an insider look at some of our best
bays to fish with some of the best
local captains from around the country
WORDS BY Captain PEPE GONZALEZ
KEY SPECIES: TARPON, PERMIT, SNOOK, amberjack, barracuda, bonefish, cobia, dolphin, grouper, kingfish, wahoo and much more.
Reel: Penn Fathom Low profile all sizes, Penn Fathom Lever drag all sizes
REEL: PENN LIve liner spinning and slammer all sizes
While Key West doesn’t exactly fit into the “Bay” description it’s a region we’d be crazy not to mention with so many similarities in fishing and conditions to bays.
Key West is the most diverse fishery in the United States, it is the prize location for fisherman and nothings quite like it. From the different species to different techniques it is truly an anglers paradise. For the sake of this editorial piece, we’ll be narrowing in on one key fishery, our tarpon fishery.
Springtime is tarpon time in Key West and nothing tells you that springtime has arrived quite like watching the large tarpon biomasses rolling, shimmering, and busting on bait in the channels throughout the Florida Keys. The tarpon, also known as the silver king, is one of the most sought-after species by anglers from around the world. Every spring, local fishing guides like myself fill out their calendars, some times a year in advance with anglers looking to cross out the tarpon of the old bucket list,
Even though the channels are littered with tarpon, hooking up to them on a consistent basis is no easy task and preparation is everything. Tarpon fishing in the Florida Keys is extremely competitive and quite often in close quarters. So, in order to be the one boat that hooks the most fish, you must have your boat and tackle completely dialed in ahead of time. Tides are also very important and timing your fishing according to what the tides are doing and where the biomasses are can make all the difference. Tides move forward by about 1 hour each day so you can make a pretty accurate forecast for tomorrow’s tides by what happened today.
You can target tarpon on artificial lures, fly-fishing, and chumming with dead bait, but in my opinion, using live bait is the key to success, especially when coupled with chumming. In the lower Florida Keys pinfish are the most commonly used tarpon baits due to their availability and the fact that you can easily trap them. Mullet is also widely known as amazing bait, but they are not easily accessible. As a fishing guide, I am running against the clock, and when every minute matters I can’t spend time trying to catch mullet. When catching pinfish, I’ll use a frozen chum block to bait the trap and pull the trap every day in order to have enough to cut and chum with and for using them live.
Once you’ve got your bait, you’ll need to find the fish before you can start fishing. Sometimes you’ll need to look for them on your fish finder and other times its as easy as seeing them roll on the surface, but you’ll want to make sure the fish are down current from you when you drop anchor. I like to anchor around 50 to 70-feet up-current of the biomass.
BERKLEY VANISH FLUOROCARBON
FUSION OCTOPUS HOOK
BERKLEY GULP SALTWATER JERK SHAD