Florida Keys Flats Fishing Seasons

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Lower Florida Keys Flats Fishing, and the Seasons

When considering the lower Florida Keys and Key West flats and backcountry fishery, time of year must also be taken into consideration. No other factor is more important to this fishery than water temperature. Lower Florida Keys inshore water temperature fluctuates with the seasons and ranges between extremes of 50 and 90 degrees fahrenheit. This is a large range in temp when considering a tropical marine environment, as it has definite impacts on lower Florida Keys nearshore flats fishing.


Warm Water Flats Fishing, March thru October

Florida Keys Spring Flats Fishing (tarpon season) - Typically, late February and March bring the first sign of warmth to the lower Florida Keys flats. This warmth brings with it our prized sport and gamefish. Tarpon, permit, and bonefish. Significant numbers of these three prized gamefish can be found in the lower Florida Keys as early as mid February, but are seen most prevalent between March and July. Once the winter season reaches an official warm-air end, the flow of permit, tarpon, and bonefish begins!


Florida Keys Fall Flats Fishing - August thru October brings very unique flats fishing opportunities to the lower Keys. This is when bonefish, permit, and baby tarpon are consistently found swimming through shallow water, during flat calm weather conditions. If it’s not blowing tropical storm force winds, Keys nearshore water will become calm-as-glass during most mornings with these 3 months. An absolute great time of year to be on the flats before sunrise with tails in-sight, also known as dawn patrol.


Cool Water Flats Fishing, November thru February

Florida Keys Winter Flats Fishing - Typically, late November and December bring cool water temps driven by northern air cold-fronts; which ultimately push the majority of tarpon, permit, and bonefish out of shallow water. Yet, with this cooler water comes an entirely different and very productive fishery to the lower Florida Keys and Key West area.


Huge barracuda, sea-trout, pompano, redfish, mangrove snapper, crevalle jack, and sharks follow the large amount of bait driven inshore during the winter months. This time of year offers great fishing for these somewhat overlooked species of inshore fish. Permit, and tarpon are sometimes caught in-between northern cold-fronts. Though, the cool water period between December and February is seen for the most part as an easy-to-do, more rod-bending time of year. Great if wanting to travel south for warmer air-temps and a variety of fish!

Florida Keys Tarpon Fishing Best Time of Year

Late February thru July are the best months for flats fishing tarpon in the Keys. With peak months being May and June, these six months are referred to as tarpon season. This is when the BIG tarpon are caught.


August thru October is the best time of year to catch baby tarpon in the lower Florida Keys. Also great for bonefish and permit, this time of year is best for early morning flats fishing with flat-calm weather conditions common.

Florida Keys Permit Fishing Best Time of Year

Late February thru mid April is the best time of year for Florida Keys permit fishing. Referred to as the permit pre-spawn season, it is common to see schools of permit feeding in shallow water during this Florida Keys seasonal event. 


June and July is another great time for Florida Keys permit fishing. Sight fishing for permit during this time of year is best if wanting the whole backcountry to yourself.

Florida Keys Bonefishing Best Time of Year

March thru July is the best time of year for Florida Keys bonefishing. Bonefish prefer warm water temps when in shallow water. These months produce the most number of bonefish in the lower Florida Keys.


June thru October brings the largest size bonefish to the lower Florida Keys. November  can also be good, though pre-frontal warm weather conditions are needed if wanting to sight-fish for bonefish during cooler months. 

Florida Keys Barracuda Flats Fishing

December thru March provides the best fishing for monster barracuda on the Florida Keys flats. Barracuda are ferocious eaters and easy to see from a far distance.


This is a great flats fishery in the Florida Keys if wanting to travel south during the winter months. It is common to see over 100 barracuda on the flats during a day in February. An underrated fishery, barracuda flats fishing is allot of fun!

Crevalle Jack, Sea-trout, and Snapper

Great for Kids! Best for people who just wanna catch allot of fish without the hunt style approach needed in flats fishing. These species are strong, aggressive, and extremely abundant in the lower Florida Keys backcountry.


Crevalle Jack - Year Round!


Sea-trout and Redfish - November thru February


Mangrove Snapper - September thru March 

Captain Luke Kelly

Water temperature, air temperature, and weather patterns all matter when looking for that best time of year for a particular species of fish.


Below are the Florida Keys fish of the flats, and the best seasonal times of year to catch em in the lower Keys and Key West.


Phone : 305-304-3152    Email : keyflat@mac.com