Tarpon on Their Way


We’re almost to a season of “madness,” which begins around March. The spring air brings excitement and ambition to all of the guides in Key West, as our lives here are about to change for the next few months. We continue to think about all the fun times ahead this spring, the people we will get to meet, and the ones we get to share this experience with. The rush is here; this is what we call “season.”

The early spring mornings are my favorite, as I drive to my fishing spots with the sun still asleep, seeing big silver fish roll and splash in the distance. This is the most sought after fish in the backcountry that anglers are after right now and the few months to come. This is the Atlantic tarpon, otherwise known as the “silver king.” These beasts annually make their migration through the Keys. The ways to catch a tarpon are so vast that every type of guide has a different approach. The techniques include live bait fishing, fly fishing, using artificial lures, and sometimes chumming. These fish roam the shallow flats, deeper channels, and sometimes are seen offshore on their way towards Key West. Regardless of the technique, these fish are full of power, and blow away anglers of all experience levels. My anglers often look back at me while they are fighting their first tarpon and say, “Really? How is this fish doing this to me?” I laugh and continue to help instruct them while I maneuver the boat, so we can bring the silver beast boat side for a few pictures. The length and girth measurements and maybe a DNA sample are the only things we take from these fish before releasing them back to their environment. They are catch and release only, which keeps them prosperous for the next generation of anglers to enjoy.

Tarpon boat-side after a long battle

Tarpon boat-side after a long battle!

Another really good fighting fish that I enjoy going after in March is the elusive permit. These fish get schooled up pretty well sometimes, but usually are in singles or pairs. They are known to test the casting accuracy of any angler. Permit typically like to eat small crabs and shrimp. They eat artificial lures sometimes too. Jigging with buck tail jigs requires a special technique to lure them in, as they can catch on to what you are doing very quick. They can see, hear, and smell better than any fish I’ve ever gone after. They are prosperous up on the flats that surround Key West and the Marquesas Keys, as well as some wrecks, where they will school up thick. My anglers ask me why they are so sought after, and I explain how tough they are to catch sometimes, and that many people have been coming down here for years in search of their prized permit. When they go through the experience of sighting one in, making a precision cast, and hooking one, they finally understand and appreciate the task at hand. Permit come in all sizes, from the six-pound range, all the way up to around forty-five pounds. With any size, you will be amazed at how much power these fish bring to the table.

With the prestigious target species around as the tarpon and permit, we also still have a very good amount of fish in the backcountry that are a little more relaxing to target. Mangrove snappers, jack crevalle, pompano, trout, and mackerels fill the backcountry waters. These fish are all fun to catch, and some are good for a dinner plate as well. The mangrove snappers are sometimes targeted up in the mangroves (hence their name) as well as wrecks and hard bottoms throughout the shallows. These snappers are an awesome eating fish as well, which makes a long day fishing well worth it around dinner time. Jacks and pompano seem to be in the same general areas this time of year. They both like to slurp down artificial jigs and shrimp. Jacks are one of the most powerful fish pound for pound that we have in the backcountry. We often see all of these fish rush in to the shallow channels and chase around the clueless baitfish. Seeing splashes and ripples on the surface from bait getting pummeled usually means you’ve found the spot.

With the spring coming into full effect, we still get to see some days of cooler weather, which brings a mixed bag of fish. Typical days can consist of early morning tarpon fishing, and then off deeper into the backcountry to see how many other types of species we can catch next. It is amazing to see the numerous types of fish we can get into this time of year. And with the excitement among us, it is going to be another great season.

Book your Key West tarpon charter today!