Where to Fish in February | Salt Water Sportsman

Where to Fish in February

Find the best spots to find your favorite species 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.

Pacific Blue Marlin

Pacific blue marlin

Pacific blue marlin

Illustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Panama
Second choice: Ecuador

Waters between Jaque and Isla Montuosa, on Panama’s Pacific coast, are still the top producers of blues this month. Most range from 200 to 400 pounds, but some real tackle-busters will also be on the prowl. In Ecuador, the stretch off Salinas and Manta offers another top option for tangling with blue marlin. This area is known to produce big fish, so hit the gym and eat your Wheaties before you head down.

Atlantic Blue Marlin

Atlantic blue marlin

Atlantic blue marlin

Illustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Brazil
Second choice: Grenada

The blue marlin bite is hot off Brazil’s central coast in February, especially around Royal Charlotte Bank, which is loaded with tuna this time of year, drawing hungry blues. In the Caribbean, waters off Grenada and St. Vincent enjoy a seasonal spike in blue marlin traveling through. Boats trolling around the offshore seamounts and canyons usually return to port flying more release flags.

Black Marlin

black marlin

Black marlin

Illustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Panama
Second choice: Australia

February is still peak time for blacks in Panama, where plenty of fish patrol the color change, and some surprise anglers considerably closer to shore, especially those fishing in the vicinity of underwater pinnacles in water as shallow as 300 feet. Down Under, the big girls have left the Great Barrier Reef, but the giant schools of mackerel congregating in Gold Coast attract lots of juvenile blacks to nearby shallow reefs.

White Marlin

White marlin

White marlin

Illustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Brazil
Second choice: Barbados

The first drop off Vitoria, Brazil, remains the best option for multiple daily releases this month, and the size of most whites here is well above average. White marlin catches have become most prevalent off Barbados in February, especially of late, as local crews are becoming more proficient at tailoring trolling spreads and using pitch baits and bait-and-switch, opening the door for fly and light-tackle anglers to cash in.

Atlantic Sailfish

Atlantic sailfish

Atlantic sailfish

Illustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Florida
Second choice: Mexico

The Sunshine State boasts terrific sailfishing this time of year, with fish widespread along its Atlantic coast, especially from Key West north to Fort Pierce. And now is when wolf packs of hungry sails chase ballyhoo on Florida Keys patch reefs, providing sight-fishing opportunities. Migrating sailfish start showing up along the Yucatan Channel this month, but the action there won’t peak for another six to eight weeks.

Pacific Sailfish

Pacific sailfish

Pacific sailfish

Illustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Guatemala
Second choice: Costa Rica

It’s same old, same old when it comes to Pacific sails in February, because Guatemala and Costa Rica remain the top two destinations for anglers to amass double-digit releases. Sport-fishing fleets from Iztapa, Los Sueños, Quepos and Golfito garner enough shots this time of year to also offer fly and ultra-light-tackle devotees the promise of battling and successfully landing multiple fish.

Striped Marlin

striped marlin

Striped marlin

Illustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Mexico
Second choice: New Zealand

Lots of stripes again feasted on schooling baitfish in Magdalena Bay in late fall, and now many of those are making their way south, closer to Cabo San Lucas, within reach of the resort town’s sport-fishers, and even pangas. In Kiwi waters, warm summer currents spark a seasonal influx of big striped marlin. Local hot spots there include Bay of Islands, New Plymouth, Whitianga, Tauranga, Tairua and Hokianga.

Wahoo

Wahoo

Wahoo

Illustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Bermuda
Second choice: Bahamas

Kokomo is not a real destination, but Bermuda and the Bahamas sure are, and both are home to countless wahoo this month. Expect terrific action along Bermuda’s Argus and Challenger banks, as well as off the southeast and southwest corners of the island. Meanwhile, the bite off the Bahamian Out Islands of San Salvador and Cat remains solid for another four to six weeks.

Yellowfin Tuna

yellowfin tuna

Yellowfin tuna

Illustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Bermuda
Second choice: Louisiana

Bermuda is far from a one-trick pony; aside from its wahoo fishery, it also offers fantastic action with 50- to 100-pound yellowfin tuna. Trolling live bait is always productive, but chumming and drifting chunks in the slick has long been a favorite local tactic. And will this be the year the insane bite returns to Louisiana’s Midnight Lump? Regardless, boats out of Venice find lots of fish around oil rigs and shrimp boats.

