Best place in the Keys for Tarpon and guide recommendations

Hello. I want to take my husband tarpon fishing for his 60th birthday which will be in early June of 2016(I know, I'm planning early, but sometimes these kinds of guides need to be booked almost a year in advance at peak season, so...). He has talked about fishing the flats in shallow water as one sees on the fishing shows. He's not really into ocean fishing. He is also not really a fly fisherman, though he has fly fished a little, he is more comfortable with spinner. In reading a bit it looks like either Key West or the Islamorada/Marathon areas would be good. Does anyone have recommendations on the best place to catch Tarpon that time of year in the flats? Also, a good guide recommendation would be great. Thanks!

Replies

  • duckmanJRduckmanJR Posts: 19,381 AG
    A couple of things...

    Those "flats" Tarpon are not that easy even with spinning gear...especially for a relative novice to that particular type fishing.

    Key West Tarpon fishing is good in winter....

    Homosassa or Boca Grand is good in Summer.

    An evening " Hill tide " trip out of Boca Grand would be a great experience....
    There are many roads to travel
    Many things to do.
    Knots to be unraveled
    'fore the darkness falls on you
  • LorenkyLorenky Posts: 10 Greenhorn
    Thank you for the replies. Looks like Captain Smith that you recommended fishes out of Marathon, Islamorada and Key West. So the question remains, for the time around June 8, in the Keys, which is the very best place to focus on catching Tarpon on the flats, the lower keys(Key West) or middle keys(Islamorada, Marathon)? I want to check out a couple of guides so it would be helpful to focus on just one area and speak to the guides in one area. Unless I am thinking of this wrong and the guides usually go all over the keys? From looking at their websites, it looks like most guides focus on one area. Thanks again for your help.
  • LorenkyLorenky Posts: 10 Greenhorn
    Hello again. So no one seemed to have an opinion on which part of the Keys is best for Tarpon fishing in early June? Am I going about this wrong, are all areas of the Keys the same that time of year? Any other recommendations for guides? Thanks for any additional feedback.
  • Little BuddyLittle Buddy Posts: 14 Greenhorn
    Lorenky wrote: »
    Hello again. So no one seemed to have an opinion on which part of the Keys is best for Tarpon fishing in early June? Am I going about this wrong, are all areas of the Keys the same that time of year? Any other recommendations for guides? Thanks for any additional feedback.

    The Keys are a great place to pursue tarpon at your specified time of year. A good guide should be able to find tarpon in the keys at this time of the year and I do not feel that there is a material difference in Key West vs Marathon/Islamorada, or in between. Good guides will find your husband tarpon to cast to in either place. You are not early in trying to find a guide but need to find a guide soon. Since I fish my own boat I am not a good source for guides taking new clients. Call the fly shops in Key West or Islamorada for recommendations but continue to be honest as you were in your post about your husbands ability. Catching a tarpon under these conditions is not easy but well worth the pursuit. Best of luck for a great 60th B Day for your husband.
  • Permit RatPermit Rat Posts: 2,283 Captain
    Lorenky wrote: »
    Hello again. So no one seemed to have an opinion on which part of the Keys is best for Tarpon fishing in early June? Am I going about this wrong, are all areas of the Keys the same that time of year? Any other recommendations for guides? Thanks for any additional feedback.

    Ma'am, Tarpon are migratory, so the entire length of the Keys will see these fish and early June is still prime time for them. However, the tarpon migration will start in earnest, in January, depending on the Winter weather pattern for this upcoming year.

    That said, I would suggest an earlier trip, say in April. In my opinion, you want to be fishing before the first worm hatch, which these days due to global warming, usually comes in May. The reason for this is that before the hatches begin, there will be more tarpon in the back country. If the wind kicks up, which is inevitable, the back country has more places to go and "hide" out of the wind (tarpon don't like wind) and your husband will have a better chance. After the worm hatches begin, the tarpon are more concentrated on the ocean side of the Keys and windy weather will simply send them out to deeper water. They can still be caught, but you'll be using bait in deeper water, possibly anchored and just sitting there, waiting for a bite.

