My favorite time of the year is finally here. I love the summer months here in Key West, it’s hot, humid and not so windy as it is in the spring. Fishing on the flats throughout the summer is as hot as the air and sun. It is by far the best time of the year to be stalking bonefish, permit and tarpon.
The spring tarpon migration is over for another year, but there are plenty of resident tarpon roaming the flats, mangrove islands and backcountry creeks near Key West. I love fishing for summertime tarpon. Unlike most of the finicky, migrating tarpon we see in May, summer tarpon readily eat flies and artificial baits. We won’t have 1000 fish days managing maybe a few bites, instead I find smaller groups of tarpon feeding in areas where baitfish gets pushed into. Fewer fish and more bites!
Throughout summer and fall we will have more extreme tides than what we see in the winter and early spring. Every couple weeks, coinciding with the new and full moons, tides will be at their lowest and highest points of the year. Morning and evening incoming tides following an extreme low tide will give us perfect opportunities for tailing bonefish and permit on the flats. Fishing for tailing bonefish and permit, whether with flies or live bait, is very challenging. These fish are feeding in inches of water and are vulnerable to attacks not only from in the water, but from above the water as well and thus are on high alert for anything that may cause them harm. An accurate cast and a stealthy approach are required when tailing bonefish and permit are encountered.
The extreme high tides we experience throughout summer and fall offer some great fishing opportunities as well. There may be a couple feet of water covering a flat leading up to a mangrove island where baby tarpon can get into and cruise through the root systems looking for all sorts of things to eat. This is another very challenging scenario where accurate casting is required. Flies and lures need to be cast under the bushes where the baby tarpon are cruising, not in the branches where the birds are sitting.
Now that my schedule has relaxed a bit, I will have a few days here and there when I get to be on the bow of my boat to spook some fish for a change. I love stalking permit with the fly rod and most days I do get to fish will be spent chasing permit. But when conditions are right I can’t pass up the opportunity to fish for rolling tarpon or tailing bonefish early in the morning.
When the mood strikes and I get the chance, I will head offshore to troll for dolphin and wahoo or anchor on the reef for snapper and grouper. In either case I’m looking for fish to bring home for dinner and get the freezer stocked up with some of the delectables from the sea.
Summer is also when I get to spend some time in the water spearfishing for hogfish and snappers. With lobster season opening in early August and the two day lobster mini-season at the end of July, I will be sure to get my fill of bugs while the getting is good.
I hope everyone has a good summer and can take advantage of the all the fun fishing and boating opportunities throughout the next several months.
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