FL Keys early April - looking for advice

My wife and I are headed to Tavernier Key the first week of April. Planning to rent a center console for a couple days and do some exploring/fishing on our own. I’ve heard that is the time of year Tarpon fishing starts to pick up. It’s a bucket list fish for me, so hoping someone with experience could provide some tips. I don’t necessarily care about targeting a trophy so much as just simply like to catch one and see it. Even if its smaller.

Any advice on fishing this area in early April would be appreciated, Tarpon related or otherwise!

We fished for tarpon in Boca Grande, a few hours north of where you’re going, a few years back and it was a humbling experience to say the least. I wish you better luck on your adventure. We had tarpon rolling all over us, but nothing would touch a bait.

Stop in to the local tackle shops and ask what the best baits are. We used live whole crabs and whole fresh mullet on a carolina rig, big owner circle hooks, light weights out the back of the boat, trying to stagger them in the water column as best we could. Everyone said that was the way to do it. We were unsuccessful. The crabs could be scooped up with a dip net floating by as you were fishing; I don’t know if that’s the way it’ll be for you further south, but apparently its a common thing in Boca Grande Pass. We had a seasoned tarpon fisherman with us too and swore we’d hook up with this method, but again, it did not help.

Snook fishing was a lot of fun though, similar to redfish in my opinion. They will inhale a bait and are strong. Live shrimp was the ticket for them. Do not be afraid to go chase snook on docklights after dark. This was the most fun and there’s not a lot of opportunity to do this here.

Another species on my list is the goliath. You have to have some serious gear for this, but we watched a couple of old guys hook one time and time again only to get beat up and broke off before they just flat out quit trying to catch him and moved on. They left defeated, much like we did.

And fishing in Florida is not like here. Those guys will pile up on each other if the fish are congregated, like the Broad River during the cobia run, but worse. If you see a bunch of boats in one area, that’s typically where the fish are. Capt Fritz uses that same method here in Charleston and it seems to be working well for him. Be respectful, but don’t be afraid to get in there!


Thanks for that info! I’m sure seeing all those tarpon and not being able to hook up was frustrating, but I’d even like to see a few. I’ll plan to stop in some shops as well and get the local advice for that week.

I like the tip on snook under docks…another species on the list. And I definitely have thought about those goliaths as well. I have some very stout rods and a couple 8000 series penn reels. I plan to take at least one setup for them. From what I’ve read, large live mullet with enough weight to get them deep is the bait of choice. Do you recall what those old guys were using to get all the hookups?

The tarpon run in Boca Grande is INSANE.

My son was able to catch a few small tarpon 3-4’ down on Conch Key off our dock at night fishing with greenies (threadfin herring). He would just free-line one out on a hook and wait. He was very determined.

My best luck has come fishing for yellowtail on the reefs and bottom fishing for grouper/snapper.

"Apathy is the Glove into Which Evil Slips It's Hand", but really, who cares?

Boca grande is definitely a trip what a blast.
I stood on the bow for 2 years in a row.Managed to hook a couple. But never got 1 to the boat. Third year something clicked.we were bringing 2 &3 a day to the boat and even managed a couple in 150± range.

Stingrays are good bait for goliath grouper. You can get them at the bait shops… whenever I want to catch the darn things I can’t.
I use a 50 with 150 lb line & 200 lb leader. And lock the drag down.

I am fragile. Not like a flower. But like a bomb.

22 life’s a day

And tie yourself to the boat!

Yes, rays for bait. The guys I saw were using what looked like large belly fillets of something, bonito maybe. It was getting hammered and they weren’t in deep water. 20-30’ maybe, in some big old dock pilings.


“Another poon dream splintered on the rocks of reality.” --Peepod 07-25-2017

We spent our Honeymoon in Boca way back in 1964.
Fished the Tarpon Tournament. Wife caught a 130 pounder-wore her out.
Used Butterfish for bait.
Those days-maybe 60 boats fished.
These days-looks like hundreds do.

16' Alumacraft Mod V Hull Jon Boat 25hp Yammy 4 stroke

I really appreciate al the info, everyone! It’s getting me even more excited for the upcoming trip. Hopefully I’ll have some pics to put on here in a few weeks!