Key West Tarpon Fishing

Key West Tarpon Fishing

Key West tarpon fishing is the preferred angling experience for fishermen from all over North America and the rest of the world. The tarpon is a fish that truly stands out. In fact, it’s achieved an almost legendary status among fishing experts. They flock to the area every year, just for a chance at landing one of these magnificent game fish.

Huge, powerful, and determined to stay in the water, the tarpon certainly isn’t the easiest catch in the world. But if you’ve got the verve and endurance, Key West tarpon fishing might become one of your favorite ocean activities too.

Getting to Know the Tarpon

The first thing that jumps out about the tarpon is its impressive size. The length and weight of a given tarpon usually depend on its age. As they mature, a tarpon can grow up to anywhere between 5-6feet long. Just as impressively, tarpon typically weighs somewhere in the range of 50-200 pounds. And while much larger tarpon are sometimes spotted, the average weight settles in at somewhere around 100 pounds.

The tarpon’s size alone puts it at the top of the area’s food chain. It also allows them to devour pretty much any other fish that they want. The tarpon’s dominant presence is a big reason why many locals refer to it as ‘The Silver King.’

Its striking appearance has only enhanced the tarpon’s well-earned reputation. The back of a tarpon displays dark hues of bluish green that make them fairly easy to identify for experienced guides. This quick recognition is also helped by the markings on the sides of the tarpon. Here, the dark blues of the back transition quickly to bright silver lines that extend almost all way to the tail.

Usually, tarpon swim in relatively large schools. This means that if you spot one, there are probably many more in the immediate vicinity. And once you actually get a tarpon onto your boat, you’ll discover a mouth that extends upward sharply and gives the tarpon its distinctively ferocious look.

The Ins and Outs of Key West Tarpon Fishing

When going after tarpon, the most important thing is knowing where to find them. Their preferred hunting waters depend on the time of year, but large schools often congregate at the top of the water column in Key West Harbor. You’re most likely to land a tarpon between March and July, but only an experienced guide can predict where they’ll be at a given time of year.

Dropping a chum line is a great way to pique a tarpon’s interest and get them swimming close to your boat. After that, you’ve got a great chance of hooking one with live or dead bait. And that’s when the real battle begins. A tarpon will not come out of the water without a fight, so be ready for an endurance test if you’re serious about landing one.

By now, it’s probably pretty clear why Key West tarpon fishing is known the world over as a thrilling ocean adventure. But in the end, it’s really just something you’ll have to experience firsthand. Contact us today for the most exciting tarpon adventure in the business.

Key West Shark Fishing Charter

The Thrills of Shark Fishing in Key West

It’s impossible to catalog all the wonderful things about deep sea fishing in Key West, but landing a shark is definitely at the top of the list.  But it’s important to keep in mind that there’s more to shark fishing than the myths you’ll see in the movies.

Strangely enough, the reality of shark fishing is actually much more fascinating than the way it’s portrayed in the movies. Requiring a wealth of knowledge, endurance, and great deal of patience, landing a real-life shark is a truly transcendent adventure. It’s not merely a highlight of deep sea fishing in Key West. Looking one of these wonderful beasts from up close has the power to be a life altering experience.

An Overview of Shark Fishing

Fishing for shark can seem intimidating at first and it’s definitely not something to take lightly. But with our experienced and patient captains, your party will emerge from their shark outing safe, exhausted, and satisfied. In other words, they can deliver a memorable fishing experience for anyone who has the fortitude to try it.

There are many opportunities out there for deep sea fishing in Key West, but none are as action packed as targeting sharks with one of our expert guides. They’ll get you engaged with one of the area’s many shark species quicker than anyone. And most importantly of all, they’ll give you and your party the best chance at landing a few.

Deep Sea Fishing in Key West and Popular Shark Species

The terrifying vision of the Jaws movies is a hard one to break, but that doesn’t mean it’s realistic. Yes, sharks can definitely be dangerous creatures. But sharks actually rarely attack humans, and fishing for them is perfectly safe as long as you’ve got the right guide.

There’s another movie misconception about sharks floating around out there, one that diminishes the incredible variety of shark species that exist outside of popular culture. It might seem like there’s only a couple of different sharks in the world, but the truth is actually quite different. In fact, the shark family is as diverse and spectacular as any in the animal kingdom.

Here are just a few of the sharks you can find and catch in the waters around Key West:

  • Lemon sharks
  • Reef Sharks
  • Blacktip Sharks
  • Bull Sharks
  • Hammerhead Sharks

It’s also important to remember that are many variations within the sample presented above. But what you really need to know is that our guides can provide you with shark information on a need to know basis. And while sharks are catch and release only, fishing for them is still an unforgettable experience.