Blackfin Tuna

blackfin tuna

Blackfin tuna

Illustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Florida Second choice: Louisiana

Waters on both sides of the Florida Keys teem with blackfins in February. The humps on the Atlantic side, the End of the Bar off Key West, and shrimp boats anchored in the Gulf keep blackfin chasers happy. Down in southeast Louisiana, shrimp boats also attract their share of portly blackfins, but trolling around oil and gas platforms is a more dependable strategy.

Bonefish

bonefish

Bonefish

Illustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Belize
Second choice: Bahamas

The winter temps that slow down the fishing elsewhere don’t much affect Belizean waters, so resident bones continue to cruise, tail and feed undeterred along inside shallows and the flats that surround the outer atolls. In the Bahamas, bonefishing is great whenever the weather cooperates; otherwise, it becomes a game of hide-and-seek. When the mercury dips, look for fish schooled up and mudding in 3 to 6 feet of water.

Snook

snook

Snook

Illustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Florida
Second choice: Belize

Linesiders don’t tolerate water temps below 70 degrees for very long, so in Florida many seek refuge up coastal rivers, deep residential canals, and certain stretches of the Intracoastal Waterway during winter. If you’ll only settle for sight-fishing in shallow-water, try the Everglades backcountry. In Belize, mangrove shorelines adjacent to the mouths of coastal rivers pay off, and so do river bends up to a mile or two upstream.

Tarpon

Tarpon

Tarpon

Illustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Florida
Second choice: Mexico

Anglers drifting baits along South Florida beaches near an inlet, or inside Government Cut, Port Everglades or Key West Harbor should hit pay dirt often enough to make the effort worthwhile, even during chilly nights. The tarpon nurseries in the northern Yucatan Peninsula continue to hold an abundance of juveniles, which will remain active and willingly take a variety of flies and lures.

Permit

Permit

Permit

Illustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Belize
Second choice: Mexico

Belize isn’t about to relinquish the top stop in the permit-fishing hierarchy anytime soon. Expect an abundance of fish patrolling inside flats, the shallows surrounding outer atolls, and the lengthy string of shoals in between. In the Yucatan, February offers dependable fishing on the flats of Isla Blanca, and the bays of Ascension, Espiritu Santo and Chetumal. You’ll find more big fish in the southern part of the peninsula.

Red Drum

red drum

Red Drum

Illustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Louisiana
Second choice: Texas

Bull redfish hunters head to southeast Louisiana this month, hoping for bluebird days. Those calm, sunny periods between cold fronts usually bring ample opportunity to sight-fish some real monsters in just a couple of feet of water. In the Lone Star State, redfish are widespread in the bays from Galveston to South Padre Island, foraging on grass flats and oyster reefs.

Striped Bass

striped bass

Striped bass

Illustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: North Carolina
Second choice: Maryland

Both Pamlico and Albemarle sounds offer winter haven for scores of striped bass, some of which also wait out the cold up North Carolina’s coastal rivers. How accidental pollution resulting from the last hurricane will affect the fishing remains to be seen. Farther north, Chesapeake Bay also offers refuge to stripers, along with myriad foraging options for specimens of all ages.

Swordfish

swordfish

Swordfish

Illustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Florida
Second choice: Louisiana

In South Florida, now is when boats targeting broadbills from Palm Beach south to Key West tangle with some serious heavyweight fighters. In Louisiana, there’s no shortage of deep structure in the Gulf of Mexico, and tailored day- and nighttime techniques developed by Florida captains and seasoned offshore anglers are also paying big dividends.

King Mackerel

king mackerel

King mackerel

Illustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Florida
Second choice: North Carolina

Winter kingfishing doesn’t get any better than off Key West, where the number of smokers this time of year is amazing. Even a 90-pound giant hit the scales a few years back. Florida’s Gulf coast, from Tampa south, and the Panhandle also yield some excellent catches. In North Carolina, the king action is winding down, but enough fish of all sizes remain to make fishing productive.

Bluefish

Bluefish

Illustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: North Carolina
Second choice: Florida

North Carolina’s Outer Banks are known stomping grounds for blues, from a couple of pounds to double-digit weights. Winter action, however, tends to be sporadic, because the fish are on the move and rarely stage in one place for very long. Cooling water temps push schools of medium to large bluefish all the way down to Florida, where they enter major inlets, and even track baitfish up rivers, like the Loxahatchee.

Dolphin

mahimahi

Dolphin

Illustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Panama
Second choice: Mexico

The colorful acrobats remain abundant off Panama’s Pacific coast, a key reason for the ongoing hot marlin bite. The clash of cold and warm currents is sure to gather lots of floating debris along the color change, so that’s a good place to start your search. Couples (a bull and a cow) and small packs of mature dolphin migrate along Mexico’s Pacific coast this month, and they’ll gladly attack big baits intended for marlin.

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