Tarpon Season 2017 / Hurricane Irma Update

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Follow my daily fishing reports during non-tarpon season (Nov – Feb) here

Hurricane IRMA has come and gone…  Bud n’ Mary’s Marina (where I fish out of) is entirely back at 100% as is most of Islamorada, with exception of a few larger hotels (cheeca, islander, post card inn).  Fishing has been great and we expect a great tarpon season in 2018!  Book your trips today as the ‘prime time’ spring and early summer are filling up fast.

For the numbers last year we caught 269 tarpon in 149 trips which works out to about 1.81 tarpon per trip.  The ratio is slightly better than my 2015 year which we caught roughly 1.75 tarpon per trip, and a good bit better than 2016 year which was about 1.44 tarpon per trip.  As always we consider a catch where we get the wind-on leader into the rod tip – this means any of the monofilament leader on the end of my braided line, which can be up to 30 feet including the ‘bite leader’.  So some of these fish we don’t always get boat side for a nice pictures, but rather we go by tournament/IGFA rules.  Also trips constitute any trip that we try tarpon fishing – whether we fish for them just for an hour, or all day – as we often fish for other things especially in the tarpon ‘off season.’

So I am fairly happy with the 2017 tarpon season after we had a rough year in 2016.  I hope 2018 is even better of course!  I’ll be updating my other website regularly, Fishing Islamorada, while we are still in the tarpon ‘off season.’  Though February is right around the corner and we usually start getting the right weather and conditions to catch a few tarpon then.  But March will be here before you know it, and usually by then it is more or less an every day thing for me barring any severe cold weather.  Give me a shout and let’s plan your next islamorada tarpon fishing charter!

Capt. Rick Stanczyk
305-747-6903

Instagram: @richardstanczyk
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2/19/18 February 3/4 day fishing trip in Islamorada

Got out with Charlie Ruoff today, return customer from last year of mine.  We had a 3/4 day scheduled.  The winds were cranking pretty good, didn’t seem like it when we left the dock but as soon as we got out on open water you could feel it.  Tried to catch a little fresh bait but not much luck with that, though we had plenty of leftover from the previous day.  Charlie wanted to mix it up and catch some light tackle stuff, and then give it a shot for a tarpon.  We hit the mackerel grounds first and that was very productive, however it took time getting their and back as it was so windy and rough.  We caught 18 or so mackerels.  With our allotted time I didn’t think we could get to where I’d been tarpon fishing as of late, as with the high winds we would’ve had to run way out of our way to make the ride comfortable to get there, and it just wouldn’t leave us with feasible fishing time on a shorter 3/4 day.  Also last time it blew crazy it wasn’t really great fishing back there anyhow so still a gamble.  So we opted to fish locally near home where there had been a few tarpon around though I’ve yet to catch any there (though I’ve only tried one other time).  They didn’t want to cooperate for us though, we had a couple mystery bites I think were sharks, one cut us off and one ran for a bit and got wrapped around a buoy or something and broke.  We did mark a few tarpon on the sonar so there were some around, but just not wanting to play.  Anyways back to full day schedule for the rest of the week.  I know one person caught a nice tarpon in the back today on their full day trip so will likely give it a try again back there, I think it’s part of the agenda tomorrow.  0 for 0

Capt. Rick Stanczyk
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2/18/18 February Tarpon Fishing in the backcountry of Islamorada

Got out for a full day again with the Kurt Butcher group, same group of guys from yesterday but different anglers for me today.  I had Jay and Dustin out for the day.  It was Jay’s dream to catch a tarpon and I told him we’d have a decent shot today being as there had been fish around and we had decent conditions.  The winds had kicked up somewhat from yesterday but not blowing like crazy, a steady 15 mph or so.  We caught bait early to start the day but had some weather in the backcountry so we didn’t run back there right away.  We fished locally for little stuff and had good action with that.  We looked around the bridges for tarpon but didn’t see a whole lot of activity.  The rains cleared so we ran out back.  I fished a different channel I hadn’t fished yet this year, though my buddy said there had been some good tarpon there.  Well we had some company a couple other boats were there, but no matter.  We found fish right away and set up… No bites early on, a few sharks including a big bull, but could see fish rolling and swimming by.  The tide was starting to slack up and soon started to come in.  We moved around a bit and soon after caught a cobia.  Then we caught a big sting ray.  We hooked what I thought was another ray later on, and at the same time Jay put his rod down and had a tarpon grab his bait real quick but spit the hook!  Funny you can fish for hours like that and as soon as you set the rod down, that is when that tarpon comes!  Anyways was a little bummed about that, but then all of a sudden dustins ray jumped and turned out to really be a tarpon that just wasn’t moving or fighting much!  That quickly turned my attitude around and we caught the fish and got some good pics.  Later on Jay was rewarded with a tarpon of his own too a nice 90 lber that we fought for a good 45 minutes.  He didn’t want to cooperate for pictures though we finally turned him and had him laid out but unfortunately he broke off while Jay had the leader wrapped around his hands.  But Dustin got some good video for him and they both were stuper stoked to each catch a tarpon and other things.  Back at it tomorrow looks like the winds are suppose to kick up more, and Tuesday it’s really going to blow.  Will likely make fishing a little tough but hopefully we can find something that wants to feed.  2 for 3