    Please do not put any faith in fishing shows OR what you might read in magazine articles. In my day, it was common to see articles coming out in the magazines, beginning about Christmas time, and lasting all through the Spring. Unfortunately, what the reader failed to recognize (and also what the author/editors forgot to mention in the article) was that the actual fishing was done in July or August, when the wind was calm and the guides were not as busy. People showed up in hoards in December and January, expecting to catch tarpon, permit and bonefish, while the wind was blowing 20 and the water temp. was 67 degrees or so.

    Where TV shows are concerned, (I have done several of these) they were often shot over a 3 day period.....That's 24+ hours of fishing, to make the 23 minute segment that you see on TV. Guides and anglers had to wear the same clothes for 3 days, so it would look like the fishing was all done in one day. To me, this was a great disservice, not only to the guides who felt pressured to duplicate a day like that in real time, but also to the paying client who walked away from an otherwise very successful day on the water, yet felt cheated because he didn't catch a grand slam....or a double grand slam, for that matter. I once had a guy who caught 2 permit and a mutton snapper on the flats in a half-day. I was ecstatic......he was very "non-plussed." He thought they did that every day.
    .......Rick
  • Derek ArsuaDerek Arsua Posts: 2,474 Officer
    Capt Chris Barron owner of stray cat charters. In islamorada he charters out of the world wide sportsman. Has 2 different boats a maverick skiff or his larger center console Everglades. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Straycat-Charters/130687163562. He's been in the business a long time
  • RollinRollin Posts: 1,540 Captain
    If you can fish several days that would be best and really three or four if you can afford it. Like was stated above the weather is part of it, tides, fishing pressure and the skill of the angler come into play too.
    You might also consider a portion of the trip dedicated to using some live bait. Just a way of at least of hooking up to a few.

    One last thing, seeing them, hooking them and landing them are three separate things. It's a very low ratio of sighted fish to hookups and even when you hookup it's a low percentage that get landed.

    Good luck and keep us posted on how it goes.
  • mtd885mtd885 Posts: 1,159 Officer
    Lorenky wrote: »
    Hello. I want to take my husband tarpon fishing for his 60th birthday which will be in early June of 2016(I know, I'm planning early, but sometimes these kinds of guides need to be booked almost a year in advance at peak season, so...). He has talked about fishing the flats in shallow water as one sees on the fishing shows. He's not really into ocean fishing. He is also not really a fly fisherman, though he has fly fished a little, he is more comfortable with spinner. In reading a bit it looks like either Key West or the Islamorada/Marathon areas would be good. Does anyone have recommendations on the best place to catch Tarpon that time of year in the flats? Also, a good guide recommendation would be great. Thanks!

    Call Capt Mark Johnson and tell him Michael with the egret skiff and Abby Doodle sent you. He specializes in beginners who want to learn the secrets of Tarpon fishing. Good luck http://www.floridakeysfunfishing.com/
  • LorenkyLorenky Posts: 10 Greenhorn
    Hi, thanks for all the responses. I talked to Bob about it, we are planning and can afford two days of guided fishing. I'm assuming live bait means ocean fishing. He really does want to hook up, so we were thinking of perhaps one day flats fishing so he can have that experience, and one day live bait in the ocean or by the bridges to increase his chances of actually catching something? Is this a better plan? He does get seasick, is this fishing in the bay, or in the ocean where he needs to seasickness meds?
  • mtd885mtd885 Posts: 1,159 Officer
    Lorenky wrote: »
    Hi, thanks for all the responses. I talked to Bob about it, we are planning and can afford two days of guided fishing. I'm assuming live bait means ocean fishing. He really does want to hook up, so we were thinking of perhaps one day flats fishing so he can have that experience, and one day live bait in the ocean or by the bridges to increase his chances of actually catching something? Is this a better plan? He does get seasick, is this fishing in the bay, or in the ocean where he needs to seasickness meds?