Hopefully, this has helped you understand shark fishing a little better and erased any fears you might have had on the subject. No one’s claiming that landing one of these fascinating fish is an easy thing to do, but it is a safe way to experience some of the best that deep sea fishing in Key West has to offer. Please contact us today to plan your next great expedition. We look forward to hearing from you.

The Top 5 Types of Key West Fishing Charters

There’s no place in the world with as many fishing options as the beautiful waters of Key West. From offshore and flats fishing to trolling the wrecks and the reefs, this sunny outpost can deliver any type of fishing experience you want. This is what makes the experience well worth the Key West fishing charter prices you’ll pay. It’s also why fishermen from all over the country come to Key West when they’re hungry for high octane fishing adventures.

But with so many options, you’ll need two things to get off to a good start. First, you’ll need to narrow your range of choices a bit. Second, you’ll need equipment, bait, and the right guide. Fortunately, you can accomplish both of these important tasks by getting to know the different types of fishing charters available in Key West. Read on for details about the five most popular types, as well as all the info you need regarding Key West fishing charter prices.

Flats Boat Charters

Flats boats are best for fishermen who want a direct and more traditional fishing experience. Though they’re not designed for everyone, flats boats offer the challenge of a pure fishing adventure to those who are tough enough to handle them. Ideal for fly fishing in the shallow offshore waters of Key West, flats boats satisfy the hunter that lives inside every true fisherman.

In other words, flats boats are not for the casual angler. They have a narrow, minimalist design with a length that ranges from 17-25 feet. During a flats charter, the fishermen typically cast from the bow of the boat while the captain poles the vessel quietly from a platform in the rear. But these challenges pay off for the patient fishermen. The shallows near Key West are rife with exciting species like tarpon, permit, and bonefish. Land a few of these beauties and you’ll see why fishing purists find the challenges inherent to flats boats well worth the trouble.

Bay Boats

Bay boats have become one of the most popular fishing vessels in Key West. Available in a wide array of shapes and sizes, bay boats offer fishermen a number of choices. These choices include amenities like bathrooms and areas of shade. Though similar in some ways to a flats boat, bay boats are typically larger and more comfortable.

Bay boats are extremely versatile. In addition to their use in fishing the flats, you can also use a bay boat to target species in the backcountry waters, as well as around the many reefs and wrecks that characterize the waters around Key West.

The average length of a bay boat is similar to that of its flats counterpart– between 17-25 feet. They’re usually equipped with a more powerful motor than flats boats, but the poling platform at the stern of the boat is very similar. As you’ll see below, bay boats are also similar to flats boats in terms of their Key West fishing charter prices.

Center Console Boats

Another fantastic Key West charter option is a tour on what’s known as a ‘center console’ boat. Just as the name says, the control console is in the middle of the boat, which allows passengers to walk around the boat from stern to bow with little difficulty. More spacious than either a flats or a bay boat, these center console boats can range in length from anywhere between 15-50 feet.

Because of this extra space, many center console boats feature sleeping cabins and can easily accommodate 6 or more passengers. They can also feature bathrooms, showers, and satellite radios. In addition to giving passengers access to many types of deep sea fishing, center console boats are also ideal for snorkeling. As you can see, a center console boat offers a Key West Ocean adventure that fits the entire family.

Light Tackle Fishing

You can experience the thrills of light tackle fishing on a variety of different boats, but they each offer a wide range of fishing and other ocean activities. This, of course, includes the opportunity to land a number of exotic table and game fish. Using light tackle, you can target and catch anything from permit and tarpon to tuna and sailfish, just to name a few.

In addition to the availability of such a high number of fish species, light tackle fishing boats also allow passengers to fish in many different styles. These methods include deep sea, reef, and wreck fishing. Lastly, light tackle fishing lets you drop your line at a number of different depths.

Sport Fishing Charters

Just as the name says, sport fishing charters target the hard fighting game fish that swim in the waters of Key West. These include species like mahi-mahi, amberjack, tuna, and some of the larger shark varieties. Although some sport fishing charters target table fish like grouper and snapper, most tend to focus on the exotic species we mentioned above.

Sport fishing vessels are comfortable with lots of shade. The length of sport fishing boats varies between 25-50 feet, and they’re often decked out with amenities such as a live bait well and an icebox. Sometimes traveling as far as 20 miles offshore, sport fishing charters offer the perfect combination of thrilling fishing adventure and comfort.

