View Full Version : Question Early April fishing recommendations- wreck or tarpon
12-06-2010, 08:19 PM
Planning a trip to Key West for the first week of April. The charter we are going with offers tarpon and wreck trips. What would you local guys recommend...a pure tarpon trip or a wreck trip. My son is 13 and I think he is more excited about the possibility of catching a variety of fish...as opposed to a handful of giant tarpon.
Any suggestions would be very much appreciated.....tarpon or wreck in early April.
Have fished quite a bit in Key West in late March / early April over the past 4 years. The tarpon fishing is hit or miss at that time, depending on weather. It gets more reliable in late April / May. March 2010 was so cold we did not see any tarpon in the harbor, except a couple around the docks later in the month. However the 3 previous years they were there at least some of the time. When tarpon are around, they can be finicky in the daytime, and it can take a very careful finesse presentation to get them to bite (if you are not chumming). Even fishing with a live pinfish, you have to let line out at the same speed as the current so the bait will act natural, otherwise they will likely turn up their noses at it. I have never chummed for them, but have heard that it's a more surefire way to get them to bite. Some guides chum, others don't. We have done much better night fishing for tarpon (in our own boat) than on 3 guide trips in the daytime - it is relatively easy to get them to bite at night, IF you can find the fish. Finding them is hard enough in the daytime (sometimes they roll, sometimes they don't) and it's even trickier at night. I rely more on electronics at night. If you catch 1 tarpon you will catch more than we did on 3 charter trips...we got one hooked, and a couple "bumps", but that's it.
Wreck fishing you will get *much* more action. Several types of grouper and many types of snapper will be around wrecks, and they're hungry. There are even a number of wrecks right in the harbor that hold grouper - most under 5 lb, but I did hook into a 30-40 lb baby goliath on one of those small wrecks. Also possible on wrecks are barracuda...have seen some big ones too.
Also don't overlook fishing the grass flats... those can be very productive too. I'm not talking about going for glamour species of bonefish / permit... there are plenty of other fish around on the flats and channels. Jack crevalles are awesome fighters. Between harbor, flats, and channels, we have caught 20-something different species down there. Tie a 3" Gulp shrimp on a 1/8 or 1/4 oz jighead and have a blast...that is mostly what we use for that type of fishing... those and jerk shads sometimes.
02-09-2011, 12:12 PM
I would do the wreck trip. Grouper, snapper, yellowtail, grunts, blue runners, bar jacks, yellow jacks, amberjacks, triggerfish, spadefish, houndfish, barracuda, sharks, margate, etc... You may also run into Spanish, cero and king mackerel and there's always the possibility of cobia. If the wreck is in deep, blue water, you may also have a stray pelagic show up. I've caught dolphin fishing over a wreck right past the reef. You put that chum out and you will have hundreds of fish behind the boat and they will be hungry. Great for a kid. Constant action, lots of variety, still a good chance for a big fish and the fish are mostly edible. Did I also mention you may see some big permit over the wreck?
Tarpon fishing is like deer hunting. A lot more waiting and a lot less action. Then you release the fish and you can't even lift them out of the water anymore.
That time of year, go with the wreck fishing. The only way I'd consider a Tarpon trip at that time is if there's been an easterly wind for a few days.
02-11-2011, 02:34 PM
I agree, go for the reef/wreck trip. You'll have a lot more more action and catch more species plus the bonus a of a good meal for your effort but on the down side the wind can at times blow for days during that time of year which could impact a reef trip more than a tarpon trip.
Not sure how the east wind effects Tarpon, I never heard that but I suppose there could be something to it. Anyway, the Tarpon run normally kicks in somtime in April, I thought when was more a factor of the water temp, which is mostly due to the weather, I don't know but I'm pretty sure there are resident fish in Key West harbor that a good guide could put you on at just about any time of year. But, soaking bait on the bottom in the harbor for them (for me anyway) is a fairly boring way to fish for them. If the weather is good and the migration is on - spring is when they are migrating so you have a better chance of finding them on the flats which involves sight fishing which can be very exciting but will require some casting skills...
ps: if you're driving south from Miami there are several bridges along the way you can catch them on the way down.
Water Boy - Heck, I don't fish there enough to know! But, I was told that an easterly wind will push the warmer stream water closer to shore... so, you're right, it is more to do with water temp.
02-11-2011, 06:59 PM
I rarely travel any further south than Big Pine or Ramrod so that could be a local thing in Key West. For the rest of it - I really don't know either. I don't want to come off as a know it all, I'm just trying to share a few things I have learned to either help others or provoke a discussion that we all can learn from.
I have heard so many explanations for when the tarpon will show, where they come from, and where they go, I don't know what to believe. The only thing that I have observed over the last 20 years that I have been visiting there is when the keys have a mild winter and warm sunny spring, the tarpon tend to show up in force and go on their annual feeding binge earlier than if it's cold and crappy.
The reason I question the Easterly wind theory, the keys run more east to west than they do north to south so an easterly wind doesn't really push the stream closer to shore but a south wind does. Either way, I don't know if or how much the position of the Gulf stream effects the rarpon migration or inshore water temperatures. I do believe the inshore water temperature is most influenced by the air temp and sunshine, I always study the weather closely for a few weeks before my trip so I can factor that into my game plan.
02-11-2011, 10:54 PM
You're right. The Gulf Stream won't have much effect on inshore tarpon fishing. At best, it's a mile off the reef, which is 6 miles from shore. And it would take a more southerly wind to push ocean waters into the Keys. Warm sunny days are what will help the shallow, inshore bite.
The most consistent, year-round tarpon fishery in the Keys is in Key West Harbor. It's very deep water and the tarpon go deep when it gets cold. I've seen plenty of tarpon when diving the reef as well. This makes me think they will go deep when water temps are cool. The migration will probably depend more on the amount of daylight, to a lesser extent would be bait they're eating and third would be water temps. If it gets cool, they lay low. If it gets colder, they head to the deep water.
But, the result is the same for you. If the water is cold, tarpon fishing will be tough. The poons may be in the area, but not feeding. Which would make me go wreck fishing.
Either way, in my experience, the reliable tarpon fishing kicks off in late April to early May. So, you may get a good tarpon trip, but odds are better that you may not.
I would check down there periodically until your trip, though. If the tarpon gets hot before your trip, you may reconsider.
Water Boy - Not coming off as a know it all, at all... and I appreciate your input. Just passing on what I'd been told... And, I CERTAINLY don't know much about fishing those waters!
03-31-2011, 07:19 PM
Thanks to all for the good input. Our Capt'n suggested a few morning hours targeting tarpon in the harbor then we will head out to the wrecks. I will provide a report and hopefully some pics. Thanks again.