2018 Tarpon Season numbers!

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November is officially here and I’m calling it the end of 2018 tarpon season!  This does not mean that it’s impossible to catch tarpon, but for myself personally I won’t be focusing on tarpon regularly.  I’ll still be charter fishing full time through the winter, but just for other species mostly.  The reason for this is the cooler winter time weather is starting to show up which just means the tarpon fishing will be much more inconsistent, and usually totally not worth while when it’s really cold.  If we have some warm, calm stretches or light easterly winds it could definitely spark up and get good.  Though it won’t be my day-to-day focus any more.  The backcountry fishing for snook, redfish, drum, trout, etc… is already starting to get very good, and during cold fronts that is an awesome fishery most of the time.  We also get plenty of action in the gulf with mackerel, snapper, tripletail, cobia, and more.  And of course our patch reef fishing for snapper, grouper, porgy, hogfish, permit, and the like.  So for the next 3 months or so, I usually tell people that I would not book a trip with high expectations of good tarpon fishing, rather be open to suggestion on what to target.  If tarpon looks like it’s possible, you know I don’t mind giving it a try for part of the day if that seems feasible – however some days you have to pull that ‘all or nothing’ commitment to really stand a chance at catching one, so that I leave up to you.

For the numbers on 2018 we had a pretty epic year overall!  We landed 416 tarpon in 169 trips, for a 2.46 tarpon per trip average.  My best year ever with numbers and catch averages!  The best months this year were July and September!  We had good early season fishing with warmer weather in February and just a few late cold fronts after that.  We did however have a slow tough stretch in the last half of May to first week of June or so.  It was strange just several weeks without many fish in the backcountry where I like to fish mostly on my full day trips, and the local ones were very finicky and seemed you had to really be at the right place at the right time to get bites.  Also a fair amount of southwest wind, sargasm/red weed to deal with which made fishing very tough, and a lot of rain in May too which sometimes just made things uncomfortable.  But by mid June I was finding a lot of fish in a certain area in the backcountry and we started hammering them, and then July the more usual backcountry areas filled with fish and it was an absolutely epic month with over 100 tarpon landed!  August was fair, not terrible fishing but not super great either, but we did catch them pretty consistently just not in big numbers.  Then September was off the charts with tarpon again which was a nice surprise!  Seemed to be a little early for that ‘fall tarpon run’ but the fish were there and I think we averaged 5 fish a day for the month so it was really good.  October was not all that great for the larger tarpon, we had a few decent days, but then several days where they just did not want to bite and were finicky.  But we did catch some smaller tarpon during October which was a little better fishing and of course we were catching snook and redfish and such while doing that, so it seemed to be a better bet to fish the lighter tackle for other things and go for the tarpon if they were there.

So it was a very exciting year for tarpon.  I’m hoping the 2019 season will be just as good, only time will tell.  But it’s great to see a fishery so healthy and strong!  I’ll still be updating my website here whenever I fish for tarpon, but again don’t expect the daily reports as I’m fishing for other things so you can find those reports on my Fishing Islamorada blog.  If you are wanting to book a trip next year for tarpon, I suggest booking early as I am fishing a more limited schedule in season February through July (no Friday or Saturdays available), and things are already filling up after the stellar year this year!

Also I’m offering discounted trip rates for the 2019 off season (September through November).  I’ve normally not really offered discounts on my trips for a variety of reasons, however next year as mentioned I’m taking more days off in the busy season so I really would like to fill my off season in a little more.  If you are interested in coming down at that time you can get some good deals on fishing and room rates.  Once I start to fill in those days though I may no longer off these great rates, so start planning early if you can!  September and October can still be good months for tarpon, November is not as much but we have really good fishing for other species.  Check out my discounted trip rates here.

Capt. Rick Stanczyk
305-747-6903

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11/17/18 November Tarpon Fishing in Islamorada Florida

Well I have not been tarpon fishing much since the end of October.  The snook and redfish fishing in the everglades has been absolutely stellar.  The other day we had a cold front and things chilled down which really puts a hamper on the large tarpon.  But sometimes we do get the little guys going when this happens, and they feed on shrimp just like everybody else likes on chilly days.  Today my angler Emily really wanted to catch a tarpon.  We were having a great day with some redfish, drum, and snook already, and I told her I knew a spot we could try.  Well low and behold there were tons of little tarpon, and when I say little I mean 2 to 10 lbers!  They don’t always respond well, but we gave it a go and we had some really good fishing!  I don’t know exactly how many we got to bite, but we landed 9 of them between Emily and Mark.  Through the winter this is occasionally something that can happen.  But again as I stated on my fishing forecast, it’s not really the time to book a ‘tarpon charter’ until next spring when things get more consistent… usually by february some time when things warm up.  But of course we will get them here and there throughout the winter and I’ll keep updating my blog.  9 for 18

Capt. Rick Stanczyk
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10/31/18 October Tarpon Fishing in the Everglades Florida Keys

Got out with Pat and Eric today for a full day.  We focused on a mixed bag type of day so tarpon definitely wasn’t the priority, but I did have some leftover bait from several days ago that I could put to use.  We went with our shrimp and pilcahrds and started the day fishing for snook and reds.  It was incredible we had non stop action for the first hour and a half, catching probably 40 or more total fish.  Then we found a few small tarpon that we tried messing with but no action out of them, one possible bite but I’m not sure what it was.  But we did catch a handful of nice trout.  Then we went offshore and did see a handful of bigger tarpon busting.  Not a ton but saw a few and tried it.  No bites here either but some big sharks, caught a big lemon and a big blacktip.  And also a couple triple tails that were floating by those were fun to catch!  We then did try a channel for the last hour of the day where a lot of tarpon were before this latest cold front came in.  Saw a handful here too, but no bites at all.  Anyways like I said it was still a stellar day with lots of variety and such, just no tarpon action.  With cool/cold fronts coming in the fishing for them will get hit and miss.  If we have warm stretches and calm weather it can definitely spark up and get good, if not then really it’s probably not worth focusing on – if you come across some and have the bait or set ups for it, then maybe try for a little while, but there are plenty of other things that are providing much better and consistent action for the next few months.  0 for 0

