2. Key West, Florida
Big Fish Any Way You Want to Fish Them
Weather. It's the word that one of the Keys' best-known veteran inshore guides, Capt. Tom Rowland, comes back to over and over. That's because it's a critical factor for success and because "if the conditions are good, I can catch tarpon out of Key West almost any day of the year." The Key West area hasn't developed a reputation as one the world's premier tarpon spots without good reason. "It's a unique and awesome tarpon fishery," Rowland says. "We can catch tarpon by just about every imaginable method and every situation in the Keys. For example, an angler fishing right in Key West harbor with an expert like R.T. Trosset, who chums them up, may hook as many as 50 tarpon in one tide." Impressive - if less dramatic - numbers are likely for anglers fishing lures or casting flies. If you want beaucoup light-tackle action, you can find lots of aggressive 5- to 40-pounders throughout the year. But for the big bruisers, those averaging in the vicinity of 80 pounds, plan to fish February and March, and some years right into June. You certainly don't have to travel to Africa for huge fish. "I've guided anglers to many tarpon over 200 pounds, and some of those on fly," says Rowland. Also, unlike west Africa, Key West does offer opportunities to sight-cast flies to tarpon in clear, shallow water. If the heat of summer gets oppressive, try fishing at night; it's cool and often extremely productive. Several major airlines fly directly into Key West from southeastern cities. Places to stay and eat and world-class guides with top-shelf boats abound. For more information, visit www.saltwaterexperience.com.
Photo: Pat Ford