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Where to Fish in February…


The Salt Water Sportsman editors list the top two locations to fish in February for some of the most popular species, plus notes about each fish-location pairing.

First choice: Panama
Second choice: New Zealand

Lots of 300- to 500-pound blues hunt along the color change off Panama’s Pacific coast, where floating debris gathers, attracting the bonito, small tuna and dolphin that marlin seek. In New Zealand, warm summer currents bring in a steady flow of blues averaging 400 pounds. Most patrol the stretch between the Bay of Islands and North Cape.

First choice: Brazil
Second choice: Grenada

A major spike in the number of big females makes the waters off Vitoria and Canavieiras, Brazil, tops for Atlantic blues this month. In the Caribbean, blue marlin prowl a couple of major drops in the continental shelf along the Grenadines, just a short run from both Grenada and St. Vincent.

First choice: Panama
Second choice: Australia

The color change outside the Gulf of Panama and various underwater peaks just off the Pacific coast are primary hunting areas for black marlin, which remain a consistent target for offshore battles. The abundance of mackerel over shallow reefs off Australia’s Gulf Coast keeps numerous juvenile blues in the area.

First choice: Brazil
Second choice: Mexico

Despite the influx of big blues, white marlin remain a big draw in Vitoria, Brazil, where the latter are known to consistently exceed 150 pounds. Along Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, whites build steadily in number and continue to stage off Isla Mujeres, Cancun and Cozumel before it’s time for them to move on in late spring.

First choice: Florida
Second choice: Mexico

Atlantic sails don’t mind rough water, so anglers fishing Florida should get a well-deserved payoff in any conditions. The stretch from the Keys north to Stuart offers sails aplenty, but sight-fishing around ballyhoo schools over Islamorada reefs is not to be missed. Sailfish numbers are still on the upswing off Isla Mujeres and Cancun.

First choice: Guatemala
Second choice: Costa Rica

Peak sailfish season continues in Guatemala, where game boats still tally high release numbers. With most crews raising over 20 sails a day, there’s no better place to perfect hooking and fighting billfish or try your hand at fly-fishing for big game. In Costa Rica, the solid sailfish bite has spread from Golfito and Quepos northward to Los Sueños and Puerto Carrillo.

First choice: Mexico
Second choice: New Zealand

Now is when the fleet out of Cabo San Lucas pitches or drops back baits to an increasing number of striped marlin spotted surfing the waves. Meanwhile, in New Zealand, the warm waters of the East Aukland Current push in some huge stripes. New Plymouth, Tauranga, Whitianga, Tairua, Hokianga, Tutukaka and Bay of Islands are among the top spots.

First choice: Bermuda
Second choice: Bahamas

Bermuda’s renowned Argus and Challenger banks continue to yield good numbers of ’hoos to anglers trolling live baits or high-speed lure-and-ballyhoo combinations, and this month, some will be quite large. In the Bahamas, San Salvador and neighboring Cat Island remain solid bets and the most likely areas to give up triple-digit-weight fish.

First choice: Louisiana
Second choice: Bermuda

The fabled lumps off the Louisiana coast have historically turned on this time of year, but even when they don’t, boats out of Venice find plenty of 40- to 100-pound yellowfins around floating oil rigs and behind shrimp boats. In Bermuda, chumming and chunking is the game, with fish congregating around Argus and Challenger banks.

First choice: Florida
Second choice: Louisiana

The tuna bite at The Bar off Key West and the various humps off Marathon and Islamorada remains hot this month, but during calm days, chumming and chunking around shrimp boats on the Gulf side of the Keys can yield epic results. In southeast Louisiana, trolling live baits around shrimp trawlers produces some real butterballs.

First choice: Bahamas
Second choice: Cayman Islands

While prevailing winds increase, water temps in the Bahamas and Cayman Islands remain mild, offering resident bonefish conditions conducive to congregating and foraging in the shallows. Target cruisers and tailers in protected coves and bays; otherwise, look for mudding fish in 4 to 8 feet of water, adjacent to shallow flats.

First choice: Florida
Second choice: Costa Rica

Florida snook hunker down deep at night but warm up on nearby mud flats and sandbars during sunny days. Live shrimp on a Troll-Rite or bucktail jig, fished slowly, close to the bottom around bridges and docks, are the ticket after dark. Sight-fish with soft plastics or free-lined shrimp for the sunbathers. Fat snook still congregate in Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast rivers.

First choice: Florida
Second choice: Mexico

Resident fish remain stacked in Miami at Government Cut, Fort Lauderdale at Port Everglades, and Key West Harbor, while large specimens from parts unknown start to trickle into Ponce de Leon and Whitewater bays in the Everglades. In the northern Yucatan, mangrove lagoon systems from Campeche to Holbox are loaded with eager juvenile silver kings.

First choice: Belize
Second choice: Mexico

Anglers visiting Belize find reliable action from Ambergris down to Punta Gorda. If a stiff breeze blows during your trip, wading lets you get closer to the fish and increases your chances. The same applies in the Yucatan at Chetumal, Espiritu Santo and Ascension bays, where permit remain plentiful and within reach when weather allows.

First choice: Louisiana
Second choice: Texas

Bluebird days between fronts are prime for targeting bull reds around Louisiana’s outer islands and shoals, and plenty of slot-size fish are looking for shrimp and crabs in the marshes. The grass flats of Laguna Madre, Corpus Christi, Copano, San Antonio and Matagorda bays, and oyster reefs in Galveston and Trinity bays offer reliable action in Texas.

First choice: Maryland
Second choice: California

Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries offer the most reliable striper fishing along the Atlantic Coast this month. Look for the warmest moving water with signs of forage, and fish slowly and methodically because the fish won’t chase down baits. In California, February is a top month to drop jigs for stripers over reefs and ledges in San Francisco Bay.

First choice: Florida
Second choice: Louisiana

Rough seas make dropping and drifting baits effectively for swords difficult, but winter broadbill action from Fort Lauderdale through the Florida Keys is superb both day and night when the weather cooperates. Similar tactics over deep structure and abrupt ledges in the Gulf of Mexico pay off for boats out of Venice and other Louisiana ports.

First choice: Florida
Second choice: North Carolina

Kings abound off both Florida coasts; however, anglers looking for smokers in early February do best in the Keys, and the fish head north in spring, so the hot bite could take place off Palm Beach or Stuart by month’s end. In North Carolina, peak kingfish season has come and gone, but enough fish linger for live-baiters to expect good catches off the Outer Banks.

First choice: Louisiana
Second choice: Florida

Oil and gas platforms in 10 to 20 feet of water off Louisiana remain reliable trout producers, but trophy fish often sneak onto nearby shallow mud flats to warm up and forage during sunny periods. In the Sunshine State, some of the year’s largest trout ambush prey on the shallow flats. Look for shoreline points, potholes and sandbars in grassy areas.

First choice: Mexico
Second choice: Panama

The Pacific coast of Mexico sees an influx of dolphin interrupting anglers trolling for marlin. Target them with smaller baits and lures. The dolphin parade continues along Panama’s Pacific coast, where schoolies often show up in green water, and trophy bulls and cows pounce on small live bonito intended for marlin.


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