Key West Fishing Charter Prices

Now let’s have a look at how much you should expect to pay for each type of charter. The cost of a flats charter depends on the length of the tour and the size of the boat. Flats boats are usually only large enough for between 1-4 people. A four hour (half day) trip will cost you between $400-$550, while a full day, eight-hour trip runs between $600-$800.

The cost of a bay boat charter is similar to that of a flats boat. Depending on the boat, the location, and the duration of the tour, bay boat charters usually cost between $500-$800. With their slightly larger size, bay boats can often accommodate more people than a flats boat, with each extra passenger costing about $50.

Center console boats probably have the widest range of Key West fishing charter prices. With both day and night trips available, a center console charter can cost anywhere from $550-$700 for 6 passengers. But some of the higher end center console boat charters can cost up to $3,000 for an overnight trip.

A light tackle charter offers an intermediate cost between flats boats and center consoles. With many light tackle boats able to accommodate up to six passengers, a charter can cost anywhere from $700-$1,200 dollars.

The costs of sport fishing charters typically range from $800-$1200, depending on the quality of the boat, the number of passengers, and the length of the trip.

Key West Wreck Fishing

Throughout the turquoise waters of the Florida Keys there is a large diversity of saltwater fishing. Among the many types of fishing, one of the big draws is wreck fishing – particularly off the coast of Key West. Over the years upwards of 20 wrecks have gone down in the shallow waters surrounding the island creating artificial reefs that are a haven for fish large and small.

Where did the wrecks come from?

The wrecks surrounding Key West include ships dating back to the 1600’s – old slave ships lost to the perilous sea, ships from WWII era that were lost to mine fields and torpedos during target practice, several ships lost in the hurricane of 1919, and a collection of ships sunk intentionally to create artificial reefs. The ships sunk as artificial reefs provide a new habitat to promote reef growth as well as a structure to provide protection for those fish seeking safety from the open ocean.

What fish are on the wrecks?

In the Atlantic Ocean the wrecks range from all depths, but the better wreck fishing is typically in the 150-250 foot range. On these wrecks fishermen target yellowtail snapper, mutton snapper, grouper and pelagics like sailfish, tuna, mahi-mahi, king mackerel, cero mackerel, sharks and wahoo. In the Gulf the wrecks are in much shallower water ranging from 15-40 feet. On these shallower wrecks fisherman hope to catch cobia, king mackerel permit, gag grouper, red grouper, black grouper, mangrove snapper and sharks. For each species of fish there are different seasons, size requirements, and bait preferences.


For all wrecks live bait is preferable. Pilchards are great for snapper, grouper, and amberjack. They can be hooked and dropped as bait or more preferably hit against the boat to stun and thrown in the water to sink in a state of glitter and confusion thus attracting big, hungry, curious fish. Pinfish are also advantageous when targeting snapper, mutton, and grouper. They are hooked in the stomach or between the eyes and sent down as live bait. They are bigger and stronger than pilchards and tend to survive longer. Blue runners are good when fishing for pelagic fish, big grouper and sharks. Live blue crab is used when the objective is to snag a permit. Squid is candy to a cobia, but they will also readily go for live shrimp and crabs.


In the Gulf of Mexico there are numerous sunken steel barges, some in only 30 feet of water, that always produce good fishing. Cobia tend to hang around these barges and wrecks, and are great fun to catch as they put up a good, typically longer fight. Sometimes they are difficult to catch because of the large number of sharks also hanging around the barges looking for an easy meal. While it can be frustrating to get your catch stolen by a shark, it’s always fun to see!

Getting out to the wrecks is just one of the many ways to fish down here in Key West, but sure to produce a wide variety of fish, hopefully with fights to remember!

Florida Keys Shark Fishing

Florida Keys Shark Fishing

Shark fishing Guide for tourists

Disclaimer: I’m not a professional fisherman, so if you read something that seems inaccurate please email me and I will make corrections

If you are visiting the Keys and love to fish, but do not have cash flow to hire a guide for multiple days. (Like me, at $600 – $1000 a day for guided fishing there is no way I could afford to fish anywhere nears as much as I need to satisfy me)

Of course if your heart is set on catching Sailfish, bonefish, permit etc … frankly if your heart is set on catching any fish I would suggest you hire a guide. The waters of the Keys are big and it can take some serious know-how in order to catch some of the more sought-after fish.

But anyway’s, if you aren’t scared to take a boat out in strange waters, bait your own fishhooks, land your own fish, and risk spending the day cursing, then something you might want to try is shark fishing,

Sharks are all over the place in the Keys: big ones, little ones from sluggish nurse sharks to aggressive bull sharks they are all over the place.

