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 marlinIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Panama
Second choice: Ecuador

In Panama, the fertile waters stretching between Isla Montuosa and the small town of Jaque, near the renowned Tropic Star Lodge, continue to produce solid numbers of blues in the 250- to 400-pound class, with a few larger specimens also a possibility. In Ecuador, blue marlin action remains strong off Salinas and Manta, where local boats expect multiple shots at fish of 400 pounds or more this time of year.

Atlantic Blue Marlin

Atlantic blue marlin
Atlantic blue marlinIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Brazil
Second choice: Grenada

Brazil remains the top spot for Atlantic blues as game boats out of Canavieiras, Vitoria and Cabo Blanco experience a seasonal spike in the marlin bite in February. In the Caribbean, a number of seamounts and canyons off Grenada and neighboring St. Vincent attract an increasing number of blue marlin—most in the 200- to 300-pound range, ideal for fly and light tackle.

Black Marlin

black marlin
Black marlinIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Panama
Second choice: Australia

February is prime for anglers visiting Panama, intent on catching black marlin. The color change, a 30- to 60-minute run for the local fleets, is likely to yield plenty of fish, but seamounts in water as shallow as 500 feet, often closer to shore, also yield their share. Down Under, the annual mackerel run off Gold Coast continues, keeping decent numbers of hungry juvenile blacks in the area.

White Marlin

White marlin
White marlinIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Brazil
Second choice: Mexico

Vitoria, Brazil, continues to offer world-class white marlin action this month, and even on slow days, anglers are likely to raise and hook multiple fish, with most considerably larger than specimens usually encountered in other destinations. In Mexico’s Yucatan, an increasing number of whites stage off Isla Mujeres, Cancun and Cozumel. Expect the run to get steadily stronger as March approaches.

Atlantic Sailfish

Atlantic sailfish
Atlantic sailfishIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Florida
Second choice: Mexico

It’s shower time for ballyhoo in South Florida, where wolf packs of hungry sailfish hunt down schooling ballyhoo over the patch reefs—often as shallow as 30 feet—from Miami through the Keys. In Mexico, sailfish are fast increasing in numbers in the Yucatan Channel, where the bite quickly improves as more sails arrive to feast on baitfish schools off Isla Mujeres and neighboring resort towns.

Pacific Sailfish

Pacific sailfish
Pacific sailfishIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Guatemala
Second choice: Costa Rica

Whether you’re perfecting your billfishing technique, just learning the ropes, or want to battle sails until your arms and shoulders beg for mercy, Guatemala offers the high numbers and reliable action to accomplish your goal. In Costa Rica, February marks the beginning of the peak sailfish bite off Quepos, Golfito and Drake Bay to the south, and also Los Sueños to the north.

Striped Marlin

striped marlin
Striped marlinIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Mexico
Second choice: Ecuador

Mexico’s Cabo San Lucas offers world-class striped marlin action practically all year, and February has historically been one of the best months. Trolling live caballitos or artificials will spell success for visiting anglers, and fly-flingers couldn’t ask for a better time to check the stripey off their bucket lists. The Galapagos are another superb destination, where multiple hookups are common this time of year.

Wahoo

Wahoo
WahooIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Bahamas
Second choice: Bermuda

The annual wahoo run in the Bahamas usually comes to an end in March, but February still produces solid catches and trophy fish, especially around fabled San Salvador and neighboring Cat Island. Bermuda is another top option for wahoo; however, sketchy sea conditions could hamper the fishing this time of year, forcing boats to scrap plans to run to the offshore banks and instead fish closer to island shores.

Yellowfin Tuna

yellowfin tuna
Yellowfin tunaIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Louisiana
Second choice: Bermuda

The renowned Midnight Lump and other underwater structure off Louisiana’s coast come into their own during the winter months. Expect not only good numbers of yellowfins but also some of the largest of the year. In Bermuda, local crews take full advantage of any decent weather window to chum and chunk for tuna along the edges of Argus and Challenger banks.

Blackfin Tuna

blackfin tuna
Blackfin tunaIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Florida Second choice: Louisiana

In South Florida and Louisiana, there’s no better time to target blackfins around shrimp boats anchored off the Gulf Coast. It may take a couple of tries to locate one with tuna around it, so head out before sunrise, with several rods rigged and ready, good binoculars, and some cold beer and other goodies to trade with the shrimpers for bycatch, which is essential for attracting and keeping blackfins near your boat.

