathaniel Linville, owner of The Angling Company in Key West, grabbed a repeat victory in the fly division with 187 inches of fish recorded while Key West fishing charters with Capt. John Benvenuto of Key West. Other notable action in the fly division came from Ted Margo of Ft. Worth, TX. Fishing charters with Capt. Drew Delashmit, Margo bagged a pair Barracuda on the second day of the tournament. Not only were they his first ever caught on a fly, one of the fish was a 47-inch beast that took the award for biggest fish in the fly division and was also the largest fly-caught ‘Cuda in the history of the tournament.

Wide temperature fluctuations, a lot of bait and relatively few fishermen out on the water have made for solid offshore action as we head toward the middle of February and into the transition to spring. The Backcountry and Flats have also been very productive for both multispecies action sport fishing charters and some good-sized Permit. A few Tarpon have already been showing up in selected deeper Backcountry channels, and when they are there the numbers tend to be good with groups of 10-15 fish being common. Whether this is an indicator of an early Tarpon season remains to be seen, but it is a possibility given the overall warm winter we are coming out of. In a long winter, the early season is generally marked by some migratory fish showing up around the second week in March.

Cobia are another popular seasonal fish that appear on the Flats fishing this time of year and stay until late spring. A migratory warm-water species that begins to move through Key West waters in January, Cobia can always be found on the shipwrecks in the Gulf and Atlantic. But on days of warming temperatures and winds out of the south, they are often spotted in the shallows following sharks, stingrays and turtles. Cobia feed on crabs, shrimp, and squid, and they like to scavenge the food that larger animals will stir up. In shallow water or near the surface, Cobia are easy to spot with their distinctive shark-like profile and bold brown stripe down the length of their bodies. These delicious, hard-fighting fish can grow up to 6 feet long and 100 lbs., but most Cobia caught around Key West fishing run in the 50-pound range.

A fairly sharp cold front moved in on Thursday and brought a few wind gusts that kept the water bumpy offshore for a couple of days. The next front is supposed to be due Monday night, with high pressure and warming building back in Tuesday through Thursday night. The winds are going to kick up out of the north a little on Tuesday before dropping back down to 10-15 knots from the northeast. The weather will most likely stay dry and sunny to partly cloudy for the rest of the month, setting up good conditions for the all-day deep sea fishing trips. Spring is on the horizon down here in Key West, and the fishing crowds will soon be picking back up both offshore and on the Flats as the warmer weather hits. So if you want to have all the fish to yourself on a February off-season deep sea trip, now is the time to get down here.