They are dumb and aggressive eaters, and the bigger ones aren’t even scared of boats. They don’t spook and they aren’t line shy. Basically, they are the ideal fish to try to catch if you are new to saltwater fishing or the Keys.

Now you can try all this stuff from a bridge or shore somewhere but I recommend you rent a boat. There are numerous places you can rent a boat in the Keys. It doesn’t really matter how big the boat is, another thing that is great about shark fishing down here is that there are sharks a stone’s throw away from shore (unlike in NY where I am from).
Bull Shark
The first thing you will need is chum. Sharks hunt primarily by scent and have been known to swim miles following a scent trail. The best chum for sharks is fresh fish, the bloodier the better.

Where to get the fresh fish, well if you ask a local they will say just catch a barracuda… in my experience, it’s not always that easy. If you fish on the reef there are tons of barracudas hanging out, but in the nearer shore waters although there are still lots of barracudas they seem to be a bit more hip to people and their bad intentions, especially the big barracudas.

So basically you don’t want to base your whole trip on just catching your chum once you leave shore, at least if you are a beginner.

What I suggest is getting the chum ahead of time, and the best way to accomplish this is to look for a party boat that has just came in and offer the mate a few bucks to give you leftovers when they are done cleaning their catch. So far I have never had a mate say no, but they if they do, or if they have a bad day’s catch you can also go to a fish market. You can usually get fish head/carcasses or Bonito fish (which is bloody tuna type fish) for around .50 cents a pound. If you want to ensure a good trip buy a lot, like try to get a whole 5-gallon bucket full before you go out.

You can put the chum in a chum sack or just run some rope thru the head collection and hang them over the side.

Now, where to go.

There are many places you could go to but I would suggest trying to avoid high traffic areas. If you are on the oceanside, chumming off the edge of the flats seems to work well. In fact, this seems to often draw sharks that are huge. But sometimes they take a long time to show up. The best luck I have had is on the bay side look for more open waters. Chumming in the small sounds around Key Largo wasn’t particularly effective but chumming on the bay side of the 7-mile bridge brought hoards of sharks.

If you put enough blood in the water almost anywhere something will eventually show up, but sometimes it may take a couple hours for the sharks to show up. Often times, when they do it, will be more than one, and you never really know what will show up. Anything from a couple 2-foot bonnet heads to half a dozen 200 pound plus monsters.

For bait, a fish head works well or any piece of bloody fish, but something half-alive works even better. Once you have a lot of chum in the water you should get some other visitors. Live jacks, blue runners, small barracuda, pinfish all make good baits for sharks.

You can free line a bait on the bottom or put it under a cork, bobber or balloon, which in the right conditions is pretty neat because you actually see the shark surface and get the bait.

Ok now for tackle

This is sort of tricky. In the bay, for the most part, ideal tackle would range from something that holds a couple hundred yards of 12-pound line to well honestly the sky’s the limit. I found that something that holds about 220 -280 yards of 30lb line seems to work petty well but even then some fish spooled me.

Leader. Obviously, you will need steel leader to fish for sharks. For the little sharks, a couple feet of leader is fine but if you are fishing for something bigger you will need a lot of leaders and heavy leader, like 3 or 4 times the pound test of the mono. So like 30# line or 90# leader. Sharks can break the line by whipping it with their tail, so basically you should have more leader then the length of the shark you are fishing for. This can be a real pain to cast but that’s life.

For hooks, use circle hooks; they are sold all over. If you have never used circle hooks before, they look kind of ridiculous but they work great. You let the shark run with free line for about 3-5 seconds depending on the size of the bait. Then just lock the bail and lean back and its hook sets right in the lip.

If you have questions please post them here and I will answer the best I can

Florida Keys Bridge Fishing

Florida Keys Bridge Fishing Guide for Tourists

Probably the cheapest way to fish in the Florida Keys is from one of the many bridges. All along the keys on Highway One there are bridges, most of which are closed to traffic where one can fish. They are mostly part of the old Highway One , although there are some other small bridges off of Highway One from which fishing is allowed. To be honest most bridge fishing trips will not compare to a trip to the reef or many other places in a boat. It’s not that the bridges don’t have tons of fish around them, they do, it’s just that everywhere that’s accessible for free gets lots of traffic and angling pressure. So you have to work harder.

