“Nothing stays the same”, as the old saying goes. It’s mid February and I’m in the office with some time to reflect on another successful season fishing here in Southwest Florida. We’ve been blessed with an unusually mild transition into winter, which has extended the season for targeting local tarpon a few extra weeks into the Holiday Season.
It’s an Obsession
It’s common for outdoorsmen to get into a comfortable rhythm in our sporting activities. We are creatures of habit and patterns. Following our quarry day after day, joining in on their prehistoric rhythm as the weeks turn into months. Fortunately, for anglers here in Southern Florida, nearly eight months of the year offer favorable temperature and conditions starting in March and holding well into the late fall.
There are few species that captivate me as an angler like the tarpon does. It’s hard to argue the silver king’s position as the ultimate inshore saltwater game fish. These animals have migrated the warm southern oceans for millions of years. They follow ancient routes along the Caribbean through the Florida Keys, stopping along the immense labyrinth of islands and passes along the Ten Thousand Islands northward along the upper Gulf of Mexico and back again. Frequently reaching sizes upwards of two hundred pounds, the tarpon will test the best anglers’ wits and stamina. Some days, they feed with reckless abandon, devouring anything crossing before them. There are days where you may watch hundreds of tarpon swim past you, ignoring even the most delicate presentations.
They are predictable, yet wholly unpredictable at the same time. You’ll find yourself feeling confident, to be quickly humbled as they disappear on a single tide change. This challenge, the hunt, the presentation, the strike and the battle accumulate into one of our sport’s greatest achievements and obsessions. There is a brotherhood of guides and anglers that target them for months on end, only to patiently wait out the winter months, eagerly awaiting their arrival in spring.
The Last Dance
I always try to hold onto those last couple local fish of the season. Those moments of excitement will be remembered often over the next few months of winter. You’ll reminisce on the battles over strong beverages with fellow tarpon anglers and patiently wait for the return of the king.
Rewards For The Travelers
For those like myself who can’t go for more than a few weeks without hunting tarpon, angling opportunities exist during the coldest winter months if you know where to look. It’s not exactly a secret, but word doesn’t travel far about one of the best tarpon bites that occurs in South Florida. Every winter, during the coldest of front and strongest of winds, an epic bite unfolds under the cover of darkness along Miami’s Biscayne Bay and it’s connecting inlets. When the tides are right, shrimp migrations of massive proportions being pouring out of Biscayne Bay toward the ocean to spawn. This massive movement of food gathers tarpon by the thousands as they gorge on the giant crustaceans. A few select anglers have followed this migration for years and can predict the best tides and winds to fish this epic bite. The most productive techniques match the hatch and drift palm sized shrimp on light wire hooks along the inlets. Strikes are explosive and ravenous for those brave enough to battle the weather, looking for those hidden winter tarpon.
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