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 423 tarpon in 173 trips.  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

Instagram: @richardstanczyk
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12/3/18 + 12/4/18 December Tarpon Fishing Islamorada

Well I got out the last two days and we had pretty slick nice calm conditions.  While December is usually not a great month for tarpon, when it slicks out and warms up a lot they can show up in a hurry!  We saw a decent amount yesterday on the 3rd, and today a bunch more!  Yesterday they did not bite for us really… we only gave it about 30 minutes in the morning and we saw a handful, then we did see a few more later in the day but again no love.  We did jump a small tarpon while catching some redfish and snook on our jerkbait however!  Though we had good action with multiple other species including redfish, snook, tripletail, sharks, and goliath grouper!  Today though we got into a big pack of tarpon first thing in the morning…  Just rolling and blooping everywhere, the type of thing that really gets your adrenaline going if you are a fishermen!  Unfortunately we had no tide so we had to wait a little bit for the tide to change.  Once it started moving, the fish kind of spread out a bit though.  With the water temperature chilly, they were not really as responsive as I’d like.  We moved several times, and caught some sharks.  After close to two hours, we were about to call it quits when suddenly my angler Rickys rod went off screaming!   A huge 150 lb tarpon came airborne and we were hooked up!  A few good jumps and some hard runs, and we got the fish boatside within 15 minutes or so.  However it was a battler and would not give up for us to get a good picture.  We spent about 20 minutes or so trying to get her to lay sideways… every time though she’d kick off and I thought we were going to lose her.  Finally though she laid up and we got a few decent pictures.  Unfortunately though one good kick of her tail and she busted off as Ricky had the leader wrapped around his hands for the picture taking.  It’s always hard to get good photos of big fish because of this, you leave yourself vulnerable while setting up for the shot and it only takes a kick of the tail for them to free themselves.  Anyways we got a decent shot or two.  That was all she wrote, we caught some redfish, trout, and a goliath grouper to end the day!  0 for 1 1 for 1

Capt. Rick Stanczyk
Instagram: @richardstanczyk
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11/30/18 Cold front tarpon fishing in Islamorada

Well we had a good hard cold front the last couple days.  Today was the warming trend… the water was still cold but the wind swung east throughout the day and lost the bite of cold.  We had a banner day catching nice snook and redfish, but in the late morning it calmed down and really warmed up.  A few tarpon started to roll and we started pitching shrimp to them.  We caught 3 of them, two little guys in the 15 lb range, and one probably around 20 lbs to top off the day!  The last one we caught while fighting two redfish as well which made for a nice triple header!  It’s very hit or miss with tarpon right now, but throughout the winter you can catch small guys like these on shrimp occasionally.  I usually don’t book charters specifically for that, but rather when we are fishing spots for snook or redfish and they are around, you can work your bait differently and sometimes entice a strike.  If it gets warm and calm though, the big boys can show up and it can be game on.  But the winter time fishing so far for snook, drum, and redfish has been very stellar.  Check out my other website www.fishingislamorada.com for those daily reports.  3 for 3

Capt. Rick Stanczyk
Instagram: @richardstanczyk
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11/23/18 November Tarpon Fishing Charter in the Florida Keys

Got out with Nolan, Shane, and Olivia today for a full day trip.  Nolan runs some charters up in the NC area and works as a sales rep for a rod company up there.  He wanted to try one of his rods for tarpon.  I told him tarpon fishing can be very hit and miss this time of year, but we had decent conditions to try it.  I was able to sneak out yesterday morning for an hour to catch bait too, so I got us some mullet and pilchards.  I definitely wanted to have some ammo and give it a 110% shot which we did!  We left early and headed into the backcountry.  We found a lot of tarpon busting off the shorelines, eating various glass minnows and finger mullets.  We could not get them to hit our baits too.  Not sure if it was the full moon last night, or cooler water temperatures.  They were active, but just not for the hook baits.  We fished the last hour of falling tide, and then tried again when it started in, but no love.  We bailed on that and then had to spend a good bit of time getting on a bite of snook and redfish.  But we did manage too and had very good fishing in one spot for reds and a good solid handful of snook.  We gave it some extra time at the end of the day as it slicked out nice and checked a few other channels for tarpon.  Didn’t see much but we did come across a few rolling in one channel at the very end.  We gave it another 20 minutes, but did not get a response out of them either.  Anyways there are still some around, but as stated it can be very hit and miss this time of year.  The cooler water temperatures some times make them not feed as actively, and when you are in the thick of a bait run some times those fish just don’t want to hit a hook bait when there are so many other options.  But thankfully right now the snooks and reds are thick and provide a good alternative.  If anyone wants to get out fishing though let me know, plenty of open days in December and the other backcountry fishing should remain solid.  0 for 0

Capt. Rick Stanczyk
Instagram: @richardstanczyk
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11/21/18 November Tarpon Fishing Trip in Islamorada

Well yesterday we had some slick calm weather, and today the wind kicked up in the morning but got slick calm later in the day.  Tarpon showed up in some spots!  We weren’t really fishing for them but did see a good number while we were hitting some snook in the creeks.  We ended up catching one in here on a jig and pilchard!  Snook fishing was really good too.  Later in the day we found some tarpon up in the skinny water in an area where we were catching some snook and redfish.  I got the rods rigged for tarpon.  We floated some shrimp back to them and they were happy!  We ended up catching a couple more, and jumped off two others.  Yes even in November we still can catch tarpon here in Islamorada, and when it gets slick calm like this, it can be just as good as the best times of year.  I think Friday I have some customers looking to catch some tarpon, so hopefully they’ll stick around.  Otherwise I have plenty of openings in early December, if it stays fairly warm like this it can be worth a shot.  But the snook and redfish fishing has been stellar so it’s hard to pass that up.  Regardless, if you want to go fishing give me a shout!  3 for 5

Capt. Rick Stanczyk
Instagram: @richardstanczyk
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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
Instagram: @richardstanczyk
Facebook: Islamorada Tarpon Fishing

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