Fish commonly caught from the bridges include snapper, grouper, barracuda, grunts and pretty much at one time or another every other fish in the area. The bridges create breaks in the massive current that runs between the Atlantic Ocean and Florida Bay/ Gulf of Mexico. Around the base of many of the the old bridges, there are piles of old construction materials because back when they were built, workers would just throw any used material or junk into the water. All the this debris on the bottom creates a great fish habitat. If you take a snorkel mask and jump in at the base of one of these bridges you will see what I mean, thousands of small fish school around the pilings and rock walls around the base of the bridges, along with crabs and other small sea creatures. All these small fish attract larger fish and so on.

Seven Mile Bridge

For fishing tackle around the bridges you are most likely going to need 20 lbs test line or greater. You may have to dead lift a fish from 12-20 feet down, also it’s very easy to get snagged fishing from the bridges so, heavier line will be helpful. You may want some poles with lighter line for catching bait, and some bridges have areas around the base that you can walk to the water’s edge and cast from. More serious bridge fisherman bring a bridge landing net, which is sort of like a basket at the end of a rope, they lower to the water to scoop up larger fish they catch, fish that would break the line if hoisted from the water on fishing line alone.

For bait most anglers use dead cut bait, cut-up fish, squid or pieces of shrimp. This can be purchased at local tackle shops, but don’t buy frozen shrimp, frozen shrimp sucks, dead fresh shrimp is much better. As in any fishing, live bait will often work better then dead. Probably the ideal bait for fishing the bridges would be a small pilchard around 2-3 inches long, but pilchards can be a pain the neck to find even when you have a boat and know the area. Sometimes though sardines school up around the base of the bridges but that is only around the end of summer in September and August and even then it’s hit and miss. I would recommend buying a couple dozen fresh shrimp, then using small hooks to catch some non-game fish species like a grunt (there will be tons of them) then cut the grunt up for cut bait.

As for rigging your tackle I would suggest using jigs if you can reach the bottom with them in the current. Just a small 1/4-1/2 ounce jig head tipped with a piece of shrimp or cut fish will work well. The water at the base of the bridges is pretty shallow, less then 20 feet, usually around 10 feet, but the force of the current will be considerable. If your jigs won’t sink quickly enough due to the current, a slip sinker rig will work well. Tie your hook to a few feet of line (if you want to get fancy fluorocarbon leader), then to a swivel. Then run your line thru a 1-3 ounce egg sinker, and tie it to the swivel. You want to use as little weight as possible, just enough to hold the bottom. For hooks there are a ton of little fish at the base of bridges who will peck away at your baits. So you can either just enjoy having your bait stolen time after time, while you wait for a bigger fish or you can use smaller hooks. Now I would recommend mustad live bait hooks, in sizes 3-7. They are small but they have a heavy shank, so if you do hook that big fish, they won’t bend like most small hooks.

yellowtail snapper
Baby Yellowtail , good to eat but have to be over 12 inches

Now something most visitors don’t know about fishing the bridges: you can greatly increase the action by chumming from the bridge. Some hardcore bridge fishers think that this attracts too many junk little fish, but if you are reading this then most likely you are not one of them. Anyway’s what you do is buy a couple blocks of commercial chum (it’s sold all over the place in the Keys), get a chum sack, and some small diameter rope. Then just put the chum in the sack and tie the rop to it and lower it to the water. In 10 minutes you will have a big party behind the chum sack. Tons of small fish will be swarming the chum, and if you are lucky some larger fish too. The trick can be to get the baits past the tiny bait stealers that show up.

Which bridges to fish? Well in my opinion the farther you get from Miami the better. I have had much better luck fishing the bridges in the lower keys than bridges around Key Largo. The bigger bridges are going to have more chances at catching more types of fish. Like you could pretty much catch anything off the 7 mile bridge, but if you pick a small bridge without a huge amount of water flowing under it, you will more likely just catch snapper and grunts.

Key West Flats and Backcountry Fishing

Key West Flats and Backcountry Fishing

Surrounding many parts of the Florida Keys are shallow saltwater flats. These flats tend to either have sea grass and a soft bottom or are hard rock bottom. Depending on the tide different fish swim up on these flats to look for food, and various other fish follow them up there. Flats fishing is usually sight fishing, which is more like hunting. The guide poles the boat from a platform in the rear of the boat and looks for fish in the distance and directs the angler were to cast to target the fish. It requires more casting skill then other types of fishing, since you need to have the ability to land the bait in the path of fish swimming the flats. Primarily fish targeted on the flats are Bonefish, Permit, Tarpon, Sharks and Barracuda. Sharks and Barracuda are considered lesser of flats fish because they are much easier to catch and don’t have the fighting abilities of the other fish, but in foot deep water they can still be a blast.

