Capt. Scott Collins, Florida Keys Fly Fishing

Fishing Seasons

Early Spring: February, March, April

As spring approaches, consistent stretches of warm days and increased periods of sun encourage fish to feed in the shallows. Permit are one of the primary species to make their way onto the flats as it warms, and multiple shots can be expected in a day, with fish in excess of 30 pounds not uncommon.

Tarpon make their way into the backcountry as well. These giant’s will move in and out of the backcountry as the weather fluctuates with the remaining cold fronts. The tarpon fishing this time of year can be the best all season. These early season fish are relaxed and often very large, and a well placed fly almost always fools them.

Bonefish also begin to show more consistently as the water warms. Barracudas and Jack Cravelles also frequent the flats during this time. These fish are surprisingly underrated, despite the aggressive bites, hard runs and jumps. They offer numerous shots and consistent opportunities even in inclement or cold weather and are an outstanding opportunity for anglers to polish up on their casting and fish-fighting skills.

Spring: April, May, June, early July

This time of year in the Florida Keys is known worldwide for the best tarpon sight-fishing in existence. Despite the thousands of large tarpon that migrate through Keys waters, an experienced guide is still required for consistent, quality shots at the silver king. Quality guides are booked solid then, but anglers who develop a relationship with top guides are often able to secure dates during these prime times.

Bonefish, Permit, Redfish, Snook, and other species are found in abundance on the flats during this season, yet attention is focused on tarpon, so superb flats are full of willing, unpressured fish.

Summer: July, August, September, October

No other season of the year offers better overall fishing than the summer season. Deciding what to pursue is often the toughest choice. This is the time of year when catching a Grand Slam (Tarpon, Bonefish, and Permit in a single day) is most likely. It is a great challenge and thrill to coordinate the day in order to be at the right place and time to achieve the Slam.

Tarpon of all sizes still frequent the backcountry, with small/medium tarpon (between 5 and 50 pounds) in greatest abundance. Often more willing than their larger cousins, "baby" tarpon offer the new and experienced angler alike tremendous sight fishing opportunities. Large "resident" fish can still reward the patient angler all summer into fall as well.

Bonefishing is at its peak this time of year with great numbers of fish on the flats. Permit have returned from offshore spawning grounds and flood the flats in great numbers. Snook and Redfish are at their peak as well.

Captain Scott considers this the best overall flats fishing of the year. Not only are multiple species available, but most are at their peak. These are tropical, warm water species and are in their element during these warm months. Afternoons can be “too hot” for angler and fish alike, so we are often on the water early before extreme temperatures force fish off the flats. On most days, however, the combination of light breezes, great tides, and as fall approaches, milder weather combines to offer fantastic fishing all day long.

Fall: October, November, December

As days get shorter and nights cooler, Keys water temperatures fall slightly and fish change into fall patterns. These slightly cooler temperatures bring the giant Keys Bonefish onto the flats to feed. It’s not uncommon to have daily shots at Bonefish 10 pounds and larger. This is prime time to pursue the largest bonefish in the world. A bonefish of 9 or 10 pounds is a great thrill, one 12 pounds or more is a world class experience.

Permit are fairly temperature tolerant, so they are still heavily pursued during this time, especially on the better tides. Snook, Redfish, Jacks, Barracudas, and Sharks are still plentiful in the shallows as well.

Winter: December, January, February

Cooler water temperatures and cold fronts and are common. Large Barracudas, Jack Crevalles, and Sharks frequent the flats and offer great fishing. When there are warm days between cold fronts, water temperatures rise and offer windows to pursue the "glamour" species of the shallows. In fact, fishing can be quite phenomenal for large Tarpon “laid up” in the backcountry, Bonefish, Permit, Snook, and Redfish. All will feed aggressively on the flats until the next front pushes through.

These cooler months also bring a huge influx of other species into the inshore waters of the Keys. A wide variety of species such as Speckled Trout, Spanish Mackerel, Bluefish, Ladyfish, Snapper, Jacks, and Sharks are common and can be fished with both light spinning and fly tackle. Fishing is done in the slightly deeper waters of the backcountry. It’s a great time to have some fun with a lot of rod-bending action.