Tarpon Fishing Seasons
Tarpon are here in the Florida Keys every day of the year. We are allowed to fish for them all year long, there are no seasons. So, when you hear someone say. "What is the season for tarpon" I am hoping to help clear you up on that and point you in the right direction of when to come to the Florida Keys for a good shot at catching and releasing your tarpon.
Written By: Capt. Steven Lamp
Veteran Key West Fishing Guide
Its hard to say when the dates will be that we start working what I call the "Gulf Fish" or "brown backs". usually the middle part of March. I have also hit these "resident fish" as early as January and February. So its a crap shoot and definitely related to the weather. None the less I tell folks Mid March can be the start of tarpon fishing here in the Key West area and late march toward the upper and middle Florida Keys. These fish hang in the channels and are fun to catch on live bait and artificial spin. Due to typically really high winds (Ides Of March) fly fishing is tough to cast in and the fish can be deep. On the calmer warmer days laid up fish in the backcountry are a great target for fly rodder s as well as light tackle spin fishermen.
This fishery will stay right through the migration and to the end of September in Key West and through the end of July in the upper Keys. The Everglades National Park will hold fish all year round deep in the backcountry.
Also See: Florida Keys Fishing Species and Seasons Calendar
Key West fishing seasons and calendar
The event that makes the Florida Keys famous for tarpon fishing. Mostly referring to the migration. When the tarpon come from the South across the straits of Florida, move through the Keys flats and head up both coasts of Florida.
Although the start times vary and there are already many tarpon in the area that did not come by way of migration. I have seen it start as early as the last week in April and as late as the second week in May. The fish push from West to East on both the Gulf and Atlantic side of the Florida Keys from the Marquesas Keys to Key West through the lower Keys and Marathon up to Islamorada, Florida bay, Everglades National Park and Key Largo.
In the right places anglers will see schools of 5 - 500 fish marching along in a relaxed parade pattern. Meandering and milling about rolling along as if they don't have a care in the world. Often times groups of them will file off and start to "daisy chain" milking in a spawning behavior as they all swim in a circular pattern on the flats.
This is the most popular time for fly fishing for large tarpon here in the Florida Keys and Key West. Many fly fishing guides have their schedules spoken for years in advance by anglers obsessed with catching the Silver King on the fly rod.
A crazy little rust colored worm that hatches from the live rock that is just offshore of some of our islands here in the Florida Keys. The tarpon treat them like a bad crack habit. Slurping the surface looking for the little 1.5 - 2.5 inch critters and eating them as fast as they can with not a care in the world of any danger. Not just one tarpon but thousands can be seen working the "hatch". Fly fishermen bring dozens of flies and a couple rods with them to work this phenomenon as breakage is a real thing. Most veterans to the "hatch" will tell you don't hook to stick the tarpon, do a jump and dump so you can jump as many fish as possible. If you hook and hang one, the fight will last all the way through the hatch and darkness will be imminent.
While we cannot put a date on it I can tell you the tides and timing are critical. If the weather sucks (windy, cold) it might not happen at all or it may be impossible to fish. So in Late May and all of June it could be the full or new moon - low tide in the evenings. Ask your tarpon fishing guide, he will know what dates they will expect to see "the worms".
Note.. pass or fail - worms or not.. If you book a tarpon fishing guide for the worm hatch. Hatch or not he will take you fishing for tarpon.
Fun Times - these little dudes set up shop in the backcountry around mangrove islands and in some real out of the way places. Ranging in size from 5 - 50lbs there will be a dozen or 60 dozen tarpon working an area as a troop. Fly fishermen with a decent cast and the right fly can jump a bunch of fish before 10 am making the start to a really fun day on the flats. Spin fishing anglers will do well also using light tackle and subtle presentations. These fish are a hoot to fight as they jump ALLOT..
My favorite time for the "babies" is the fall although they are here year round in some places. August through October as that is also what I call the SLAM season. The babies will offer my anglers a shot at the tarpon portion of the slam making it all come together.
Experienced flats fishing guides have their babies spots and these spots are coveted. When calling for a tarpon fishing charter that focuses on the babies let us know and we will make sure you are with a guide that knows it.
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