Key West Tarpon Fishing Signals Springtime in the Keys
Down here in the Lower Keys, the first hints of spring often crop up as a few warm days in February. When we get some temperatures pushing into the low 80s, and the Backcountry water warms into the 70s, it is only natural for experienced Keys anglers to start keeping an eye open for that silvery star of spring Key West fishing: the amazing Tarpon.
If we get the right conditions, resident and even some early migrating Tarpon are going to be on the move both inshore and out in the Backcountry. The sign of a good season to come is plentiful baitfish schools being chased by large numbers of Tarpon through the Backcountry channels in late February and early March. When we get a pre-migration bite like this, it’s an excellent chance to get down here and take a shot at some Silver Kings before the crowds and fishing pressure of the main migration season hit.
Pre-Season Key West Tarpon Setup Looks Good
As February runs out, big fish including beasts 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 Tarpon season as we move into March.
Things are also looking good for March Flats fishing, with reports of big Permit being brought boatside in the last couple weeks of February. To add to the fun, a few Bonefish are already showing up on the Atlantic side of the island and they will be moving onto the Backcountry Flats as the weather heats up. The Flats are very productive right now 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 this month. 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.
Gulf of Mexico Spring Kingfish Running Strong
The offshore waters on the Gulf side of Key West usually produce an outstanding Kingfish bite as we transition from winter to spring. The fish are numerous this time of year as the Gulf and Atlantic Kingfish populations migrate past Key West. Just about any type of live bait works – blue runners, pilchards, pinfish, threadfin herring – and you can find the Kings hitting hard any place from Smith Shoal Light out past the Marquesas.
Wreck fishing in the Gulf is also picking up. The deep wrecks are giving up a lot of Cobia and Bluefish. Sometimes you find schools of big Jack Crevalle patrolling above a wreck, and they are more than willing to bust flies or surface plugs. The wrecks also keep the meat fishermen happy with a pretty steady Snapper bite. Some good-sized fish are the reward for those who can reel fast enough to get them past the hungry Goliath Groupers that seem to be thicker than ever out there.
Break the Ice with Key West Spring Fishing
It’s hard to miss when the Key West spring fishing starts to go off. You can catch Yellowtails out along the Atlantic edge of the reef, or troll bait and lures for the big early spring Sailfish along the Gulf Stream. Watch for ravaging schools of Bonito under clouds of wheeling sea birds, then throw lures and fight fish until your arms are limp. And all of that is just a warm up for jumping massive Tarpon in the harbor and Backcountry.
Beat the crowds and catch some awesome spring transition fishing in Key West. Boats are already booking for March and beyond because it is looking like a banner year of fishing. Reserve your spot now on a top Key West charter fishing boat with Fish Key West, your Key West charter fishing guide.
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