Fishing Seasons

Key West Fishing Seasons
By: Capt Steven Lamp – Veteran Key West Fishing Guide.

Permit capt. steven lamp, key west fishing

Capt. Steven Poses with a Key West permit..

When to come to Key West for your favorite species. I cant tell you how many times I have been asked this question… I always look at the person puzzled. My answer is usually canned… “Fishing in Key West is always good. When are you coming? What would you like to fish for and how would you like to fish for these fish?”

So what I have done is, I have laid out a guideline here with fishing seasons for Key West, Florida. Month By month.. 

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  • January

    • Flats Fishing
      • Permit, Sharks, Barracudas, Redfish, Cobia, Jacks
        • The flats are very susceptible to cold snaps and the fish get affected greatly from it. Warming trends find permit on the flats along with big barracudas and sharks. Just about any day or weather anglers will have shots at jack crevale and cobia drafting the sting rays in the shallows.. Here at Dream Catcher Charters we do not utilize traditional flats boats to fish the flats.. We instead use our shallow drafted bay boats. Same price better results.
    • Backcountry Fishing
      • Pompano, Trout, Sharks, Redfish, Bluefish, Snapper, Barracudas, Jacks, Ladyfish, Tarpon, Cobia
        • Colds snaps help most of these species for the exception of the tarpon. Tarpon get put down by cooler weather but everything else lights up. Lots of casting for many different types of fish and all  of them are hungry. Not uncommon for anglers to catch over 20 species of fish over 18 inches on our backcountry fishing charters.
    • Wrecks Reef
      • Yellowtail Snapper, Mutton Snapper, Jacks, Barracudas, Permit, Sharks, Kingfish, Cobia, Cero, Spanish Mackerel
        • Permit are on the wrecks with Cobia in good numbers. Barracudas are a nice side catch here as well. The reef is inundated with great snapper fishing with the cooler temps and the copious amounts of bait fish.
    • Blue Water Deep Sea Fishing
  • Sailfish, Tuna, Wahoo, Dolphin, Kingfish, Spanish and Cero Mackerel, Bonito
    • Hit or miss on all the species above for the exception of kingfish, bonito and any of the mackerels. Wahoo are best on full moon along with any possibility of a blue marlin. Weather dependent can be windy.. SE winds means dolphin.
  • February

    • Flats Fishing
      • Permit, Sharks, Barracudas, Redfish, Cobia, Jacks
        • The flats are very susceptible to cold snaps and the fish get affected greatly from it. Warming trends find permit on the flats along with big barracudas and sharks. Just about any day or weather anglers will have shots at jack crevale and cobia drafting the sting rays in the shallows..
    • Backcountry Fishing
      • Pompano, Trout, Sharks, Redfish, Bluefish, Snapper, Barracudas, Jacks, Ladyfish, Tarpon, Cobia
        • Colds snaps help most of these species for the exception of the tarpon. Tarpon get put down by cooler weather but everything else lights up. Tarpon are getting more plentiful but still not season.
    • Wrecks Reef
      • Yellowtail Snapper, Mutton Snapper, Jacks, Barracudas, Permit, Sharks, Kingfish, Cobia, Cero, Spanish Mackerel
        • Permit are on the wrecks with Cobia in good numbers. Barracudas are a nice side catch here as well. The reef is inundated with great snapper fishing with the cooler temps and the copious amounts of bait fish. Some shots at Gulf Black fin tunas can show up behind the shrimp boats.
    • Blue Water Deep Sea Fishing
      • Sailfish, Tuna, Wahoo, Dolphin, Kingfish, Spanish and Cero Mackerel, Bonito
        • Hit or miss on all the species above for the exception of kingfish, bonito and any of the mackerels. Wahoo are best on full moon along with any possibility of a blue marlin. Weather dependent can be windy.. SE winds means dolphin.
  • March

