Spring Fishing in Key West
The Most Popular Fishing Season
*Typical weather patterns this time of year:
Early spring can still have a few cold fronts lingering around, which can cause it to be a little cooler and windy. Mid spring is typically pretty warm, but not unbearable. Winds are usually pretty consistent usually being under the mid teens (mph). A day here and there of some rain is not unexpected, but usually doesn’t occur all day.
Why is the spring fishery so popular?
Spring time fishing in Key West is so popular because of the complexity of the fishery that time of year. A lot of anglers are brought to our town year- after-year because of some species of fish that you cannot go after as easily the rest of the year. Most of the fish in Key West can be caught year round on occasion, since our weather doesn’t spike from cold/hot very often. There are also some species of fish that only make their migration or spawn in the spring which also makes it a great time to go after those species.
Also, the spring time is when a lot of people take vacations. Many schools are also on spring break, which makes for a spike in the business throughout the Keys.
Spring Backcountry Fishing
Tarpon are probably one of the most popular species to go after in the backcountry or nearshore throughout the entire Keys. They are known to be under and around all of the docks at various marinas throughout Key West. They are big, prehistoric looking fish that are known for their hard and long fight. Tarpon will get the best of many anglers. Tarpon fishing is done in many different forms, but fishing them in the backcountry is probably the most popular because of that shallow water experience. In a lot of the areas that tarpon are hanging around in, there are also many by-catches that we see when fishing for them. These include jack crevalle, yellow jacks, mutton snappers, and sharks.
After tarpon fishing (usually an early morning thing) we move deeper into the backcountry to look for many other species of fish that we have here most of the year. We fish for tarpon primarily using live bait, and then fish the backcountry with primarily artificial. If we are fishing for “food fish” like mangrove snappers, we typically use live bait.
Spring Reef Fishing
Permit, another very popular but even harder to catch species, are available to go after in the spring. You can get into them throughout the entire year, but the spring makes them an easy target. They are spawning out in the reefs and deeper wrecks this time of year, usually around mid to late April. They bunch up in huge numbers out there, making it one of the easiest ways to catch them. Normally you would have to sight cast them on the flats, usually making a cast to one single fish. Catching them in their spawn will only last for a couple weeks, and they don’t always eat … but it is the best chance to get hooked into one if you have not caught one before.
Mutton snapper also have a spawn in the spring. Later in April on a certain moon phase, mutton snappers will spawn in deeper sections of the reef west of Key West. Many captains go after them at night when they are most active. This is also when there’s the least amount of pressure on them.
Most years, there is still good push of sailfish coming through the Keys while the permit spawn is going on. This is a nice bonus to be able to shoot out to the deeper waters after catching permit and go after sailfish. They are two totally different species of fish but it is nice to have a mix of both. Other species at the reef in the spring include yellowtail snapper, kingfish, wahoo, and black fin tuna.