Because we operate out of the Florida Keys/Key West Area we always receive a lot of questions about the best time, place and technique to catch a tarpon.
Tarpon are the ultimate gamefish. They were nicknamed the Silver King and it stuck for several reasons:
They fight super hard
They can be caught from every style boat
They can be caught on every type of tackle
They jump out of the water and often attack your fly, lure or bait in a very visual manner
Tarpon can be caught every day of the year in the Florida Keys, but there are some times that are more interesting to certain anglers than others. Tarpon migrate through the Florida Keys at a certain time of the year but resident fish remain all year round. Here is a schedule of tarpon movement and availability:
January - January may be the worst month of the year to target tarpon. On a typical year, cold fronts have the water temperature low enough that tarpon are simply not found in shallow water very often. Even the small resident fish (5-20 lbs) will move out of their regular spots and stay in deeper water. If it is a warm January, however, the baby tarpon are more plentiful and the biggest fish of the year start to show up at the bridges, harbors and in the backcountry. This is a tough meteorologic condition to plan a vacation around. Locals, guides and the luckiest anglers usually take advantage of these rare and warm January days.
February - Cold fronts continue in February and some years keep the water temperature too low for really good tarpon fishing. On a good (warm) year, February can produce the finest tarpon fishing of the year with big fish all over the backcountry and Everglades. More fish start to show up in the Harbors and bridges and fishing starts to become consistent, weather depending, for the biggest fish of the year. Fish are being caught on bait, lures, fly and chum. Early February is a crap shoot but as the month progresses, the weather and fishing becomes more consistent.
March - As the cold fronts slow down a bit and become less extreme, the water temperatures start to climb between fronts making March an ideal month for tarpon in every situation. Bridges, Harbors, Channels, Backcountry, Everglades and Oceanside all have fish consistently and they are being caught with every method.
April - June - The months of April through June are the migration months for tarpon and the most consistent for the big fish (70-150 lbs) These tarpon are moving on the ocean and there is no doubt that there are more tarpon around than at other times of the year. These are the prime months for the large migratory tarpon that are in such high demand. If you are planning a trip in these months, it is crucial that you book as far ahead as possible. Good guides will be booked a year in advance with return customers.
July - There are still plenty of big fish around, but the smaller tarpon 5-50 lbs become more consistent and available on all types of tackle in a wide variety of situations. Migratory fish have usually thinned out and overall numbers of fish are much lower, however, many fish are still being caught. The number of anglers on the water declines quickly.
August, September and October - With the exception of the lobster season openers, there are probably fewer anglers and guides on the water than any other time of the year. A big fish can be caught every now and then, but early mornings are great for smaller tarpon. There are tarpon in all the spots that they are expected and they are great targets for all types of tackle.
November - Cold fronts return to the Florida Keys. While the temperature moderates, it seems like the tarpon prefer it warm and hot. Tarpon become a little less consistent but still quite available. Nice weather days will produce tarpon for those who look for them.
December - Cold fronts occur regularly and the water temperature is on a decline. Tarpon become harder to find, but it is still possible to catch them.
I hope that helps! Send us a picture of the big fish you catch!
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