Key West Fishing: The Complete Guide

Studying Time: 9 minutes

The Key West fishing scene is so legendary that it barely wants introducing. This distant tropical island was made well-known by Hemingway’s tales of big Marlin and seas thick with Sailfish. And so they’re no tall tales. Key West is surrounded by flats, reefs, and deep blue sea. In all places you look, there’s one thing to catch. The place do you even begin?

That’s what we’re right here to reply. We’ll break down Key West’s high fish species and the way, the place, and when to catch them. You can even find out about native tournaments, essential fishing seasons, and far, rather more. There’s rather a lot to cowl, so let’s dive in!

Key West Fish Species

Key West enjoys the most effective of each worlds, with easy accessibility to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. This brings all of Florida’s high names to city, plus just a few fish you gained’t discover anyplace else within the US. We’ll cowl the principle targets, however they’re simply the tip of the iceberg. Take a look at our fishing calendar for a full breakdown of what’s biting every month.

Tarpon and Bonefish

At first look, you couldn’t get two extra completely different fish than these. Tarpon are heavyweight champions – “Silver Kings” that may high 200 kilos and know how one can throw their weight about. Bonefish are inshore ninjas,“Grey Ghosts” that hardly ever hit double digits however are nearly unattainable to identify. What have they got in frequent? Sight fishing.

Tarpon and Bonefish are fly fishing royalty. Together with Snook and Allow (which additionally reside right here), they make up the IGFA Inshore Gand Slam – the dream for a lot of formidable anglers. You’ve obtained loads of probabilities to make that dream a actuality in Key West, as all three species swarm the shallows from spring till fall.

Snapper and Grouper

“Sportfishing’s enjoyable, however I would like some meals.” Snapper and Grouper to the rescue! These are among the most typical catches in Key West. They’re all-round favorites – nearly as good in your line as they’re in your plate. You’ll be able to catch them round patch reefs, wrecks, bridges, and even from shore. All of it will depend on the species you’re after.

A day of Snapper fishing in Key West might land you Mangroves, Muttons, and Yellowtails, in addition to the occasional Cubera. Within the Grouper camp, you’ve obtained Gags, Blacks, and Reds, in addition to deep-water Groupers and the last word rod-breaker: Goliath Grouper. As if that’s not sufficient, you possibly can come throughout large Allow on the reefs, too!

Tuna and Dolphin

Can’t resolve between severe sportfishing and fine-dining fillets? Why not get pleasure from each? Head offshore to battle Blackfin Tuna and sashimi-worthy “Dolphin.” Don’t fear, we’re not speaking concerning the lovable sea mammals – that is Mahi Mahi, among the greatest consuming on the market, and an actual show-stopper besides!

Mahi Mahi and Blackfin Tuna peak within the spring, with one other shot at Tuna within the second half of autumn. In summer time, you’ll nonetheless have a superb likelihood of each species, however it’s good to go farther out to search out them. You get the added bonus of Wahoo to make up for it, although. To not point out the Billfish chunk.

Sailfish and Marlin

Key West’s deep sea fishing is a sight to behold. Image a dozen indignant Sails packing balls of ballyhoo so tight that they explode, showering the water with silver. The Marlin chunk is much less of a spectacle however simply as thrilling, with 300 lb Blues preventing on your bait within the deep waters offshore. That is what drew Hemingway right here, and it nonetheless attracts anglers from throughout the globe to this present day. 

You’ll be able to tackle Billfish regardless of once you go to Key West. Sailfish are round in all however the warmest months, whereas Blue Marlin solely go away in winter. They work in shifts to maintain the chunk robust year-round. Sprinkle on some Swordfish for good measure, and your arms won’t ever be the identical once more.

Sharks and Extra!

With so many A-list recreation fish, it’s straightforward to overlook the ocean’s most iconic predators – Sharks. Heat waters and ample forage make Key West Shark fishing each bit nearly as good as you’d anticipate. Reel in small Blacktips and Bonnetheads with the children or take a look at your energy towards big Bulls, Tigers, and Hammerheads. 

There’s extra? In fact there’s extra! That is Key West, the place you possibly can hardly fill a bucket with out catching fish. Barracuda stalk the flats. Noticed Seatrout hunt within the backcountry. Amberjack, Cobia, King Mackerel, and extra patrol the wrecks. Then there’s Lobster, Hogfish, Pompano – we might maintain going all day.

Find out how to Fish in Key West

There are a number of methods to moist a line in Key West, relying in your choice. Each model has execs, cons, and that particular one thing which will make it good for you. Right here’s a run-down of every one.

Constitution Fishing

That is the last word option to expertise Key West. Pole throughout the flats chasing Tarpon and Bonefish. Drop strains over the reefs for Snapper and Grouper, or dive into the water to spearfish for them. In any other case, pace offshore to battle Sailfish and replenish on Dolphin. No matter you’re after, there’s a ship fueled and ready for you.

Key West fishing charters supply rather more than simply the boat, thoughts you. You’ll get the most effective gear for no matter fish you’re after and go to productive spots that solely the locals know. Most significantly, you’ll have a seasoned captain on the helm, who will information novices in the direction of their first fish or assist seasoned anglers up their recreation.

Occasion Boat Fishing

If you need a style of the ocean however can’t afford a non-public constitution, get together boats are the following neatest thing. These are giant vessels that always maintain 30 anglers or extra. They don’t offer you that VIP feeling of a constitution however they’re a great way to get out to the reefs and reel in one thing tasty.

Occasion boat fishing does have its limitations, although. The boats are too huge to fish inshore, they usually hardly ever goal bluewater species like Sailfish. You’ll be sharing the boat – and the crew – with dozens of different anglers, so that you get restricted assist and adaptability. Consider them as someplace between a constitution boat and a fishing pier. 