Backcountry Fishing is a loose term used to describe fishing north of the Keys. In the upper Keys the Everglades National Park is north of the Keys and consists of huge shallow water bays surrounded by mangroves. The area is a fish garden of Eden and massive amounts of fish make up the ecosystem. Fish common in the Everglades are Sea Trout, Snook , Mangrove Snapper, Redfish, Jew Fish and sharks. Sea trout are a commonly targeted fish in the Everglades by the guides out of Islamorada. They school up and are caught by the dozen in some sections of the Everglades Park.

Catching Bait in the Florida Keys

Catching Bait in the Florida Keys

Buying Bait in the Florida Keys

Probably the most common way to get bait in the keys for visitors is buying it at the local store. They sell some sort of bait at all sorts of stores in the Keys, you can buy bait in the grocery store if you want to. Generally you have your frozen baits which will include frozen shrimp, ballyhoo, mullet, squid and pilchards. Frozen bait is generally considered the worst of baits, except for squid which is pretty much always frozen. I would avoid most frozen baits except for squid, usually if you have squid you can catch small fish and then in turn use them to catch smaller fish to use for live bait or cut bait.

The live baits for sale in the tackle shops are usually finger mullet, shrimp, blue crabs and pinfish, sometimes pilchards, blue runners or goggle eyes. The last 3 are pretty rare though, although I am sure there are some shops that have them consistently, and if you read this and know of some email me and I will list them on here. Generally live baits are going to cost at least a buck a piece, and definitely have aerator or oxygen tablets to keep those puppies alive till you get the boat.

Fresh dead baits are good to buy also, fresh dead pilchards and ballyhoo make great baits, cut up or whole, and you can get a lot more weight for your buck

Catching Bait

Well probably one of the most important parts of fishing is catching bait. In the Florida Keys there are serveral main fish that are used for baits. Essentially bait can be broken down by size, there are baits that tend to be used for for big fish and baits for smaller fish.

The Larger baits would include Blue Runners, Ballyhoo, Speedos and Bonito. Live bonito are general used for catching Marlin and are bitch to keep alive, and frankly catching Marlin is out of my league, so I won’t be writing much about them.

Smaller Baits would consist of Pilchards, Sardines, Pinfish and Pigfish and glass minnows.

Pretty much catching bait consist of chumming them up to get them near the back of the boat and then either cast netting or hooking them with small hooks. Most larger baits will out run a net and really the only larger bait you will catch with a cast net is Ballyhoo. You will die of exhaustion before you catch blue runner or speedos in a cast net. For small hooks to use for Ballyhoo and Blue runners I have found Gamaktsu Size six hooks blow cheaper mustad or eagle claw hooks. I can’t even begin to say what a difference those little hooks have made.

For chum just plain commercial menhaden chum works fine, really trick is to find the spot where the bait is. Pretty much the best places to catch most baits will be on the bay side, around creeks and grass beds. Just look for healthy thick sea grass in 3-7 feet of water. As long as there is a little current, put you chum sack in and usually within 10 minutes there will be a bunch of something behind the boat. Usually pinfish but possibly pilchards and/or blue runners. If a mass of small pilchards show up you will need to cast net them, if they are bigger you can hair hook them or net them. Pinfish can be cast netted if they are really balled up behind the boat or with a net that fall really fast but usually people catch them with a small hook and split shot. And when I say small I mean really tiny like tiny 12 hooks they use to catch brook trout up north.

On the ocean side it is much more hit and miss, and to catch ballyhoo and speedos you will have to explore the reef and find a spot. depending on the time of year the ballyhoo can be really easy to find. Speedos are always more work.

Another way to catch bait is with a pinfish trap. This is really actually pretty fun, you just fill this trap with some sort of bait, like fish carcass or even the remnants of chum sack, throw it in the water and wait a few hours or over night and next thing you have trap filled with crabs and pinfish. Sounds great doesn’t it? Well it is pretty fun to pull the trap and see what you got , the only problem is that people steal the traps. It’s a great feeling when you load trap full of dolphin carcasses and throw it out on a grass flat, get there early the next day ready to pull the trap and head offshore to fish for dolphin , and low and behold the trap is gone.

Key West Offshore Fishing

Offshore Fishing in Key West

There are so many amazing types of Key West fishing trips that it can sometime be difficult to choose between them. The good news is that there’s no wrong way to fish the beautiful waters of Key West, especially if you have the right guide. Also known as ‘Blue Water fishing,’ offshore fishing is one of the many great choices you can make.

Key West offers some of the most thrilling offshore fishing action in the country. Much of this is due to location. Key West fishing trips offer access to both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, and it’s this very centrality that gives offshore fishing its trademark diversity. Continue reading to discover more about the truly unique experience of offshore fishing in Key West.

