Key West Fishing

Key West Fishing

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  1. Grouper glory

    Fishing in Key West is insane. Too many fish in too many places to be caught in too many ways. Sailfish and marlin out in the Gulf Stream. Grouper and snapper on the reefs and wrecks. Bonefish, permit and tarpon out on the flats. And these are just the glory fish. The list doesn’t include the rest of the crazy things people hook from Key West.

    Winching beasts from the bottom

    You can winch fish from the ocean’s depths with a stout rod and heavy reel, or you can feather a fly to a permit in 18 inches of water. You can be part of an offshore angling operation involving kites and outriggers and a big boat, or you can toss a bait with a spinning rod from a small boat. You can fish from shore or from piers, and remember to have a Florida saltwater fishing license when fishing from shore.


    You can fish in the spring or in the fall. Summer is as good as winter. If, when your guide asks "What kind of fish do you want to catch?" you reply "Big ones", you are going to love Key West no matter when you’re there.

    If you’re looking for specific fish rather than just big fish, you’ll need to be a little choosier in your timing. Sailfish are best in winter. Migratory tarpon cruise by Key West from spring until some time July. Bonefish are good in the fall. And, according to Capt. Steven Lamp, fishing the flats for tarpon, bonefish and permeit is at its best from August to October. As for the Captain’s personal favorite time of the year, it is December for "the smorgasbord of fishing that it offers," he writes on his website. The Key West fishing calendar lasts all year long.

    Able to navigate boat

    If you have a boat and you know how to navigate it through shallow water and excell at finding your way through a maze of confusing channels, then by all means do not hire a guide. Get out there and fish, but do not forget to pick up a Florida saltwater fishing license. You will need it, especially if the game warden happens by.

    Unable to navigate boat

    If you do not own a boat nor know how to navigate one, then you will need to hire a guide, and there are tons of them working out of Key West. Choosing a guide is no simple matter, but there really is no tried and true method for picking the right guide. If you want to catch sailfish, just make certain that you tell the guide that you want to catch sailfish. If he does not fish for sailfish, he will get you headed in the right direction, one hopes. This is the place of pirates and that outlaw spirit does live on in some cases. All I’m saying is it’s best to be flexible. One benefit of hiring a guide or Key West fishing charter – other than keeping you from getting lost – is that you will not need to buy a Florida Saltwater fishing license. There is no Key West fishing license. All licenses to fish are issued by the state of Florida.

    Great … amazing

    The actual fishing can be a little dull. Of course great days do come along, and they are amazing, but in the case of bonefish and permit angling, it’s best to expect a solid day of standing on the bow of a flats skiff baking in the sun waiting to cast to two or three fish that very well may not eat your fly. Casting live bait ups your chances of catching a fish considerably, and unless you are a die-hard fly angler who insists on purity, make sure there’s some bait on board.

    Terrified fish

    The staggering number of competitive angling events and Key West fishing tournaments must be terrifying to fish. Key West does host one seven-month long tournament that is open to everyone who wants to enter.

    No bananas

    Key West has few hard and fast rules, but one is the ban on bananas, and never should this rule be breached. Never, ever, ever, ever even so much as just romotely consider bringing a banana onto any boat. Don’t even eat a banana for breakfast. Drink all the alcohol you like, just lay off the bananas.

    Reading material

    If you plan on bringing a book or two to read while your partner takes his turn casting, Carl Hiaasen writes the best novels for fishing in Florida. Double Whammy, Striptease or Tourist Season would all be outstanding choices. Not only is Carl from Florida, he is also a fisherman, and he has a knack for bringing south Florida’s version of sanity within reach of the average angler from the outside world.

    Crazy things

    While in Key West, hang out on Duvall Street and witness many crazy things. Perhaps even take part in them. See the southernmost point in the continental United States. Check out all the cats at the Hemmingway House and pay homage to the author of The Old Man and the Sea. It could bring a half-ton marlin your way.

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