Tarpon Season ’15
The smell of spring lingers as the early morning days approach. These are the days where the dew is dripping off your boat in the morning as bugs destroy you while you’re trying to load up. These are the days that we wait for the rest of the year. The tarpon migration starts very soon!
Though Key West has tarpon throughout the year in certain areas, the migratory tarpon are just starting to emerge in the harbor, the backcountry, flats, and near shore waters of Key West. These fish, otherwise known as the “silver king,” are one of the most popular big game fish that people come down to Key West to catch this time of year. From March until right around the beginning of July, these tarpon will be extremely productive to fish for. They start to come in from the deeper channels where they most likely filter into from offshore waters. They school up in deep and rocky bottoms to do their “staging” before they move into the near shore waters in schools of fifteen to twenty five fish. When these fish are inshore, they can be in groups of five fish all the way up to forty fish. After they move in, these fish can be targeted in many different water columns as well as with many different techniques.
Everyone has different outlooks in fishing Key West for tarpon. What it really comes down to is the style of the angler and the technique intended. Tarpon can be caught in a variety of forms including live bait, artificial lures, chunking dead bait, or with a fly rod. The most popular way of fishing for tarpon is throwing live bait or chunking dead bait. This is suitable for most of all anglers and skill levels. The hookup ratio is also the best with these forms of tarpon fishing, which is another reason why people enjoy them so much. When live baiting I will regularly use pinfish. These baits are readily available right near the flats and channel edges of Key West harbor. I will often get a decent by catch of other flats baitfish in my pinfish traps as well. These little jewels are often the ticket to getting a hookup with the tarpon don’t seem to want pinfish. When using live bait, you really need to be able to pinpoint what the tarpon are eating so you know what will be most productive. Little hints like crabs hanging on weeds floating by or even shrimp popping at the surface can make your choice a little easier for what to use. Using anything from thirty to sixty pound fluorocarbon leader with an Owner 4/0 to 6/0 circle hook is my typical setup for live bait.
Chunking, or chumming, is another popular method near Key West harbor. Fishing in channels from fifteen to forty feet, this method can be extremely productive. Anchoring up and creating a “chum line” of dead bait can make the ultimate tarpon trap. Near Key West this time of year, you may spot several center consoles anchored up all in a row chunking for tarpon. Fly fishing and artificial lure fishing for tarpon is a little more technical and advanced. The average angler that I take out tarpon fishing usually doesn’t prefer these methods due to the difficulty of hookups and not to mention the hookup ratio itself. Sight casting lures into slow rolling fish is a really fun way to get a super aggressive hookup that you’ll see all of. These giant fish will come screaming out of the water for your lure like it is their last meal. Fly fishing for tarpon can be done in the deeper channels or sight casting on the flats. The deeper channels require an intermediate tip or sinking line to get your fly down to the fish. Fly fishing for tarpon on the flats is very breathtaking while you see lines of tarpon just awaiting your approaching fly in super shallow water.
The days I spend tarpon fishing in the spring consist of pretty early mornings so we can get out and get on the bite before everyone else does. Sometimes that first light bite is going to be the best that it will be all day as well. This also gives us the opportunity to get into some other species of fish after we are done tarpon fishing for the morning. Late afternoon tarpon fishing as well as night time can be really productive as well. These fish seem to turn on again when the sun starts to go down. If I were to choose, I would say that April, May, and early June are the hot months out of the rest. Regardless of the technique, I can guarantee that you will see some tarpon in and around Key West during those months!
Go to our Facebook page to see what fish we are into lately or give us a call at 305-509-2201 to find out more!