A complete look at the month of February fishing in Key West
The middle of winter for Key West where we have the coldest days of the year and that can turn on and off the fishing. A great time to visit Key West for its night life, island living and the fishing. There are not to many people here in the first part of the month. The later weeks it gets progressively busier toward the end the island starts to fill up for tourist season. These are mostly spring breakers. Usually things go from sleepy to hectic right after the Super Bowl and Valentines Day.
The middle of winter in Key West is still paradise for folks from up North wanting to get out of the snow. Our air temps settle in at a nice 74 degree average with some days in the 80s and the cold fronts dropping us to the low 60s and sometimes to the low 50s. North winds during the cold fronts and turning around to South Easterlies after. This really sets up our area well for a great mix of fishing. Lets get into what makes this a great month for fishing.
With the winds and temps fluctuating from day to day the shallows are the fist place to take effect from a cold front or warming trend. Many folks like fishing inshore this time of the year due to the conditions being more favorable to calmer seas. Our backcountry fishing charters are by far the most numerous this month in comparison to our other trips that are more weather dependent.
My anglers just love Backcountry fishing and it has become a very popular way to fish in the winter overall. Our winter time species list is extensive and most of them will eat just about anything that is casted. Lure fishing and live bait always turn out a nice group of fish species to reward any anglers that wish to get out and wet a line and not take a beating. Calm seas and easy going days can be expected on these fishing trips. A great trip for the family, kids, new fishermen or the old salt that is looking to catch a specific species or catch some lunch.
The fish species found in the backcountry this month are speckled sea trout, jack crevalle, pompano, blue runners, lady fish, sharks, mutton snapper, mangrove snapper, cobia, redfish, snook and barracudas. Just to name a few. On a rare occasion there can be a push of big tarpon moving in on certain areas during a warming trend. I have seen some amazing days of tarpon fishing in February.
Pro Tip – If you enjoy Key West shark fishing, this is the month. The end of February starts the sharks spawn in the shallows and having shots at 300 lb bull sharks is not uncommon.
I will not say that February is my favorite month for flats fishing unless… The East or South East winds are in play and the water temps are warmer or warming, then it’s GAME ON for some serious sight fishing for permit on the flats. Fly fishing is exceptional on the flats this month for many different species such as barracudas, jacks and smaller sharks. A great time for new fly fishermen if the winds are down.
So the name of the game on the flats is always sight fishing. Permit, Barracudas, jacks and mutton snapper are the regular cast of characters with the occasional red fish. Fly fishing or light tackle spin fishing are great.
With a consistent flow of cold fronts right in the middle of our Key West winter the deeper waters are still not affected by the cooler temps. However, The warmer waters of the Gulf Stream has a tendency to be a bit farther offshore.
Deep Sea fishing is hit or miss making our reef fishing a good backup plan for February. The snake-like behavior of the Gulf Stream makes changes from day to day out there. One day its blue water palegics the next it’s working the reef for kingfish, barracudas, tunas and bonito. Let’s not take away the never ending possibilities of sailfish. So, I would call it a mix bag month for deep sea fishing.
The winter time here in Key West holds a good number of different species of fish including Bonito, Blackfin Tunas, Kingfish, Cero Mackerel, Occasional Sailfish, Dolphi (mahi Mahi) and wahoo.
A very popular month for reef fishing here in Key West. Tons of ballyhoo and other baits are on the reef making easy prey for predators. North winds from the cold fronts make the reef a great place to fish for just about anything that is tasty to fill the cooler with some filets. Not unrealistic for a 4 hour reef fishing charter to provide good fun and a decent meal or two with some of the tastiest food fish on the planet.
Watch your weather and plan accordingly. The reef can have some of the best eating fish found anywhere. When reef fishing, anglers can expect yellowtail snappers, mutton snappers, yellow jacks, kingfish, cero mackerel and the occasional sailfish, Grouper season is closed in the Atlantic till May.
Fishing in the Gulf this month is great for cobia on the wrecks making them easy targets for live baits and artificial lures. Weather can make the Gulf fishing hit or miss but there can be some great action out there with snapper, some permit and kingfish. The lane snapper fishing and mutton snapper in the winter is great. Also, the Gulf is still open for grouper in February.
Everyone in the charter business is either getting ramped up or already rolling day to day fishing in Key West in February. Some folks roll the dice and plan on the weather last minute to book and that works 75% of the time early in the month, no so much later in the month as we slide into our tourist season. The backcountry fishing charters are very popular as is the deep sea private charters and split or shared fishing charters.