*** Follow my ‘non-tarpon season’ daily updated fishing reports here! ***
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