    • Flats Fishing
      • Permit, Sharks, Barracudas, Redfish, Cobia, Jacks
        • This authors favorite month for larger tailing permit. The larger permit are more educated but the March winds keep them from hearing so well. I wont say its easier to stalk them but it can be.. Also in March when it warms some tarpon will start to lay up in certain areas of the deeper flats. In March the winds are up but we make the choice between our bay boats or our flats boat. Anglers choice if he wants to just target permit. Unless it is unseasonably warmer there are not many bonefish around. Fly fishermen will enjoy all sorts of opportunities for many different species of fish including permit. The prestigious March Merkin permit fly fishing tournament is held in March. With all the activity on the flats the sharks are everywhere. Bull sharks are spawning.
    • Backcountry Fishing
      • Pompano, Trout, Sharks, Redfish, Bluefish, Barracudas, Snapper, Jacks, Ladyfish, Tarpon, Cobia
        • First month of tarpon fishing season tarpon are in the channels and eating bait very well. Cobia and permit mixed in with the tarpon. The start of Spring puts a step in every ones day. Lots to catch. Many of our backcountry fishing charters will include a Marquesas Keys fishing experience this time of the year. A great way to see and do more in a fishing charter than anywhere else. Shark fishing is amazing in March with big sharks and lots of fight..
    • Wrecks Reef Fishing
      • Yellowtail Snapper, Mutton Snapper, Jacks, Barracudas, Permit, Sharks, Kingfish, Cobia, Cero, Spanish Mackerel
        • Permit in good numbers are on the wrecks with fewer cobia than January and February. Barracudas are a nice side catch. Kingfish in the Gulf of Mexico and black fin tunas around the shrimp boats. The reef is inundated with great snapper fishing with the cooler temps and the copious amounts of bait fish. No grouper as they are out of season…
    • Blue Water Deep Sea Fishing
      • Sailfish, Tuna, Wahoo, Dolphin, Kingfish, Spanish and Cero Mackerel, Bonito
        • Strong month for sailfish, dolphin and black fin tunas. Windy month so look for sailfish tailing down the edges. March is a great time for some fun fishing in the blue waters south of Key West. A half day trip will reward you with some good times.
  • April

    • Flats Fishing
      • Permit, Sharks, Barracudas, Redfish, Bonefish
        • Bonefish are back for warm water in the shallows offering shots to our anglers on light tackle and fly fishing equipment. Tarpon start working the edges and the tops of flats for fly fishing toward the end of the month. The beginning of April is the tail end of the Shark Spawn but shark fishing is still really good on fly or artificial. Beginning of month long permit so they are scarce. Barracudas are always in the shallows.
    • Backcountry Fishing
      • Tarpon, Trout, Sharks, Redfish, Barracudas, Jacks, Ladyfish, Snapper
        • We are hugely focused on tarpon fishing this month. Other species are around and easy. Plan on fishing for tarpon.
    • Wrecks Reef
      • Yellowtail Snapper, Mutton Snapper, Jacks, Barracudas, Permit, Sharks, Kingfish, Cobia, Cero, Spanish Mackerel
        • Permit in good numbers are on the wrecks and on the reef for the spawn through the new moon in May. Barracudas are a nice side catch. Good time for Black fin tunas around the shrimp boats. The reef is inundated with great snapper fishing. No grouper as they are out of season.
    • Blue Water Deep Sea Fishing
      • Sailfish, Tuna, Wahoo, Dolphin, Marlin, Kingfish, Spanish and Cero Mackerel, Bonito
        • Strong month for sailfish, dolphin and black fin tunas. Close to the reef fishing for most everything. Great month for blue water fishing. Large dolphin caught in April.
  • May

    • Flats Fishing
      • Tarpon Permit, Bonefish
        • Tarpon, permit and bonefish on the flats. Fly or light tackle. winds are light and fishing is EPIC..
    • Backcountry Fishing
      • Tarpon, Trout, Sharks, Redfish, Barracudas, Jacks, Ladyfish, Snook, Snapper
        • Tarpon time. Mutton snapper are shallow and fun to catch on plug. Sharks are done spawning and many big ones around preying on tarpon. Good time to catch a hammerhead.
    • Wrecks Reef
      • Yellowtail Snapper, Mutton Snapper, Jacks, Barracudas, Permit, Sharks, Kingfish, Cobia, Cero, Spanish Mackerel
        • Permit still in good numbers are on the wrecks. Water clears up and gets pretty out there. Barracudas are a nice side catch. Great time for Black fin tunas around the shrimp boats. The reef is inundated with great snapper fishing. Atlantic opens for grouper and fishing is EPIC!
    • Blue Water Deep Sea Fishing
      • Sailfish, Tuna, Wahoo, Dolphin, Marlin, Kingfish, Spanish and Cero Mackerel, Bonito
        • Strong month for sailfish, dolphin and black fin tunas. Close to the reef fishing for most everything. Great month for blue water fishing. Large dolphin are caught in May. Great month for blue water fishing.
  • June