Bonefish

bonefish
BonefishIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Bahamas
Second choice: Mexico

As winter temperatures, mild as they are, reach the Bahamas, smaller bones gather in big schools, and mud in the channels, inside creeks or across deeper flats, leaving larger specimens, more tolerant of cooler weather, to roam shallow flat edges unescorted, boosting anglers’ chances at a trophy. In the Yucatan, expect lots of 2- to 4-pounders to patrol the shallows of Ascension, Espiritu Santo and Chetumal bays.

Snook

snook
SnookIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Florida
Second choice: Costa Rica

In Florida, snook survive February’s mercury drops by congregating in the deeper parts of the ICW and residential canals, or by pushing up coastal rivers, especially those that harbor power plants or are fed by springs. Bottom-bouncing jigs or Troll-Rites rigged with large, live shrimp is a sure bet. In Costa Rica, live-baiting at the mouth of the Rio Naranjo and other coastal rivers near Quepos yields some pre-spawning lunkers.

Tarpon

Tarpon
TarponIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Florida
Second choice: Puerto Rico

Resident Florida tarpon spend cooler periods in deep passes and inlets, or up rivers close to power plants, in the comfort of warmer water flowing from the cooling canals. At night, however, they converge to ambush shrimp and baitfish near the mouths of the natural or man-made waterways. In San Juan, Puerto Rico, the urban lagoons of San Jose and Torrecilla teem with hungry tarpon of all sizes this time of year.

Permit

Permit
PermitIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Belize
Second choice: Florida

In Belize, permit on the flats increase in number, and so do clear, sunny days, thereby improving sight-fishing throughout the region. In Florida, the best permit action takes place around nearshore wrecks, especially off the Gulf coast of the state, from Tampa to Key West, where it’s common to see numerous fish finning on the surface during the calm, sunny days between fronts.

Red Drum

red drum
Red DrumIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Louisiana
Second choice: Texas

Despite cooler water temps, redfish action in the Louisiana marshes remains red-hot. If it’s bull reds you’re after, search around outer islands and along outside shorelines, where the big girls are known to congregate—often in schools of dozens—during calm conditions, or in protected coves when the wind blows. In Texas, look for fish along jetties and over oyster reefs in 6 feet of water or more along the entire coast.

Striped Bass

striped bass
Striped bassIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: California
Second choice: Maryland

The striper bite remains consistent in California’s Sacramento Delta and San Francisco Bay, where vertical jigging with spoons and flashy jigs over sunken structure pays off big. Meanwhile, in Chesapeake Bay, coastal rivers and small tributaries host large numbers of striped bass for the winter. Finding both depth and forage are essential to locating potential hotspots.

Swordfish

swordfish
SwordfishIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Florida
Second choice: Louisiana

February is a top month to tangle with truly large broadbills in South Florida waters, where fish weighing 300 pounds and up will be active and receptive to rigged squid and live baits, both day and night. In Cajun country, captains out of Venice have perfected swordfish techniques and fine-tuned them to cash in on the great fishery available in the nearby deep haunts of the Gulf of Mexico.

King Mackerel

king mackerel
King mackerelIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Florida
Second choice: North Carolina

Waters just west of Key West become kingfish central this month. It’s there that fish exceeding 60 pounds are caught every winter, but the bite usually extends up the Gulf Coast, all the way to the Florida Panhandle. In North Carolina's Outer Banks, the abundance of forage off the shore keeps a number of kings—from 10-pound snakes to 50-pound smokers—around for another month or two.

seatrout
SeatroutIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Louisiana
Second choice: Texas

Big trout are a huge winter draw in Louisiana and Texas, where anglers hunt shallow bays, coves and bayous in hopes of catching double-digit-weight trophies. While fishing from a boat, either adrift or strategically anchored, produces results, wading mudflats on sunny days immediately following a cold front frequently produces better action, especially on or near the surface, adding to the excitement.

Dolphin

mahimahi
DolphinIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Puerto Rico
Second choice: Panama

Anglers fishing off Puerto Rico’s southern coast, where the continental shelf lies 5 to 12 miles offshore, enjoy an influx of dorado this time of year. Should trolling that first drop not produce, seamounts 17 miles out offer additional alternatives. In Panama, currents continue to carry the remnants of floating debris washed out to sea during the recent monsoon season, attracting lots of dolphin.