Key West Tarpon Fishing Signals Springtime in the Keys

The early onset Tarpon season continued in Key West waters as February closed out on an unseasonably warm note. Backcountry water temperatures stayed in the upper 70’s for the last couple weeks of the month, with air temperatures often pushing up to 80 degrees or so. These are just the right temperature conditions for Tarpon to be on the move, and they are definitely here both inshore and out in the Backcountry, with plentiful baitfish schools being chased by large numbers of Tarpon.

Big fish, with some running from the 125-pound range on up to 180 pounds, are crowding the north side of Key West harbor from the Coast Guard base out to the Calda Channel. Besides the fish pushing into the harbor, out in the Backcountry groups of fish are moving around with the tides chasing baitfish. There have been fish hanging around the Lower Keys flats and basins, and Jewfish Basin, Shark Key, and Turkey Basin have all been holding early season Tarpon. While the bite has still been somewhat inconsistent, and the Bull Sharks have been a real nuisance in terms of chomping on hooked fish, it is looking to be a good Key West Tarpon season as we move into March.

This February was also good for Flats fishing, with some big Permit being brought boatside. To add to the fun, in the past couple weeks, the Bonefish have been showing up on the Atlantic side of the island. The Flats have also been very productive for Barracuda, Jack Crevalle, Sharks, and the occasional Cobia. The Shark fishing has been outstanding, with the Jacks and Mackerel migrating inshore and bringing the big predators along with them. Sharks of many species have been being caught and released in the past two weeks. The usual Blacktips, Bulls, Caribbean Reef Sharks, and Hammerheads have been hooked in good numbers, but there have also been some big Tiger Sharks and a few Sawfish caught.

Farther offshore, the Gulf has been producing an outstanding Kingfish bite. The fish are really numerous this year, and it has been one of the best Kingfish seasons in memory. On just about any type of live bait – Blue Runners, Pilchards, Pinfish, Threadfin Herring – and in any place from Smith Shoal Light out past the Marquesas, the Kings have been hitting hard. The Gulf wrecks have been hot and giving up a lot of Cobia and Bluefish, and some are holding big Jack Crevalle that are more than willing to bust flies or surface plugs. The wrecks have also kept the meat fishermen happy with a pretty steady Snapper bite, and some good-sized fish have been taken by those who reeled fast enough to get them past the hungry Goliath Groupers that seem to be thicker than ever on the wrecks.

Out on the Atlantic side, spring is arriving with some good catches of Yellowtail along the reef edge. The Bonito are in, and the Blackfin Tuna are soon to follow. A few Sailfish were caught the past week on live bait and trolled lures, and it is looking good for the spring Sailfish season once the east wind picks up and the color change along the edge of the Gulf Stream forms. Between the Sailfish, the pelagic migration that brings many different gamefish species moving through the reef passes, and the early Tarpon action that already has the season off to an exciting start, Key West springtime fishing is unbeatable this year.