Hot and Cold Spring Fishing in Key West

March started out unusually cool for the Keys, with temperatures dipping into the low 60’s during the first week of the month. This was followed by a series of cold fronts rolling through the Lower Keys that alternated with unseasonably warm weather to keep the fishing a bit unsettled. Tarpon in particular avoided the cool weather by moving farther offshore. On warmer days, they would move back inshore and could be seen rolling sporadically off the shores of Key West. A few Permit were also boated on the warm days between cold spells. Although some fishermen got lucky, overall this March was not a solid one for the big three.

Luckily, there were plenty of other fishing opportunities to keep the action hot even when the weather was not. Backcountry Redfish were being taken on flies in shallow water during the cool, windy conditions, and the Barracuda, Jacks, and Lemon Sharks were also cooperative when it came to hitting either artificials or live bait. The Mangrove Snappers also did not mind the weather, and plenty of them went home for dinner with happy Fish Key West Charter guests. The reef fishing was on as well, and Captain Bill Wallace put guests on Coolcast onto more than 20 Mutton Snapper during the first week of March. The Yellow Tail Snapper were also biting, and running at pretty decent size to boot. The wrecks were producing some good Amberjack fishing and the occasional Sailfish or Wahoo. A few Grouper were caught and released in a preview to the start of the Grouper season in May. Meanwhile, the Fish Key West Charter Captains were eagerly looking for the Sailfishing to heat up in April, and hoping for a repeat of the spectacular action seen last year.

The Fish Key West Specialty Charters provided some great spring fishing opportunities. When daylight savings time started on the 10th, the Fish Key West 4:00 to 8:00 pm Sunset Tarpon and Shark Fishing trips started as well, and many fishermen grabbed the chance to enjoy the enhanced experience offered by the reduced boat traffic and fishing pressure in the evening. Not to mention the spectacular Key West Sunset views produced by the early spring evening skies. Then, as mid-month rolled around, conditions lined up for the first Fish Key West Gulf Shrimp Boat Fishing trips of the season. Captain Tony Miller was able to take the Coolwater out to the shrimpers twice during the week of the 10th – 15th, and fortunate anglers got to experience the wild fishing that occurs when the shrimp boats dump their nightly by-catch of small fish and crabs overboard at first light. It is a long 50-mile run out to the shrimp boats, but when hundreds of Bonita, Cobia, Sharks, and Tuna go into a feeding frenzy and hit anything thrown at them, fishermen soon forget the time spent on the run out. Besides constantly fighting Bonita, Coolwater fishermen bagged 21 Blackfin Tuna and many Sharks on these trips, returning home with sore arms and happy grins.

March also saw Key West once again gearing up for the World Sailfish Championship presented by Bass Pro Shops. Scheduled for April 10th – 14th, this is the world’s richest Sailfish contest, and it always features great fishing by some of the best in the business, as well as 5-star entertainment, fine dining, and fun partying. The tournament also raises a lot of money for charitable causes. Along with the nearly $10 million in prize money the Championship has paid out in its 10-year history, the contest has generated nearly $3 million for charity.

This year, an invitation-only field of 34 boat owners and their teams will pay the $8000 dollar per boat entry fee and show up to fish for a piece of over $1 million dollars in prize money and the beautiful hand-made Irish crystal 1st place trophy. The 2013 competition is being dedicated as a memorial for General Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr., who passed away on December 27th, 2012. General Schwarzkopf was a co-founder of the tournament, and also served as honorary chairman for the past six years.

The 2012 Championship was a record breaking tournament with 53 boats releasing 652 fish. The winners, defending champions Team Sandman, caught and released 34 fish to take home a check for $316,917 dollars. This year’s event is sure to be just as exciting, with primary sponsor Bass Pro Shops and co-sponsor Westin Key West Resort and Marina going all out to show the boat owners and tournament fishermen a world-class time. The tournament kicks off Wednesday, April 10th with a party on the Westin Key West Resort and Marina pier.