February is our coolest month in the Florida Keys, you can expect the fronts to steadily continue to funnel down but if some of those fronts stall north of us we may get a peek of spring fishing in the Florida Keys!
Depending on how cold the water temperatures are we may see the tarpon migration begin. And that’s always a welcome sight for us and our visitors in the Florida Keys.
This usually happens from mid to late February.
Overnight large schools of tarpon will flood the channels and basins like Bahia Honda and Key West Harbor, but the large schools of tarpon can also disappear as quickly as they showed up by the drop in water temperature at a passing cold front.
if the water temperature riche 70* to 72* you can expect to see some of this schools moving in.
The offshore fishing will continue to pick up with lots of kingfish or king mackerel.
The Florida Keys are known for having by far the largest king mackerel in the country and they can be found inshore and offshore in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. These large predators arrive in large schools devouring everything in their path and are a lot of fun to catch. You can jig, troll or my favorite is to live bait for them.
Wire leader is a must since they have lots of really sharp teeth. King mackerel are known for an incredible burst of speed and aerial acrobatics while feeding. King mackerel is not one of the most popular eating fish due to its oily meat but if you smoke it or grill it is great!
Inshore you can also expect to find Spanish mackerel as well as cero mackerel. They are the cousin of the king mackerel and are mainly found inshore in the Florida Keys and are a lot of fun to catch on light tackle.
The Spanish mackerel can be recognized by their yellow dots along its body while the cero mackerel has a yellow stripe. Both of this mackerel are much better table fare than the king mackerel because of their white meat. These smaller cousins of the king mackerel will be here through spring and summer but can be found year round.
Live shrimp and pilchards are the bait of choice but small pinfish and ballyhoos will work as well.
Another welcome addition to the inshore rock piles are the porgies.
Porgies can be caught year round but the winter months are by far the best!
Porgies are incredible table fare, their white meat closely resembles hogfish. They are silver in color and have a blunt head. They are usually about 2lbs in weight but can reach 4-5lbs. Locals are very fond of them and preferred them to snapper any day.
Captain Brice Barr of the Double Down charter tells me porgies are his favorite fish in the Florida Keys. He targets them in the shallow rock piles to the southwest of Key West or in /Boca Grand channel. The bait of choice is live shrimp, but you can also get them with cut ballyhoos or pilchards.
These rock piles are extremely important to the local charter boat fleets. It allows them to go and have an action filled day without having to go offshore in high seas.
Best Bet Keys
It’s all about the inshore rock piles in the winter months!
Grab a few dozen of live shrimp and pinfish and head out there for an action filled day.
This shallow reef patches are teaming with life that can produce a mixed bag of edible fish.
Don’t forget the chum bag, it will speed things up a bit. Also, don’t forget the cast net; more bait will surely come up behind the boat.
Since February is one of the coldest months you can expect very little pressure from divers.
The rock piles are filled with lobster but with the dirty water conditions, they can be hard to spot.
A wet suit can definitely help keep you in the water longer, therefore, increase your chance.