    Mark has several boat suitable to all you mention. Did I mention he's great with newbies?
  • RollinRollin Posts: 1,540 Captain
    I was referring to Tarpon fishing with live bait.
    Here's a small example of how it works.
    Go to your Google maps and find Craig key. It's in between Lower Matecumbe and Long key.
    You can anchor in the channel on the Florida Bay side and just a hundred feet or so from the old bridge(there are two bridges there,the old one on the Bayside and just right next to it,the new one on the Oceanside). The ideal time to be there is the last half of the outgoing tide, that is when the water will be flowing fast from Florida bay through the channel and out into the Atlantic.
    Starting with a live well full of it Pilchards is helpful, you can scoop a few up out of the well, pick one out of the net with your hand, punch one eye out and drop him in the water. Wait 20 or 30 seconds and repeat. Pretty soon you will have a string of wounded pilchards flowing back under the bridge. They will be fluttering in circles on the surface. If you're lucky, not long after you start you'll hear a slurping sound as a big tarpon comes up and starts feeding on the pilchards.
    Put a Pilcard on your line and start feeding him back to the bridge.
    He'll get slurped too and you set the hook, then all hell breaks loose.
    This is what you made the trip for !!!
    There are many channels in the Keys where you can repeat this scenario, it doesn't have to include a bridge. It doesn't have to be pilchards it could be shrimp,it could be Mullet.
    You don't necessarily have to Chum. The guide you hire will have his own honey holes and ways of doing things. I'm just offering up a slightly different and not uncommon way. Catching Pilchards is mostly about finding them. It's helpful if one person can run the boat and one can throw the net.

    One last thing, when your anchored up in a channel it's good to have a buoy on your anchor line with a quick disconnect clip. When you hook up this system allows you to drop the anchor line and fight the Tarpon and then come back later and retrieve your anchor.
  • DogDocDogDoc Posts: 686 Officer
    Lorenky wrote: »
    Hi, thanks for all the responses. I talked to Bob about it, we are planning and can afford two days of guided fishing. I'm assuming live bait means ocean fishing. He really does want to hook up, so we were thinking of perhaps one day flats fishing so he can have that experience, and one day live bait in the ocean or by the bridges to increase his chances of actually catching something? Is this a better plan? He does get seasick, is this fishing in the bay, or in the ocean where he needs to seasickness meds?
    In the Lower Keys, Bill Welder (captain bill.net) is the best fisherman for tarpon on live bait that I know. Nothing in fishing is ever guaranteed, but barring weather issues he has the experience and techniques that make a multiple fish day a genuinely realistic expectation. He could also recommend a flats guide for the shallow-water experience. The Lower Keys have some really beautiful water.
  • sparse greysparse grey Posts: 1,751 Captain
    BIG X 2 on Bill Welder. Good luck with your plans.
    Ron Conner Release the fish, keep the memories. Once a Knight is enough.
  • SpeadCrasherSpeadCrasher Posts: 121 Officer
    BIG X 2 on Bill Welder. Good luck with your plans.

    X3 on Bill. Fished two times with him for Tarpon and our party fought fish till our arms fell off. Too many hook ups to count. Good luck and let us know how you do.
  • LorenkyLorenky Posts: 10 Greenhorn
    Thanks very much to all who responded. I'm starting to call some of your recommendations and seeing what they advise. At this point we are thinking of one day charter and one day flats to get both experiences.
  • Permit RatPermit Rat Posts: 2,283 Captain
    Lorenky wrote: »
    Thanks very much to all who responded. I'm starting to call some of your recommendations and seeing what they advise. At this point we are thinking of one day charter and one day flats to get both experiences.

    If you're going to go that route (good for you!) Then what I said earlier goes double and you could even move your dates back to March, except March is historically a very windy month. I will tell you that bonefish and tarpon don't like wind. The former will still get shallow, but still be in deeper water than normal. Tarpon will leave the oceanside flats but you'll still find them in protected areas in the back country. Permit seem to love the wind....at least it seems they are just as plentiful in 20 kts. as they are in 10. The problem you will have with permit in June, is that the lion's share of them will be out in deep water spawning. Catching them there is no challenge at all. You could blindfold your husband, hook him up to an amberjack and he wouldn't know the difference. The earlier in the year you can go will be better for permit on the flats. Oh....and if you're lucky enough to catch a bonefish and a permit, I'll bet that the interest in bonefish takes a back seat to the permit from then on. Permit are much much more of a challenge, both in getting a hook-up and then also in getting them to the boat.
    .......Rick
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