Late January

Spring Fishing Preview


Right now is a wonderful time of year to journey out in the beautiful waters of Key West to go fishing. With lots of ever changing weather patterns, we get to see a lot of different fish. The month of February can be a preview of what’s to come in the early spring. With some days extremely hot, and others a little cool, it really gives us the opportunity to cover a lot of different types of fishing.

Our special fish that take over the backcountry are on their way. The tarpon, otherwise known as the “silver king,” are about to start really showing Key West what they’re made of. Warmer days this month bring some of these awesome fighting sport fish out of the shallow channels in the gulf, where they feed on tidal flushes of bait fish. I consider these fish “early birds” of tarpon season. The cooler days seem to put them into hiding, but they’re still there, waiting for that warm, humid, spring style day. My clients and I like to go on a tarpon mission first off this time of year. We will start out throwing some live baits in some of these shallow channels to test our luck before we move deeper into the backcountry. Hookups sometimes are a second away from changing your bait out, as these fish seem to pick and choose what types of bait fish they want that morning. This makes for a really exciting start to our day, where we break the ice before heading on to other fun filled, shallow water species.

Tarpon caught in Key West early spring

An early tarpon caught in February.

It’s really amazing when I can feel the same sort of excitement when my anglers and I are waiting for what’s next on the agenda when fishing Key West. We roll out into the islands where the fish seem to be waiting for us. Big jack crevalle rip through the shallows awaiting a toss from a flashy lure. The cooler temperatures with a good bit of sun light brings them to the surface, where they slurp up what we’re offering, creating a long battle that’s fun for any skilled angler. I saw one of these big jacks almost run his head into the side of my boat while he was chasing a distressed ballyhoo. Along with these amped up sport fish, there are others who try to hang with them. Mangrove snappers, blue fish, pompano, and the occasional mackerel like to come along for the ride as well, creating smiles throughout the day.

For the shallow water wrecks this time of year, I can’t tell you how many times my anglers and I sat over one for hours continually ripping on assorted species. You almost think that from us being there created this sort of feeding frenzy. Would these blue runners have gotten chased down by mackerel and barracudas if we weren’t there hooking them? I always wonder what our existence of being at a particular spot will change what’s there. From us throwing buck tail jigs over top of the wreck, and hooking everything from snappers, jacks, juvenile grouper, sharks, and mackerel, it seems that the more and more fish seem to come in. An hour into fishing over these wrecks you’ll be surprised at how much has changed since the first cast on that spot. Several times we had goliath groupers chase our fish into the side of the boat, which will often times raise the hairs on the back of your neck. It’s crazy what these creatures can fit into their mouths, or at least, what they think they can! Once we feed the goliath a couple times, he will then feel a little more comfortable in coming out from his stoop, to pose for a picture of course.

This time of year sharks still rule the shallows. There are many ways to catch a shark, which makes it a new adventure every time. There are so many different types of environments that you can target them in, including shallow flats, channel edges, reef structure, and wrecks. A lot of my clients enjoy saving them for last, so they can work up to the big fight of these shallow predators. I enjoy watching younger clients reel in these sharks that weigh close to what they do. They now get to go back to school and brag to all their friends what they got to experience in Key West, which puts a smile on my face.

Like I stated previously, February is a month of change. Not quite winter still, and not quite spring yet. We do though; get weather patterns that reflect both seasons, which makes for a breathtaking day out on the water. The change of seasons can be the best time to get out and see what all you can catch, fishing in Key West, for a memory to last.