Capt. Rick Stanczyk
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10/26/18 Half Day Tarpon Fishing in October in the Florida Keys

Got out with Brad and Lindsey for a half day.  We fish for snappers around some islands but I told them some small tarpon may be possible here too.  We caught our pilchards and headed out.  Snappers were pretty good, slow to start but got better with the tide change.  Then we got a nice little snook for Brad.  Then a little later, wham!  Tarpon on!  A nice little 10 lber but we got him to the boat for some pictures and released him unharmed.  After that we got a couple redfish to complete a backcountry SLAM – awesome!  Anyways very cool and nice half day.  Looks like we have a little weak cold front coming in tomorrow, it’ll be blowing hard west and then north on sunday as temperatures drop into the low 70s sunday night (lol).  Well it is a change for us as it’s been closer to 80 as a low and 90 during the day.  Fishing should start to change to fall/winter time stuff slowly.  Tarpon are still definitely possible as long as it doesn’t get real cold.  May be a little more hit and miss, but if you put the time in it can pay off.  But a lot of times, going for other things like snook etc… may pay off more and you still have shots at small tarpon while fishing for them.  But I always leave that up to my anglers.  1 for 1

Capt. Rick Stanczyk
Instagram: @richardstanczyk
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10/21/18 October Tarpon Florida Keys Fishing Report

Had Andrew, Jim, and Jay out again for Day 2.  They fished with me Friday and we had a good mixed bag day with snook, redfish, and finished the day with a small tarpon.  Today we focused on bigger tarpon.  Originally the forecast looked great it was suppose to be flat calm, however these weak cold fronts they never know what they’ll do, so it ended up being a little windy not too crazy but a solid 15 mph out of the north mostly.  My buddy gave me some bait yesterday afternoon so I felt confident that we’d have something at least, as the bait for big tarpon has been a little hit and miss as of late.  Of course we had no problem catching it after checking a few spots, but always nice to have that safety net to have a few left overs.  We loaded the bait well and then looked for tarpon.  Luckily for us they were right near where we caught our bait!  We had the last hour of falling tide and boy the water was super muddy from the wind a few days ago, also had a weird yellow tinge maybe algae related.  Tarpon were rolling and splashing around, I thought for sure it’d be red hot.  But we sat and never had a bite on the falling tide.  Waited for the tide to come in and moved around a bit, saw some more tarpon but still no response.  Made one more move and had them rolling there too, nothing!  The sharks did keep us busy though some lemons and blacktips.  It was hard to leave as every time I wanted to, another tarpon would roll right on top of our baits and we’d sit for a bit longer.  Must’ve happened at least a dozen times.  No bites though…. some days they do that, today really didn’t look like it was gonna be one of those days but they just weren’t into it.  We finally left and tried another area.  Saw a few splashed and a tarpon roll.  We set up and had another shark bite, then moved and after that we got lucky.  Jay hooked a big monster 120 lb tarpon that we fought and got on the leader in about 10 minutes!  A few good jumps to put on a show.  We leadered the fish but unfortunately with the tide into the wind, she made one good kick under the boat and cut off before we could get her to lay up for pictures.  So it goes with those big tarpon especially but we had her leader in hand for a legal catch.  We tried another channel after that, looked around hard but never for sure saw any tarpon there.  We blind fished and did catch a few more sharks.  Anyways a hard days work we definitely gave it 110% effort and were in fish most of the day, but sometimes you just can’t make them bite ravenously.  Good to still see such big groups of tarpon around though, it could still be worthwhile as long as the water temps stay in that 80 degree range.  Might have to work at it, but it’s doable.  Anyways I’m off the next couple days, then charters mid week again on Thursday… Another weak cold front coming in Friday, so wind may get funky on us but the calm before the storm could be good fishing!  Wednesday I’m available if anyone wants to go, it looks like it’ll be a nice day!  1 for 1

Capt. Rick Stanczyk
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10/19/18 October Florida Keys Tarpon Fishing

Got out with Jay, Jim, and Andrew today for a full day.  Had the last week or so off, welcoming my baby boy Beau into the world!  He was born Tuesday and everyone was healthy and happy thankfully.  Was good to get out on the water after a few sleepless nights, and have some days off again coming up to spend some time with him at home.  We decided to leave later as the winds were cranking and the boys wanted more of a mixed bag trip instead of trying to focus on tarpon all day.  I said it’d probably be a good idea and we’d still have a shot at catching some smaller tarpon.  Anyways fishing was very good, we had a bunch of snook, a few redfish, a few trout, a nice triple tail, a sheepshead, and finished the day with a nice 15 lb juvenile tarpon!  We didn’t really put much effort into targeting them but of course when snook fishing with our live baits, this time of year there are plenty of small tarpon in those same areas so if you fish your baits the right away you can encourage a strike here and there.  Anyways we finally got one at the end of the day, unfortunately we got the fish to the boat but he pulled the hook before we could get a good picture.  I have these guys again on Sunday and it looks like it will be getting slick calm before a minor cold front hits.  So we may decide to focus on the tarpon that day as that is the condition we like.  Will keep everyone posted and if you are wanting to fish give me a shout, still have a couple weeks where tarpon are definitely possible and like I said the snook and other stuff are pretty good now too and you have shots at the smaller ones when doing that too.  1 for 1

Capt. Rick Stanczyk
Instagram: @richardstanczyk
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