Shallow water flats and fly fishing for tarpon, bonefish and permit
Key West is well known for it's fishing opportunities. Saltwater fly fishing has become so popular in the last decade and for obvious reasons - - the pursuit of fish with a fly is really something addictive. Once you land your first fish on fly here in the Keys, you've done something great and the memory of that fish will last a lifetime.
Updated fishing reports for the flats
February 2014 Key West FIshing Report
While the rest of the nation is taking a pounding of snow and winter weather we are still enjoying the warmth and sunshine that makes this state the envy of the nation. At least right now it does.
Ok so this morning it was a little cooler out but the last week or so has been spectacular weather. Calm and crystal clear water, warmth up in the 80s and tarpon! Yes, that's right, Tarpon in February. It doesn't happen every year but a few lucky souls get to enjoy the sun and the tarpon fishing - what a treat!
Backcountry fishing has it's ups and downs this time of year in general. Permit are always on hand but may fluxuate in and out of deeper water depending on the temperatures and air pressure. Look for the permit fishing to get better and better as we head into March. We will keep our fingers crossed that the permit stick around until mid-March for the March Merkin Permit Tournament. The tournament runs March 17-20 in Key West and benefits Bonefish Tarpon Trust specifiically to the Jon Ain Memorial Fund. Ain was the founder of the March Merkin and a very accomplished permit angler too.
Other backcountry options include barracuda which can be quite large this time of year. Our Cuda Bowl largest fish measured was by David Moloney of Summerland Key at 51.5 inches! That's a big one! Jack crevalle, sharks, snappers, grouper and sea trout are also good rod bending material in the shallow waters.
Offshore has been just as active the past few weeks. Wahoo, tuna, sailfish, mahi mahi and kingfish are out beyond the reef. Although finding bait can be a challenge at times once you find it and head out there you are bound to make the ocean boil behind your boat.
Reefs and wrecks are alive with grouper and snapper. Don't forget grouper season is closed until May 1 so enjoy the fight but let them go for another day.
Tarpon will continue to move around as long as the water temperature is higher and calm winds also help too. They will be migrating soon and it's hard to tell when exactly it will start but peak times for tarpon are April through July.
A special thanks to Yeti Coolers for the best cooler on the planet that now sits on my skiff ready to keep our meals and beer cold for all eternity.
For more information on fishing please email us or call 305-744-0903.
Featured Articles & Televison
"Getting Guided" on the Sportsman Channel. A new series featuring Capt. Justin Rea, Lance Gleason of 406 Productions. The series shows you fishing in salt and fresh water through the eyes of a fishing guide.
Capt. Justin Rea was featured on "The New Fly Fisher" television show in two seperate episodes about winter fishing in the Keys. The Season Four episodes 420 & 422 show fly fishing in the Keys. Look on their website for more details on when it will air in your area.
Collier & Rea win 2008 & 2009 Super Fly - read more...
Rea & Greg VIncent of H2O Bahamas place second in the 2010 Del Brown Invitational Permit Tournament
Rea & Greg VIncent of H2O Bahamas win 2011 Del Brown Invitational Permit Tournament. Vincent caught the only permit in the tournament on the last day of fishing.
Collier & Rea win 2012 Super Fly
William Collier & Rea win Fly Division of the Redbone S.L.A.M. in Key West.
Rea & Greg Vincent of H2O Bahamas win the 2013 Del Brown Permit Tournament. Vincent caught 2 permit the second day.
Fighting the 'Silver King' in shallow water
Fly anglers flock to the Keys each year for a shot at hooking (and maybe landing) a tarpon on a fly rod. The tarpon, referred to as the Silver King, provides gill-rattling jumps and long reel screaming runs. Feeding a tarpon a fly is not only exhilirating for the angler, but equally as exciting for the guide to see. Tarpon do have a season in Key West. Generally the migration is from April through June. Don't rule out any other month of the year though, tarpon can be found here year-round and depending on the weather can be actively fished for on the flats from February through November.
Key West Tarpon Fishing
Don't wait until January, book your trip now for tarpon season. Inquire about booking a charter for Tarpon Season in Key West.
Shallow flats surround the Florida Keys and give fish like tarpon, bonefish and permit a healthy environment to feed with each rise and fall of the tide. Fishing for these prized species along with large barracuda, jacks, sharks, cobia, and mutton snapper present so many opportunities all within the serenity of a shallow pristine flat. We fish for these species by sight casting with live bait, plug or artificial lure and also with a fly.
Key West Permit Fishing
The ultimate in saltwater fly fishing
Permit are one of the most elusive gamefish on the flats. Their body shaped like a dinner plate gives them ultimate fighting power with the leverage of their body against the pull of a fishing line. Permit are found in larger numbers in the Lower Keys, Key West and Marquesas area. They can often be found tailing in shallow water on a calm day but this can also be the most difficult time to fish for them. Many guides prefer a little wind to help them get the boat closer to the fish without spooking him.
Bonefishing in the Florida Keys
The grey ghost of the flats
Bonefish are also found in the Key West area. Unlike our counterparts in Belize or the Bahamas, our fish tend to be larger. The average bonefish here in the Keys is 4-6 pounds with larger fish over ten pounds available.
Toothy creatures of the flats
Barracuda are a well known both on the flats and offshore for being "toothy' creatures. The barracuda will strike very aggressively and make mad runs sometimes jumping completely out of the water.
Many species roam the flats
Sharks are spectacular on the flats. There is nothing like seeing a bull shark pushing water on a flat while half his body is out of the water! There are many species of sharks that populate the flats around Key West.
Hard fighting jacks on fly
Jacks are fun and hard fighting fish. When they are schooled up, they can be easier to catch on fly. A plug or jig works well too. They range from a few pounds up to 15 pounds and can be found in deeper channels between flats or following a sting ray.
Lower Keys backcountry flats
Sugarloaf Marina is one of our launching points. Tarpon, bonefish and permit are all accessible from Sugarloaf Key by flats skiff. This area has intricate mangrove islands and vast sand flats.
Harbor flats and Lakes Passage
Key West Harbor has many adjoining flats and channels that are home to tarpon. The Lakes Passage offers shallow water grass flats that are perfect for permit fishing.
Florida Keys atoll
Twenty two miles from Key West are the Marquesas Keys. This atoll is teeming with fish. This sanctuary is host to many flats and hold all types of shallow water species.
Flies for tarpon, bonefish & permit
View the gallery of saltwater flies tied step-by-step for many of the saltwater flats fish including tarpon, bonefish, permit, cobia and sharks.
What's biting this week...
Read up on what's biting on the flats and offshore in this report.
Rates & Reservations
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