Speak to any captain in Key West about the best time to come fishing here, and chances are you’ll be met with one response: “It’s great year-round!” This tropical island city, located at the southernmost point of the US, boasts beautiful weather and fish-filled waters all through the year. However, certain species and fisheries are more active at specific times. Getting to grips with Key West fishing seasons is a must before you explore these bountiful waters.
Below, we’ve delved into what you can expect during each month of the year when fishing in Key West, no matter whether you’re cruising the bays and mangroves, dropping lines around the many reefs, or heading further offshore to explore deep blue waters. Let’s see what’s on offer.
What can I expect from Key West’s fishing seasons?
When it comes to booking your Key West fishing trip, there’s probably one question on your mind. When is high season? Well, unlike most other locations across the US, Key West really doesn’t have on and off-seasons. It boasts access to both the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, and there’s always something in these waters!
Basically, every month of the Key West fishing season holds excellent fishing opportunities for experienced and novice anglers alike. Below, we’ve covered what each month holds, so you can plan your trip based around your chosen fish species. Or, you can check out what’s biting right now.
If you’re visiting Key West in January, come prepared for changeable weather. Or as changeable as it gets here, anyway! This is generally the coldest month of the year, but daily temperatures still average at around 70°F, rarely dipping below the mid-60s.
And there’s one big reason why you should come fishing in Key West in January: Sailfish. Thanks to their migratory patterns, they can be found swarming offshore waters in huge numbers throughout the winter. They’re joined by that year-round favorite, Wahoo, as well as Cero Mackerel.
If you want to stay closer to shore, the Gulf-side wrecks are home to King Mackerel, large schools of Permit, Cobia, and a variety of Shark species. You may also encounter Blackfin and Bonito Tuna. The flats and backcountry waters can be more unpredictable, but Spotted Seatrout and Pompano are especially plentiful.
Spring is slowly but surely approaching. The weather starts warming up during this month, with average daily highs of 75°F. Warm spells linger for longer and cold fronts decrease in length and longevity. It’s the perfect time to spend a day out on the water!
The change in weather has a big impact on flats and backcountry fishing, in particular. Depending on how warm the waters get, it can herald the start of the great Tarpon migration. Key West’s excellent Spotted Seatrout fishery remains strong, and these guys are joined by Jack Crevalle, Bluefish, more Pompano, Snapper species, and Sharks.
Around the wrecks and reefs, especially on the Atlantic side of the island, big schools of Blackfin Tuna gather. Kingfish are moving through on their annual migration, and Barracuda, Cobia, and Snapper species are lurking nearby, too. Further offshore, Sailfish fishing remains strong, and southeasterly winds bring Mahi Mahi with them.
As spring arrives, so do some excellent fishing opportunities! March sees surface water temperatures climbing rapidly and usually averaging at around 75°F, whereas on land there are consistent daily highs of around 80°F. Blustery spring weather can make for potentially rough water conditions on the Atlantic but also stirs up the ocean, which makes the bite even hotter.
March is often heralded as the real start of Key West’s sportfishing season. The blue waters south of the city are prime for fishing during this month, holding plenty of Sailfish, Mahi Mahi, and Tuna species. If you’re spending time around the reefs and wrecks, you can expect to encounter large schools of Jack Crevalle, as well as Lemon and Blacktip Shark.
Inshore waters are heating up, too. Plenty of Permit stalk the flats, but there’s one species that’s on every angler’s lips. Yep, if you’re lucky enough to fish on a day when water temperatures reach 75° or above, you might get yourself a face-to-face meeting with the Silver King – Tarpon – itself!