It is almost hard to believe that springtime is upon us again, and, after a very mild winter here in the Keys, it has come early. We typically see the last of the cold fronts make it down, bringing cooler temperatures that will last a day or two, but, overall, water temperatures hover around the mid- 70s. These are prime conditions for the flats on the ocean side, as well as in the backcountry, and, for those of you that do not know, springtime means TARPON TIME! Now, tarpon are not the only thing available; species like bonefish, redfish, snook, shark, and the occasional permit, are always a possibility. However, we are always at the mercy of the weather, which can make or break a day, depending on the target species and tackle used. So, if you are looking to target something special, make sure you give yourself a window of days to fish, as the weather can be an angler’s biggest rival.
During this month, I get a good mix of experienced anglers looking for that fish of a lifetime, as well as spring breakers looking to bend a rod and have fun. I mainly target bonefish, permit, and tarpon this month, and there are no set hours. Tides and time of day play a critical role when looking for the best opportunity to target specific species. Last year, I had several requests for big tarpon on spin tackle and the clients wanted a guarantee. Well, anybody that fishes knows that there are no guarantees in fishing--all you can do is fish when the conditions are best. Last year, that was between 3-7 a.m. in Islamorada during certain tides, with live baits like mullet, ladyfish, or crabs. Now, fishing during these hours is a real commitment, but, if they wanted tarpon, I was going to give them the best opportunity that I could (those willing to get up at 2 a.m. and fish, that is). There are several advantages to fishing during these hours. To begin, there is very little fishing pressure during this time, so the fish eat very well. Secondly, in this case, every spot I went to was close to home which makes for a very short ride. It was common to have several hook-ups during the course of a 4-hour trip and, when fishing with crabs, we would sometimes catch a bonus permit while targeting the tarpon.
Most days, you can find me poling the flats of the Upper Keys with clients ideally looking for a flats slam on fly or spin tackle. Other days, we’ll be in the backcountry targeting redfish, tarpon, and snook, but, if the fishing out back is slow, it’s just a short ride to the oceanside flats and potential glory. That is the great thing about fishing the Upper Keys--the possibilities are damn near endless and, with plenty of area to fish, every day is an adventure.
For those of you who know me, know that to me, fishing is more than just a game, it is a way of life. So fish hard and fish often!
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