Capt. Rick Stanczyk
Instagram: @richardstanczyk
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2/17/18 February Everglades Tarpon Fishing Report

Got out with Butch and Cody today for a full day of fishing.  Part of a larger group that had several boats out of Bud n Marys.  We tarpon fished most of the day and they were game with that – anything beats being at work!  We caught some fresh mullet and headed out to the fishing grounds.  We tried where we fished the last few days and there were fish there.  We had a bite within 20 seconds of putting our first bait out, a big 100 lber for Cody!  Good fight and we had her on the leader several times but snapped off before we could get the boat side picture.  I thought the tarpon might be chewing a little bit seeing as how quickly we got a bite, but we fished hard for the next hour or two and never had another tarpon bite there.  We did get a nice bull shark for Butch though.  The tide started to die so we decided to run further back where I hadn’t been in a while though had seen some tarpon a couple weeks ago the last flat clam day we had.  We didn’t see much at first, and anchored randomly and caught a big lemon shark and a sting ray.  I was about to give up on the area, but decided to take a lap around and look.  We saw one little bust that I thought may be a tarpon and decided to fish the area.  It was near where we saw the tarpon a couple weeks ago, and I saw something float by with its fins up high.  We put a live bait out and sure enough a tarpon grabbed it!  We missed him but then caught one on our other rod, a nice 65 lber.  We moved around a bit, and then Butch had another bite he missed, and then 30 seconds or so before I was about to say reel ’em up, Butch hooked and landed a 40 lber!  Anyways a great day 3 tarpon in February is pretty good fishing!  Looks like the winds are going to kick up again so might slow the bite down a little more.  But I’ve already caught more fish this February then I have in any other February in the last several years.  May be a very early start to our season!  3 for 5

Capt. Rick Stanczyk
Instagram: @richardstanczyk
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2/16/18 February Florida Keys Tarpon Fishing

Got out for a 3/4 day with John, Michelle, and Phil.  Tarpon was on the agenda though they also wanted to do a little ‘action fishing’ too.  We did the mackerels early to start and had good luck with that.  We found some tarpon where they had been previously.  Today it was very flat calm though and looked to be a good slug of fish around.  We had the last of the falling tide though it was very weak and died early on us.  We sat for close to an hour and had a shark bite, then finally had something pick up our bait and swim it up under the boat.  I had Phil real on it and a nice tarpon came up jumping off our bow!  We had to quickly get the line out from under the boat and around the trolling motor, but managed to do it without losing the fish!  We chased him around a little bit and landed him!  Nice 85 lb fish though we didn’t get good boat side pics as he broke on the leader while Phil had him wrapped on the gloves.  We set back up and now the tide was coming in and moving pretty good.  We continued to see fish around us but they just weren’t super active feeding.  We had another shark bite us off and then we made a move.  We hooked another big lemon shark and while fighting that, Michelle hooked a smaller 50 lb tarpon!  We fought both for a bit and got the wind-on leader on the tarpon to the rod tip, but he jumped and threw the hook before we could really get him boat side.  Oh well a technical catch anyways.  We got the shark to the boat though.  After that it was about time to head on home, but a great day with variety and a couple tarpon!  I think I’ll be back at it tomorrow looks like we will have good weather for a few days, hopefully they’ll start perking up even more for us!  2 for 2

Capt. Rick Stanczyk
Instagram: @richardstanczyk
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2/15/18 February Full Day Backcountry Tarpon Fishing

Got out with Howard and Mike, repeat customers from last year, for a full day of backcountry fishing.  We planned to mix it up a bit but tarpon was definitely on the list.  We caught pilchards to start our day and tried to get in on the little tarpon that were biting a few days before.  Today however it seemed to be a different day, the little tarpon were there but not feeding very actively.  We did manage a few mangrove snappers in that spot though.  We then hit the gulf to do some mackerel fishing and did OK with that and then went after some larger tarpon.  The tide was turned and coming in now as we got to the channels.  I didn’t see a whole lot of activity, we scoped out a few areas and I found one spot that I favored.  We set up and Howard ended up getting a nice cobia to start things off, about a 30 lber!  After that we saw a few tarpon free jump further down the channel so we packed up and moved.  Mike had a tarpon bite soon after, about a 40 lb fish not as big as we are use to this time of year.  Unfortunately he jumped towards the boat and never got the hook in a good spot.  A little later I think we had another tarpon zip us too but not sure exactly if it was.  Our sister boat though did catch a big 140 lb tarpon next to us they were fishing the same group as me.  We ended up catching a few more sharks and hooked what I think was a big sawfish, but he cut us off.  So the tarpon won today but we had some good action anyways and all around a great day.  Hopefully they’ll be more cooperative tomorrow!  0 for 1

Capt. Rick Stanczyk
Instagram: @richardstanczyk
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