An Overview of Offshore Fishing in Key West

Trolling is the most commonly used method for successful offshore fishing expeditions in Key West. This is because a slow-moving boat gives you the best vantage point for finding the floating debris where offshore fish tend to congregate. This debris can include anything from garbage and weed lines to barrels, tree limbs, and floating pallets.

Essentially, this floating debris provides shelter for hundreds of small fish. And whenever you find small fish, you can bet that bigger fish aren’t far away. The smaller species that seek refuge in piles of offshore debris pretty much guarantee that you’ll have plenty of larger beauties to target.

Trolling is one of the only constants involved in offshore fishing. Your choice of tackle, bait, etc. will depend on the time of year, your desired targets, and a variety of other factors. This is where offshore fishing can seem a little bit daunting– too many choices can be very confusing. That’s why it’s best to use an experienced guide to lead your offshore fishing trip.

Why Offshore Fishing is The Highlight of So Many Key West Fishing Trips

Although offshore fishing isn’t always easy for the beginner, it’s definitely well worth the challenge. And with one of our experienced guides leading the way, even the first time fisherman can bring in quite a haul after a short time out on the water.

One of the main reasons that offshore fishing is so rewarding is the sheer variety of species you can target. These species include hard fighting species like sailfish, marlin, and wahoo. The challenge of catching one of these ferocious beauties is one of the things that keeps expert fishermen returning to Key West year after year.

In addition to these magnificent sport fish, offshore fishing offers a bounty of delicious food fish as well. The mahi mahi (also known as the dolphin fish) is one of the most popular targets in the blue offshore waters around Key West. Taken together, the Mahi Mahi’s size, beauty, and delicious flavor make it the perfect offshore fish.

Offshore Key West fishing trips can land you other delicious table fish as well. In addition to the mahi mahi, offshore fishing also presents opportunities for species like bonito, mackerel, and several varieties of tuna. As you can see, offshore fishing in Key West is great for both thrill seeking and catching tonight’s dinner!

You and your entire party are guaranteed to have a wonderful day out fishing the offshore waters. Contact us today to arrange for the ideal guide to your trip.

Florida Keys Reef and Wreck Fishing

Florida Keys Reef and Wreck Fishing

If you want lots of action, a variety of fish, in a variety of sizes and meat for the table, then reef and wreck fishing is for you. Personally, it is my favorite type of fishing, I love bottom fishing and depending on the depth of water you often have a shot at many different pelagic species also. Anchor up on a deep reef or wreck and you never know what type of fish you could catch, everything from grunts to sailfish and wahoo.

Really the key to this fishing is the spots, finding the spots and anchoring up and lining the boat up right. Some extra time dropping and re-dropping the anchor, is worth the effort since you have to make sure you are either up current or right over the structure holding fish. As someone visiting the Keys and maybe fishing from a rental boat you may have to rely on published GPS coordinates to find spots because it can take quite a bit time drifting around to run into the good spots but those are best ones, the ones not everyone knows about. Anyways get a copy of a top spot chart. They sell them at most bait and tackle stores in the Florida Keys. They will have enough stuff to get started on, and enough to last you through your vacation.

Depending on what you’re fishing for, you are going to want to fish in depths from 20-200 feet. Quite a range isn’t it. Really personally I try to target structures that are in 50 to 150 feet of water. If you fish shallower water you are going to tend to get a lot of small fish, which is great if you are new to fishing here, or if you are fishing with kids, or other people who just want a lot of action. Fishing the shallower water you are going to get a lot of grunts and short snapper and grouper, but you will often get some barracuda and in the winter cero and Spanish mackerel. A 20-pound barracuda will blow your mind on light spinning tackle if you are used to fishing fresh water. For the first year I fished here I primarily fished the shallower rocks and patch reefs. It took me over a year to get sick of it, get a bigger boat and move out deeper. As you move out past the 50-foot mark, you will start to catch larger fish but not as many as you would on the patch reef. As you move out into water 80 feet and up you will tend to start getting larger pelagic fish along with bottom dwelling fish. In deeper waters depending on the time of year and location, it’s common to hook King Mackerel, Sailfish, Wahoo, Cobia, and Bonito while wreck fishing.

And that’s what I really like about wreck and reef fishing. You can fish a variety of baits in a variety of ways and target a variety of fish. Lots of chances for action. Usually, what I do depending on what type of baits I have, I try to keep a bait on the surface, and a large bait right on the bottom, and then usually a smaller bait usually free lined in the current. I use primarily ballyhoo, blue runners and if I can get them, pilchards. I try to keep them alive but dead ballyhoo or a blue runner works very well, cut open so it spreads a scent.