    • Flats Fishing
      • Tarpon Permit, Bonefish
        • Tarpon, permit and bonefish on the flats. Fly or light tackle. winds are light and fishing is EPIC.. Getting hot.. We run many flats trips in June mostly for tarpon fishing on the fly rod.
    • Backcountry Fishing
      • Tarpon, Trout, Sharks, Redfish, Barracudas, Jacks, Ladyfish, Snook, Snapper
        • Tarpon fishing time. Mutton snapper are shallow and fun to catch on plug as well as grouper. Backcountry trips can get off shore a little bit due to light winds. Easy to mix and match with wrecks and reef fishing for a big day.
    • Wrecks Reef
      • Yellowtail Snapper, Mutton Snapper, Jacks, Barracudas, Permit, Sharks, Kingfish, Cobia, Cero, Spanish Mackerel
        • Permit still in good numbers are on the wrecks. Water clears up and gets pretty out there. Barracudas are a nice side catch. Great time for Black fin tunas around the shrimp boats. The reef is inundated with great snapper fishing. Atlantic opens for grouper and fishing is EPIC!
    • Blue Water Deep Sea Fishing
      • Dolphin, Marlin, Wahoo, Sword Fish, Deep Drop
        • Strong month for dolphin. Decent sized fish found between the reef and 1500 ft of water and lots of them. The beginning of schooling season. Blue and white marling during the full moons and the occasional wahoo. Sword fishing is epic along with deep dropping with calmer sea conditions..
  • July

    • Flats Fishing
      • Permit, Bonefish, Tarpon, Baby Tarpon
        • Its Hot…. But the flats fishing is EPIC.. a SLAM month where a shot at all three is totally possible. Bonefish and permit tailing up a storm. Permit fishing on the flats is story book.
    • Backcountry Fishing
      • Tarpon, Trout, Sharks, Redfish, Barracudas, Jacks, Ladyfish, Snook, Snapper
        • Still Tarpon time early in the morning and late in the evening to take advantage of the cooler temps.  Backcountry trips can get off shore a little bit due to light winds. Easy to mix and match with wrecks and reef fishing for a big day. The plug toss is very fun.
    • Wrecks Reef
      • Yellowtail Snapper, Mutton Snapper, Jacks, Barracudas, Permit, Sharks, Kingfish, Cobia, Cero, Spanish Mackerel
        • Trips to the West are VERY productive. Grouper snapper are big and easy. Permit still in good numbers are on the wrecks. Water clears up and gets pretty out there. Its Hot….
    • Blue Water Deep Sea Fishing
      • Dolphin, Marlin, Wahoo, Sword Fish, Deep Drop
        • If there was a month in Key West for Marlin, July Is it… Also a strong month for dolphin. Fish get smaller but more numerous and are found between the reef and 1500 ft of water and lots of them. The beginning of schooling season. Blue and white marling during the full moons and the occasional wahoo. Sword fishing is epic along with deep dropping with calmer sea conditions..
  • August

    • Flats Fishing
      • Permit, Bonefish, Tarpon, Baby Tarpon
        • Same as July Its Hot…. But the flats fishing is EPIC.. a SLAM month where a shot at all three is totally possible. Bonefish and permit tailing up a storm. Permit fishing on the flats is story book. Flat calm conditions are not uncommon so tailing bonefish and permit are easy to see and there are plenty of them.
    • Backcountry Fishing
      • Tarpon, Trout, Sharks, Redfish, Barracudas, Jacks, Ladyfish, Snook, Snapper
        • August Still Tarpon time early in the morning and late in the evening to take advantage of the cooler temps.  Backcountry trips can get off shore a little bit due to light winds. Easy to mix and match with wrecks and reef fishing for a big day. The plug toss is very fun. Also can get on the flats with our backcountry trips to mix and match there as well.
    • Wrecks Reef
      • Yellowtail Snapper, Mutton Snapper, Jacks, Barracudas, Permit, Sharks, Kingfish, Cobia, Cero, Spanish Mackerel
        • Just like July  - Trips to the West are VERY productive. Grouper snapper are big and easy. Permit still in good numbers are on the wrecks. Water clears up and gets pretty out there. Its Hot…. The runs West are not bumpy do to the light winds but the heat can be brutal.
    • Blue Water Deep Sea Fishing
      • Dolphin, Marlin, Wahoo, Sword Fish, Deep Drop
        • Marlin Fishing is coming off its peak.. Also a strong month for dolphin. Fish keep getting smaller  and a bit less numerous. Blue and white marling during the full moons and the occasional wahoo. Great month for Sword fishing and deep dropping.
  • September

