Fly Fishing for Winter Tarpon

It’s been only weeks since the last of the baitfish populations pushed out of south Florida. With them went some fairly predictable fall tarpon fishing.  But now we are only weeks away from the months when tarpon begin responding to warm, calm winter days by moving up into the rivers and basins of the Everglades and other sheltered inshore areas.

Some of the best tarpon fishing you can do happens in January, February and March in Florida.  It’s not well-known or well-understood, but the winter fishery is something to behold if you get the timing right and know where to look.  We’ll be publishing some tips on winter fishing over the next few months.  Here’s one to start:

When looking for winter tarpon, think dark bottom and no wind.  Dark bottom–be it the tannic sand of the Ten Thousand Islands basins or the long dark turtlegrass in water that is 10 feet deep or so in the Keys–holds heat.  And the absence of wind brings tarpon closer to the surface; there are different theories for this, but my favorite has to do with the fact that wind (and cold) oxygenate water and enable a tarpon to stay deep without rolling.

So to begin your search for winter tarpon–assuming you don’t know the locations they’ve preferred historically–start by looking near deeper water or pockets in basins in about 10 feet of water.  And look in on calm days with bright skies so that you can see fish that are sometimes laid up 8 feet below the surface.  You may have a hard time getting the fly down to them without an intermediate line, but don’t worry–they’ll come up.  And if the weather has been calm and hot for a few days, don’t be surprised to see some very big fish lollygagging right near the surface.

  • http://noneatpresent Bob LeMay

    I spend a good bit of time in the interior of the Everglades and hunt tarpon from Flamingo to Fakahatchee. Some years the big fish will show in Whitewater Bay as early as two weeks before Christmas (if it’s mild). You’ll know when the inside fishing is at its best when the long time serious tarpon types appear… We do different things depending on where the fish are holding -out in the open bays, up inside shallow sheltered coves, or in deep rivers.

    One thing is certain and that is in winter time – temperature is everything for the big fish. I think it’s the only reason we have them inside then….

  • Marshall Cutchin

    Good points, Bob.