April 30, 2011

Key West Tarpon and Permit

I fished with Brad and his son Dillon this past Thursday and Friday. We started out late morning on Thursday. Fishing had been good in the afternoons during the outgoing tide on the gulf side flats and Thursday afternoon proved to be exceptional. We found three large schools of small permit from which Brad and Dillon each got one. There was a lot of small barracudas around with some bigger fish mixed in. Again the guys each got a quality barracuda. There also were loads of sharks and we saw couple of tarpon, but we weren't ready for them. We ended the day on a bonefish spot where we found a few but they proved to be extremely spooky. Might have had something to do with the high number of sharks in the area.

Friday was all about tarpon. We started off early in front of Key West. The fish were there finning and rolling but we couldn't get an eat. After two cruiseships and a couple of commercial boats went by, the tarpon disappeared. We spent the next couple hours on the Oceanside flats casting crabs and soft plastics. The guys ended the day jumping two tarpon and a few eats.

Thanks again guys.

Captain Mike Bartlett

April 27, 2011

Bonefish and Tarpon

Fished with Lou from California today. Fishing wasn't brilliant due to weak tides, but we saw enough tarpon, permit and bonefish to make it a great day. We found a pair of bonefish in which Lou caught one of them, his first.

Some time later we found all the permit on that flat in one big school, but they spooked just as we got in casting range. A few minutes after that a single big tarpon swam by and eagerly ate a crab that was put out in front of it. About an hour later Lou landed about an 80 pound Silver King.

There was also a ton of small barracudas around and a few sharks.

Captain Mike Bartlett
Key West Flats & Backcountry

April 24, 2011

Key West Permit

Fished with John and Susan from Orlando this morning. It was Susan's first time fishing so I anchored in a channel in hopes of a tarpon for John while I worked with Susan on casting a spinning rod. Susan took to it pretty quick and was casting like pro after a few practice casts. After several small snappers that wouldn't stay on she finally caught a nice Crevalle Jack for her first fish.

In the meantime John was casting a plug and I had a pinfish out the back. A six foot spinner shark grabbed the pinfish and went racing down the channel until it did it's spinning jump, hence it's name, and broke off.

We spent the last part of the trip on the flats where John caught two permit and had another eat the crab off the hook. We saw a lot of good size barracudas while John was fighting his permit and a few blacktip sharks.

Captain Mike Bartlett
Key West Flats & Backcountry

April 22, 2011

Jumped a Key West Slam

I fished with Carlos from Fort Myers this morning. We started early for some pre-dawn tarpon fishing. Carlos jumped three tarpon and landed an Atlantic Sharpnose shark. We then moved to the flats to look for permit and bonefish.

Within a few minutes we found a big permit slowly working the flat. After a couple of casts in the wind the crab found it's mark. After a fifteen minute fight the permit was boat side for some photos.

As we worked down the flat we spotted a school of bonefish and Carlos quickly laid a cast near the school. One of the fish saw the jig tipped with a shrimp and chased after it like he hadn't eaten in a week. A few minutes later and a nice four pound bonefish was in the boat.

We went back around to fish the flat again and right away saw a pair of permit. One of the fish chased the bonefish jig and grabbed it on the drop. Another fifteen minute tussle and Carlos's second permit of the day was in the boat.

We checked a few spots to try for a tarpon to complete the Key West slam but none were found.

Another great day of Key West fishing in the adverse conditions.

Captain Mike Bartlett
Key West Flats & Backcountry

April 19, 2011

Key West Bonefish

Had a good day today fishing with Dan from Minnesota. Dan caught a big barracuda on a pinfish meant for tarpon and about a 5 pound bonefish. There were tarpon all around but they were a bit tough with increasing winds and poor visibility. Dan had one grab on a plug and had a crab in front of several small pods of tarpon that swam past his offering showing no interest in eating a crab.

Captain Mike Bartlett

April 15, 2011

Pics from Ivan and Paul's Trip

Tarpon Fishing Key West

Fished with Rob and his wife JoAnne from New Jersey this morning. We had a great morning of tarpon fishing out west of Key West. Jumped two tarpon on plugs and another two on crabs. The last one was on for about 15 minutes and was close to boat when the line parted. There was a lot of sargasso weeds where we were fishing and the fish may have landed on the line a few times. In any event the line was severely chaffed which caused the break off.

The best part of the trip was when a tarpon grabbed the plug, that JoAanne was throwing, next to the boat. "What do I do? What do I do?" As she held on for the few moments the tarpon was hooked and freed itself when it took to air. It was great moment for me as a guide to have someone who rarely fishes have that experience. It was priceless.

The fifth tarpon of the day came when we found a small school of babies on a flat and Rob threw a crab at them and one of them grabbed the small float. I really need to start putting hooks in those things.

