COLD WINTER, HOT SPRING

by Capt. Mike Bartlett

COLD WINTER, HOT SPRING

It’s spring time here in the Florida Keys and that means one thing to a flats guide, tarpon season is here! Now that the days are a little longer and the daily air temperatures are little higher, the water temperatures are now up in that sweet range that tarpon really prefer. This is great news for fishing the flats, because the fish that roam the flats, like permit and bonefish, will be a lot more consistent now.

We have had a pretty tough go this past fall and winter with a massive hurricane in September and a couple of early cold fronts just to mix it up. It was a cold and often very windy winter that hung around most of December and January and into February. Seemed like fewer days making it into the mid 70’s than were in the 50’s. Great for keeping the windows open at home but not great for fishing the shallows with water temperatures staying in the low to mid 60’s and a couple times dipping into the 50’s. No lobstering and spearfishing for this guy!

The cold weather had made fishing the flats very challenging, fortunately I was able to find some quality fish during the days I could get out. Barracudas were the most prevalent, followed by some sharks and even a few surprise permit.

The cold weather however made for some really good backcountry fishing. There are more mullet in the backcountry than I can remember ever seeing. I encountered huge mullet muds that were acres in size and loaded with fish, mainly jack crevalles; but also ladyfish, bluefish and sea trout. It’s been a fun alternative to fishing the flats when it’s been tough to find fish.

The cold and windy winter we had this year, though miserable (I didn’t move here to be cold), will have a very positive impact on fishing the flats for the next couple months and should result in an incredible tarpon season this spring.

March and April are a great time of the year for us - my second favorite time of the year (summer is number one); and historically one of the best times of the year for fishing the flats for permit.

Bonefish will make a strong showing and tarpon will have moved into the area as the spring migration begins. Along with the awesomeness of fishing the flats for tarpon, permit and bonefish, all of the winter species such as big barracudas patrolling the flats and giant schools of jacks busting through schools of bait in the backcountry will be available to us.

Early spring is a really good time for any angler planning a fishing trip to the Florida Keys. There will be plenty of opportunities to have a great day on the water. We will have lots of options and alternatives to fish for a variety of species on the flats and in the channels and basins. Whether you’re a hard core angler looking to fish the flats for the big three with a fly rod, or a not so serious angler looking to fish a few hours just to bend a rod and have some fun, this is a great time for it all. Lots of fish, lots of fun and it’s not boiling hot like summer. Pretty ideal I’d say.

I have lived in Key West for nearly 20 years and have experienced a decent variety of weather patterns over those years. Looking back, warmer winters, though good at the time, have been followed by challenging fishing through the spring and slow tarpon seasons. Long and cold winters however, as miserable as they are, have resulted in really good fishing on the flats through spring and made for some unbelievable tarpon seasons. I’ll tough it out through these freezing cold Key West winters knowing that great fishing is just around the corner.




Capt. Mike Bartlett
Capt. Mike Bartlett

Author

Capt. Mike Bartlett runs shallow water sight fishing charters for tarpon, bonefish, permit, barracudas and sharks in Key West. Reach him at 305-797-2452 or on the web at www.keywestflats.net



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