    • Flats Fishing
      • Permit, Bonefish, Tarpon, Baby Tarpon
        • September and October are without a doubt the best in flats fishing we have here in Key West. Bonefish, tarpon and permit. Its awesome.. The weather can be tricky as our hurricanes are still threatening but if you get it right.. It can be epic..
    • Backcountry Fishing
      • Tarpon, Trout, Sharks, Redfish, Barracudas, Jacks, Ladyfish, Snook, Snapper
        • Tarpon slows up but not done. Our backcountry trips fish the flats, wrecks, reefs, marquesas and near shore waters to cherry pick conditions. The best way to catch the best variety of fish. We can fish the flats and the deeper waters on our backcountry fishing charters giving our anglers a good amount of diversity.
    • Wrecks Reef
      • Yellowtail Snapper, Mutton Snapper, Jacks, Barracudas, Permit, Sharks, Kingfish, Cobia, Cero, Spanish Mackerel
        • Just like July  - Trips to the West are VERY productive. Grouper snapper are big and easy. Permit still in good numbers are on the wrecks. Bottom fishing is peaked.
    • Blue Water Deep Sea Fishing
      • Dolphin, Marlin, Wahoo, Sword Fish, Deep Drop
        • Still a strong month for dolphin. Fish keep getting smaller  and a bit less numerous. Great month for Sword fishing and deep dropping. Blue and white marlin during the full moons and the occasional wahoo.
  • October

    • Flats Fishing
      • Permit, Bonefish, Tarpon, Baby Tarpon
        • September and October are without a doubt the best in flats fishing we have here in Key West. Bonefish, tarpon and permit. Its awesome..
    • Backcountry Fishing
      • Tarpon, Trout, Sharks, Redfish, Barracudas, Jacks, Ladyfish, Snook, Snapper
        • Tarpon slows up but not done. Our backcountry trips fish the flats, wrecks, reefs, marquesas and near shore waters to cherry pick conditions. The best way to catch the best variety of fish.
    • Wrecks Reef
      • Yellowtail Snapper, Mutton Snapper, Jacks, Barracudas, Permit, Sharks, Kingfish, Cobia, Cero, Spanish Mackerel
        • Just like July  - Trips to the West are VERY productive. Grouper snapper are big and easy. Permit still in good numbers are on the wrecks. Bottom fishing is peaked.
    • Blue Water Deep Sea Fishing
      • Dolphin, Marlin, Wahoo, Sword Fish, Deep Drop
        • Still a strong month for dolphin. Fish keep getting smaller  and a bit less numerous. Great month for Sword fishing and deep dropping. Blue and white marlin during the full moons and the occasional wahoo.
  • November

    • Flats Fishing
      • Permit, Barracudas, sharks
        • Winter is communing the first fronts show up in the first week of November. Shuts down our warm water species like bonefish. But permit fishing is still great.
    • Backcountry Fishing
      • Tarpon, Trout, Sharks, Redfish, Barracudas, Jacks, Ladyfish, Snook, Snapper
        • Winter fishing begins. Casting and jigging for trout and all the other species to bend rods and have fun. Easy to catch many different species of fish and lots of them.
    • Wrecks Reef
      • Yellowtail Snapper, Mutton Snapper, Jacks, Barracudas, Permit, Sharks, Kingfish, Cobia, Cero, Spanish Mackerel
        • Just like July – October  - Trips to the West are VERY productive. Grouper snapper are big and easy. Permit still in good numbers are on the wrecks. Bottom fishing is still peaking if you can get out… Can be windy.
    • Blue Water Deep Sea Fishing
      • Wahoo, Sailfish, Sword Fish, Deep Drop
        • November can really suck. A transition month for many species.. But.. one thing certain. Wahoo bite is off the rails during full moon. Reef bite it a great back up for blue water trips and the deep dropping for swords and bottom fish can be great..
  • December

    • Flats Fishing
      • Permit, Barracudas, sharks
        • Winter is here the fronts have cooled the waters. Shuts down our warm water species like bonefish. But permit fishing is still great.
    • Backcountry Fishing
      • Tarpon, Trout, Sharks, Redfish, Barracudas, Jacks, Ladyfish, Snook, Snapper
        • Winter fishing is a blast…. Casting and jigging for trout and all the other species to bend rods and have fun. Easy to catch many different species of fish and lots of them.
    • Wrecks Reef
      • Yellowtail Snapper, Mutton Snapper, Jacks, Barracudas, Permit, Sharks, Kingfish, Cobia, Cero, Spanish Mackerel
        • Just like July – October  - Trips to the West are still VERY productive. Grouper snapper are big and easy. Permit still in good numbers are on the wrecks. Bottom fishing is still peaking if you can get out.. Last month of Atlantic Grouper season, time to stock up.
    • Blue Water Deep Sea Fishing
      • Wahoo, Sailfish, Sword Fish, Deep Drop
        • November can really suck. A transition month for many species.. But.. one thing certain. Wahoo bite is off the rails during full moon. Reef bite it a great back up for blue water trips and the deep dropping for swords and bottom fish can be great..