Mangrove Snapper

Mangrove – Fishing Key West Florida

Mangrove snappers or grey snapper are common everywhere in the Florida Keys. They average less then 4 pounds and are great eating and fighting fish. They eat smaller live baits such as pilchards and pinfish, shrimp and also cut bait. They can be found around mangroves, on the reef and even in the grass in Florida Bay. Best tackle for them would be 12 – 20 pound test spinning gear. I usually use small jigs to catch them.

Lemon Shark

Lemon – Fishing In Key West Florida

Lemon Sharks are common all around the Keys. They grow very large and are one of weakest fighting sharks in terms of sport fishing. They eat just about anything but chunks of dead fish seem to work best.

King Mackerel, Kingfish

King Mackerel – Key West Boat Charters

Florida and the Florida Keys are home to several types of Mackerel year round. Mackerel are long slender fish with a mouth full of sharp teeth, that run in schools. Schools range in size and will consist primarily of fish around the same size. They are around all year but they are really around in big numbers in the winter months. Mackerel usually try to bite the tail of their prey when they attack, so when using a larger bait it can by very helpful to add a stinger treble hook to the rear of the bait. Mackerel have razor teeth and a bit of wire will be required in front of your baits in order to reduce cut offs. Sometimes for the Spanish and cero mackerel, some 50# fluorocarbon with a circle hook will work well and increase strikes.

A lot of people think that Mackerel, in general, are not that good to eat, but personally, if you eat them fresh I think they taste fine. They don’t freeze as well as other fish and have a stronger oilier taste. Many people like them smoked.

The king mackerel is the largest of the Mackerel family found in the waters around the Florida Keys. They range in size from 4 to around 20 pounds but sometimes ones a lot larger are caught. Good tackle to fish for Kingfish with would be medium to light rod spooled with around 20# test. Kingfish can be caught in a variety of ways: some of the more popular ways are trolling spoons on planers or downriggers. They can also be caught on live bait. Pilchards are probably the best bait for the small fish, but ballyhoo will work too. People who fish for large King Mackerel often slow troll larger baits like blue runners or speedos.

Jewfish, Golaith Grouper

Jewfish – Fish In Key West

Jewfish are a protected species. It’s actually illegal to take them out of the water to even remove the hook, which doesn’t really make sense. These grouper were overfished and close to extinction when they were protected, and since they have bounced back. Maybe bounced back too well according to some. These groupers grow large: up to 600 pounds. They are common all around the Keys in the 100 pound range, and there are some over 200 pounds on many large structures in the Gulf and Atlantic. They are fun to catch for catch and release but can be a real nuisance when fishing for other fish. It is common for jewfish to hone in on a hooked fish and eat it, even if the hooked fish is very large, and the jewfish will follow a hooked fish to the surface. They are extremely common in the Gulf, but they appear on the reef in the Atlantic also.

They will eat live and dead bait, and you will not be able to land a larger one on regular fishing tackle.

Hogfish, Hog Snapper

Hogfish – Fishing Charter Key West

Hog Snapper or hogfish is not a snapper but actually a wrasse, and they are considered a great eating fish. They have 3 dorsal fins that looks like streamers. They eat crustaceans and hang around rocks and coral heads on the reef. The best way to fish for them in my experience is to use a small crab on a jig. They eat shrimp but often were they live there are small grunts or snappers which will attack the shrimp before the hogfish gets to it.


Grunt – Key West Charters

Grunts, they are numerous species of grunts in the Keys. Most are small and can be found in schools around any structure or reef. They can be caught by the dozen on most patch reefs and people new to fishing here will find them entertaining. They make decent baits for grouper and other large fish and actually are pretty good to eat if you catch large ones or don’t mind cleaning little fish.

Great Barracuda

Barracuda – Key West Charter Fishing

The great barracuda is common to the Florida Keys and can be caught on a variety of baits and artificials. They live in the waters around the Keys, from the Everglades and Florida Bay to far out into the Atlantic. Anywhere there is a food supply they will be there.

They can be great fun to catch on light tackle, especially in shallow water; barracuda will make blistering runs and jumps and put up a great a fight. Once these fish are hooked it’s all action, and you’ll need to be on the ball if you want to in order to retrieve your catch. Probably the best gear to hook them on is a lighter action spinning rod with 12 pound test and about a foot or so of wire leader, and 7/0-8/0 circle hook. They will attack live bait extremely aggressively when feeding, and they wolf the bait down, so it unnecessary to let them carry the bait for very long before setting the hook. For all their aggressiveness and easy to catch reputation, the large barracudas are pretty smart and have great eyesight, so they will often just follow baits without striking. A bait fleeing rapidly from them seems to trigger their attack response so usually when fishing for barracudas with lures the retrieve has to be very fast.

Barracuda can be sight casted on the flats and are often caught when bonefish and permit are not being co-operative.

They are often considered a junk species because they are relatively easy to catch and are rarely eaten due to fears of ciguatera poisoning. Many large ones know all about fishing boats and will actually park themselves behind or under a fishing boat, and wait for someone to reel in a fish, like a yellowtail snapper. They’ll rush the fish and either cut it in half or take the whole fish. This sometimes can be frustrating when trying to catch snapper for dinner. Usually if you can hook the barracuda even for a minute it will spook them and make them go away. You can use this behavior to catch them also, by putting out a large bait like a grunt, they think it’s just another easy meal.

Ocean Triggerfish

Ocean Triggerfish – Charter Fishing Key West

Ocean Triggerfish are common all over the reef in water over 40 feet deep. They will sometimes group up in a chum slick and will kill any larger bait you put out. They are great to eat but sort of difficult to clean because their skin is so thick. They have small mouths that are full of crushing teeth. They nibble a lot and will steal baits pretty quickly if you aren’t paying attention. The best way to catch the trigger fish is use a small mustad hook, or a small treble with a piece of cut fish on it. Either weight it down with a couple of split shots or free line it back. You have to pay attention, because when they eat they don’t run with the bait, they just sit still. So, when you feel a little tapping just give the reel half a turn, and when it feels solid start reeling. Triggerfish fight good and are fun to catch on light tackle, but they have rough skin and rough teeth, so you need to have at least 20 pound test leader.

Gag Grouper

Gag Grouper – Key West Florida Fishing

This is a baby gag grouper, the species gets large but is more common in the Florida Bay and Gulf of Mexico then Atlantic. Its more commonly caught in the lower keys then the upper keys.


Filefish – Charter Boat Key West

File fish , this weird looking fish are common on the shallower reef and are notorious bait stealers, they are not caught on purpose but are actually pretty good to eat.