February Warm Spells Bring a Key West Tarpon Preview
Conditions are looking good for an action-packed Key West Tarpon run this year. The extremes of weather that are hitting the northern states are translating to well-defined cool fronts sweeping into the Keys. These Florida-style polar vortexes that drive air temperatures all the way down to the low 70s are followed by days of exceptionally warm and pleasant conditions that push water temps into the ideal range to get Tarpon and other big predators moving inshore.
Conditions like this allow some of the local charter captains to give their guests previews of the spring Key West Tarpon season by getting them hook ups on the Silver Kings in the Key West Harbor and nearby channels. Even though the main migration is a few weeks away, we get large schools of hungry fish hunting in the harbor, with many Tarpon caught during the morning outgoing tides. The bite slows down on the incoming tide, but rolling fish everywhere you look indicate the massive numbers soon to arrive.
Fishing the channels at night can be particularly productive. If rolling Tarpon are located, they hit almost any bait that lands in front of them. This winter-style Tarpon fishing stays good until the next passing cold front drops air temperatures for a couple of days. Then as soon as it warms back up, the Key West Tarpon off-season is back in swing, giving lucky anglers a taste of what is to come during the peak migration from April to July.
Key West Deep Sea Charters are Finding the Fish
Offshore on the Atlantic side, the warm weather between fronts brings low winds and clear water that add up to some fine fishing. We get the blue water of the Gulf Stream current running up close to the reef, and that brings in the baitfish followed by open water hunters like Blackfin Tuna, Kingfish, Sailfish, Wahoo, and even some Mahi-Mahi.
There are plenty of fish outside the reef this time of year. In fact, catching bait in breezy and choppy conditions is often the biggest challenge of the fishing day. Wahoo were back on the menu the last couple weeks, not as many as in January and feeding farther east along the reef, but fast trolling with downriggers could turn up wolfpacks that would put 2 or 3 fish in the box in quick succession.
On the Gulf side, the good weather lets boats get out on the numerous Kingfish that are still around out there, and the waters around Smith Shoal light were producing some big fish. For fast action, head out to the shrimp boats and you will find the Bonita present in force. Look for the Blackfin Tuna and nearly any other species to be joining them soon. When the weather permits, a shrimp boat fishing run is a guaranteed way to get on a lot of fish.
Classic Key West Light Tackle Fishing in the Backcountry
The Backcountry fishing goes up and down with the weather at this time of year, but the advantage of exploring the pristine beauty of those unique waters is that there is always some hole with some biting fish somewhere. As always in winter, the Backcountry offers a place to shelter and keep the rods bent when the cold fronts move through and the winds are up. Look for big Barracuda lurking along the channel edges and mangrove islands. The Jacks, Sea Trout, Sharks, and Snappers also bite well as cold offshore waters drive the bait schools into the shallows.
A few Permit are around now, but these sensitive fish move from shallow back to deep water in response to water temperature and air pressure so it can be tricky to find them. The Permit fishing should improve steadily as March comes on, and with luck a lot of fish will be on hand for the annual Key West March Merkin Permit Tournament.
Key West February Fishing Means Tournament Action
The competition season picks up speed as we get further into the new year. The popular Key West Cuda Bowl always goes off the consecutive Friday and Saturday before Super Bowl Sunday. Visiting fisherman and local hotshots alike have a great time getting out with their favorite Key West Flats fishing guides and going after one of Key West’s most popular gamefish.
This catch-and-release contest has competitors working to see who can catch the most fish and rack up the highest total inches of Barracuda in both fly and spin tackle divisions. To add to the fun and keep things Flats-specific, all Cuda Bowl fishing must be done from a Flats skiff less than 20 feet in length and equipped with a poling platform. And here is the real kicker – Barracuda must be in less than 8 feet of water and on a Flat or the edge of a Flat.
Hardcore Flats specialists will show up next for the Key West March Merkin Permit Tournament. This challenging event draws some seriously good anglers, many of whom are professional guides. Permit fans come in from across the country and beyond to try to boat this notoriously fickle and skittish fish. The tournament features a silent auction along with other fun events and benefits the Bonefish Tarpon Trust and the Lower Keys Guides Association.
Why not enjoy some early season Key West fishing and maybe even a Tarpon warm-up session? Enter a tournament or just drop in to enjoy the lively action around town. Depend on Fish Key West for great booking services and all the information you need to put together the perfect Key West February fishing holiday.
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