It was a great day on the water with a fantastic couple. Thanks guys and I can't wait until next time.

Captain Mike Bartlett
Key West Flats & Backcountry

April 14, 2011

Key West Tarpon

Day two with Ivan and Paul. We headed out early this morning to look for tarpon in the dark. Second spot resulted in Ivan landing about a 25 pound tarpon on fly. It was an explosive take and with some fantastic jumps.

We fished for about an hour in front of Key West where there was a lot of tarpon slow rolling but scattered. Paul had a few grabs and some follows but no solid hookups.

I forgot about the World Sailfish Championship being held in Key West this week. There were some impressive boats that went by and their resulting wakes. We found ourselves having to surf a few wakes as they were tall and steep and a little scary. Some were easily three feet from trough to crest.

The rest of morning we spent casting to cruising strings of tarpon on the Oceanside. We had tons of shots but these tarpon were not in an eating mood. I didn't see anyone around us hook up either.

We decided to spend the last two hours looking for bonefish and permit. All we found was more tarpon!! Ivan had a couple shots and a follow to the boat. During Paul's turn we were heading off the flat to move when I spotted a pod of tarpon laying in about six feet of water. Paul presented his fly and got a fish to follow. Second cast he got an eat. The tarpon jumped three times before throwing the fly.

Thanks agin guys, I look forward to next time.

Captain Mike Bartlett
Key West Flats & Backcountry

April 13, 2011


Had a great day fishing at the Marquesas today with Ivan and Paul from Minnesota. We had shots at tarpon all morning into the afternoon, but with a north wind the bite was not great. We had several follows and looks at different flies and in the end we only got one tarpon in the air.

The guys also hooked a cobia off a sawfish and big jack off a ray. We eneded the day fishing for bonefish, hooking three and had about six shots.

We had beautiful weather all day, maybe a little too calm. We saw some permit but they would spook long before we were close enough. We also encountered many sharks, jacks and barracudas. We had fish in front of the boat all day and also a lot of turtles.

I should have pictures after tomorrows trip with Ivan and Paul.

Captain Mike Bartlett
Key West Flats & Backcountry

April 11, 2011

Key West Tarpon Flies

With tarpon season upon us I thought I would share a few of the flies I use on a daily basis. One of my favorites is the Puglisi Peanut Butter in black and purple. It is an easy fly to throw and has a good overall baitfish profile.

Some of the others I use (shown below) include the Tarpon Toad, Deceiver and Cockroach flies.

There are hundreds of tarpon flies out there and these are the ones I like. We all have our own tastes as to which is better over another. But a lot of it comes down to confidence.

This is a sampling of the flies in my box. I have many other patterns in different colors and sizes to cover about every situation.

Captain Mike Bartlett
Key West Flats & Backcountry

April 10, 2011

More Night Tarpon Fun

Went out for a couple of hours this evening with my wife. Tarpon didn't get going until after dark. But once they started it was crazy for about an hour, with tarpon popping shrimp all around the boat. We got one tarpon to the boat about 50 pounds and another eat. I was trying out some Berkley Power Bait shrimp I had as an alternative to live shrimp. It seemed to work pretty good as I had two bites landing the one. My wife was throwing the fly rod with a gurgler but no eats. When I finally landed my tarpon the bite shutdown.

Captain Mike Bartlett
Key West Flats & Backcountry

April 09, 2011

Key West Tarpon at Night

My wife and I went out this evening for a little night time tarpon fishing. It has been very warm and with an outgoing tide late in the day into the night shrimp are moving off the flats drifting out to sea with the tide. And the tarpon are lined up just off these flats sucking the shrimp off the waters surface. It sounds like bowling balls being dropped from heaven.

This sets up nicely to target these tarpon with a fly rod. Tonight in the short amount of time we were out we had three tarpon eat, landing one and jumping another, all on gurglers. And we got to enjoy another beautiful Key West sunset.

For those who don't know what a gurgler is, it is a fly designed to disturbed the waters surface and make a little noise much like a small popper.

Captain Mike Bartlett
Key West Flats & Backcountry

April 08, 2011

Another Day, Another Permit

Yet another gorgeous day on the Key West flats. Today I fished a half day with Chris and Jim from CT. The guys caught a barracuda and a couple jacks. We ended the trip with a double header big jack off a nurse shark and a permit. Nice work guys
We are out again tomorrow early in the morning for tarpon.

Captain Mike Bartlett
Key West Flats & Backcountry

April 07, 2011

Key West Flats - Permit

It was beautiful morning in Key West today. Sunny skies and a light breeze. I fished with long time client Jim from NJ. Jim caught four permit this morning, three over twenty pounds and one little guy.

Captain Mike Bartlett