What fishing tackle to use would really kind of depend on which type of fishing you are doing and the depth. Mostly in the shallow water, you can get away with using 30# test on the bottom and 12# for freelining snapper baits, 12# spinning gear is also great for catching barracudas and cero and Spanish mackerel and smaller jacks, all of which are common on the shallower reefs. When using mono for a bottom fishing rig, you can slide the line thru the sinker and to a swivel and the have your leader after that but don’t use this rig on braided line. Once you move into deep water you will want to use heavier tackle for the bottom. 50 pound test line is really the minimum test I would use once you get into waters over 75 feet, personally I use Shimano 6500 spooled with 50 pound test Stren super braid or Penn senator spooled with 80 -100 pound test ande mono, I also use 80-120 pound test leader but don’t use a thru sinker rig to attach it. I have found that the thru sinker rig will cause break offs on braid especially when using heavier weights. For a bottom rig with braid or heavier weights use one of these

Its called a 3way barrel swivel, you can order them by clicking the picture, you attach your main link to the top of the one swivel, then you take a small length of lighter line and attach your sinker beneath it, then run your leader and bait of the perpendicular swivel. This rig works great for big fish on braided line, and if you get your sinker caught on something you can break it off and not lose your rig.

Some of this tackle may seem over the top for the average grouper or snapper, but if you fish big baits or heck any baits around the deeper rocks and wreck, there is very good chance you will run into a monster and it will take gear like this to bring them up.

For hooks I have started using mostly circles, I use gamakatsu circle 4x 8/0 circles hooks and Rapala 8/0 circles (mostly because I got a deal on ebay) , gamakatsu octopus hooks are great too but when fishing the heavy gear they don’t seem to have a heavy enough shank, the regular mustad live bait hooks have a good shank but come dull out of the package, but they do make a more expensive sharper hook.

For fishing mid column and the surface I would use spinning rods with 12-20# pound test, you can use 12 pound for freelining baits back and its fun to catch trigger fish and snapper on light tackle but you will lose a fair number of fish, by either them breaking you off, or predator fish snatching your hooked fish. Also with the 20-pound test, if a fat tuna or bar jack grab the bait you will have a chance of landing them.

Florida Keys Patch Reef Fishing Guide for Tourists

Well if you have made the leap to renting a boat for your vacation in the Florida Keys, or even if you are just renting it for a day and you want to catch a bunch of fish, the first stop should be the patch reefs. Along the Florida Keys barrier reef there are tons of spots to fish, usually with a few minutes drive from shore. Between the Main reef and shore, there are smaller “patch” reefs, they are usually in water less the twenty feet and are easily spottable, as long as there is even a little sunlight.

The small reefs are essentially coral forests, often surrounded by grassy soft bottom. They are a magnet for fish. Actually snorkeling them quick before you start fishing can be a blast and actually is pretty useful to see what’s hanging around them. I recommend the patch reefs to visiting vacationers because they are easy to find, visible to the eye, which is good because a lot rental boats don’t have gps. They tend to be protected by the barrier reef so the water around them tends not to be so rough when the wind is blowing, and they hold a ton of fish, mostly smaller fish but a ton nevertheless. They are perfect for taking kids fishing, or for first-timers. The patches are full of snapper, grunts, grouper (but mostly undersized) and depending on the time of year ciro and spanish mackerel (fall/winter).

Mangrove Snapper

For fishing tackle, I would say bring a couple of rods and reels spooled with line ranging from 12 – 20-pound test. Really 20-pound line is the best for this fishing all around. It’s fun to catch the smaller fish on smaller gear but you will end up losing a lot around the coral. Also, the occasional grouper will bite, and you have very little chance of pulling even a small grouper up on light line.

For bait, use jigs tipped with cut fish or shrimp. When you go to the patch reefs bring some hair hooks, tiny hooks. Usually, you can catch small bait fish like Ballyhoo on the patch reefs. Ballyhoo are small beaked bait fish, ranging from about 7 – 14 inches long. They are very common on the patch reefs and make great bait live or dead. Ballyhoo can be netted but if you don’t know how to throw a net, a very small hook with a little piece of meat on it will catch them.

Now to really get the bite going on the shallow reefs it pays to chum them up, so bring a couple of boxes of commercial menhaden chump, or glass minnows. Honestly, with a bunch of chum on the shallow reef you are almost guaranteed to catch something, if you chum enough, maybe not the fish of a lifetime but something.