Kayak Fishing

In fact, there may be one other option to get onto the water within the Keys: kayak fishing. Kayaks are virtually silent within the water, good for sneaking up on spooky Bones and Allow. You’ll be able to lease them cheaply and launch from spots round Key West. The primary draw back to kayak fishing is, nicely, you’re fishing in a kayak.

You’ll be sitting down more often than not, making it powerful to identify fish. Casting to and preventing fish additionally takes some follow. Simply attending to the fish will be exhausting, limiting all however essentially the most expert ‘yakers to the shallows. It’s enjoyable, however laborious work. If you’re planning on kayaking, try this man for a ton of inside ideas.

Shore Fishing

“Why do I would like a ship in any respect? Can’t I simply fish from shore?” In fact you possibly can! Wading throughout tropical flats is the last word dream of many fly fishing fanatics, and it’s in all probability the Keys that sparked that dream to start with. You can even head to the pier or fish off bridges to catch a ton of various species.

Shore fishing comes with lots of trial and error. Due to this, anglers typically head out with an area first to be taught the most effective spots and get the within line on what works nicely right here. Ask round fishing boards or rent a information for just a few hours – it could prevent days of slack strains and untouched baits.

Key West Fishing Spots

You’ve an concept of what to catch. You understand how you wish to do it. Now you simply must resolve the place to go. To get you began, listed below are just a few basic spots for every model of angling.

Shore Fishing Spots

  • Smathers Seaside: A public seaside on the Key West’s Atlantic aspect with good wade and shore fishing. It will get busy in locations and the water turns murky when the wind kicks up but it surely’s a stable spot, particularly for Tarpon.
  • White Road Pier: Key West’s fishing pier (formally Edward B. Knight Pier) is a tried-and-true place to search out Tarpon, Jacks, Snapper, Snook, and even Redfish. The chunk’s greatest at evening, however you possibly can catch unimaginable sunrises and sunsets right here, too.
  • Fort Zachary Taylor State Park: A pleasant place to flee the crowds and catch some dinner. Fish off the rocks within the west of the park for Snapper, Jacks, and even Tarpon. Sadly, you possibly can’t fish from the seaside.

Kayak Fishing Spots

  • Shark Channel Bridge: Fishing on the bridge itself is banned, however you possibly can launch from the general public ramp close by and discover beneath for Snapper, small Grouper, Mackerel, and Jack Crevalle, in addition to Tarpon across the pipes at evening.
  • Cayo Agua: Extra a common marker than a particular spot. This entire space of flats is dwelling to Allow, Bonefish, Jacks, and extra. It’s preferrred for kayaks. Flats boats additionally head right here rather a lot, however it’s good to know the realm.
  • Vandenberg Reef: An enormous synthetic reef roughly 7 miles south of Key West. It is a enjoyable spot for boaters or formidable ‘yakers who wish to fish deeper water. Snapper, Grouper, Mackerel, and Amberjack reside right here, as do huge Sharks.

Boat Fishing Spots

  • Marquesas Keys: A hoop of small islands 20 miles west of city. This iconic flats fishery is dwelling to huge Bones, ‘Cudas, and Allow. The encompassing rock piles and patch reefs additionally maintain a ton of Snapper and Grouper.
  • The Wall: A legendary bluewater spot 20 miles south of Key West. The water right here plummets to 2,000 toes deep, mixing vitamins from under with the nice and cozy Gulf currents above. This attracts Marlin, Sailfish, Tuna, Mahi Mahi, and even Swordfish.
  • Dry Tortugas: You want a multi-day journey to fish right here, however you gained’t remorse it for those who go. Haul in large Snappers and Groupers on the reefs, then troll for Sailfish and Dolphin or wade for Bonefish. It’s an actual all-in-one fishery.

When To Go to Key West

You’re nearly able to hit the water. Earlier than you set off, listed below are just a few occasions that you just would possibly wish to participate in. There are additionally some essential fishing seasons to remember if you wish to take fish dwelling.

Fishing Tournaments

Really feel like battling different anglers in addition to huge fish? Hit the shallows within the Cuda Gap Event or wrestle in Mackerel within the Key West Kingfish Mayhem, each held in January. Issues actually warmth up in July, with severe sportfishing occasions just like the Del Brown Allow Event and Key West Marlin Event.

The highest occasion in native anglers’ calendars is the Key West Fishing Event. This family-friendly fish fest has been operating for over half a century. It begins in December and runs all the best way till July. Throughout that point, you possibly can weigh in or launch any of 46 completely different species from Redfish to Blue Marlin on your likelihood of a prize!

Fishing Seasons and Laws

The Florida Keys have entry to each Gulf and Atlantic water. Nonetheless, regulations-wise, they rely as Atlantic. Which means that most Groupers are protected till Might 1 every year and Hogfish are solely open Might–October. Lobster have two seasons, a “sport season” on sure days in July and an everyday season August–March.

The Keys even have particular guidelines in the case of Allow. Allow fishing is so good right here that they’re protected April–July throughout their spawning season. Don’t fear, you possibly can catch and launch them year-round, which is what we’d advocate.

Key West Fishing: The Greatest within the World?

Key West is a city of gorgeous contradictions – half island paradise, half old-school consuming gap. Through the years it’s been dwelling to everybody from Harry S. Truman to Hunter S. Thompson, to not point out the good Ernest Hemingway.

What’s it that pulls individuals right here? For some, it’s the climate, and that’s motive sufficient for certain. Nonetheless, amongst these within the know, Key West is among the best fishing spots on the whole planet, and the dream vacation spot for an angling journey.

Are you planning a Key West fishing journey? Have you ever fished right here up to now? Inform us your tales or drop us a query within the feedback under. We’d love to listen to from you!

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