The Fishing In Key West
With the access to two huge bodies of water such as the Gulf Of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean The fishing in Key West is vast. Water flows through the islands that make up Key West like a huge river that goes both ways. Influenced by lunar tides near the islands bringing nutrients and refreshed salt water twice daily. The flats surrounding Key West in the backcountry are loaded with filters such as grasses, hard corals and sponges constantly cleaning our waters making it Gin clear and incredibly inviting. Further offshore outside our amazing reef system that stretches from Miami out to the Dry Tortugas is the Gulf Stream that flows from the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico bringing Key West an abundance of nutrients warm waters and tropical Climate. It's perfect. Because of all this our waters are loaded with fish foraging for food in the shallows, on the reefs and deep sea making Key West fishing some of the best in the world.
Flats and Backcountry Fishing
Lets start off in the shallows which is where many of the fish we go fishing for here get their start. It's not hard to find shallow water around our island, its everywhere. In fact a person can travel 30 miles to the West and still find water 12 inches deep. We call these areas the Flats. The flats are loaded with life. I have always been amazed with what lives in less than 15 inches of water. A well balanced Eco culture that thrives on the tides and currents year round.
The sport fish we find in the flats and backcountry are numerous. Most notably the flats fishing grand slam consisting of tarpon, permit and bonefish. Sight fishing is the technique used to catch these fish and It takes a trained eye to spot them. Typically fishing is done with light tackle spinning rod or fly fishing rod when flats fishing. Tackle size ranges between 8 and 20lb test line for spin fishing or 8-12 wt rods and 8 - 20lb class tippets for our fly fishing enthusiasts. Bait used for flats fishing can be crabs, shrimp, or small live bait fish. Many artificial lures are also used when spin fishing on the flats in the backcountry.
Tarpon are in the top 5 of our best sport fish attracting visitors to our fishing from all over the world. Known for high flying acrobatics and hard fight. Tarpon fishing is a challenge on light tackle spin fishing gear or fly fishing.
Read my article about the difference between flats fishing vs backcountry fishing Key West.
There are so many other species to fish for in the backcountry it can take a whole lifetime to scratch each one off your bucket list.
Boats used for flats and backcountry fishing are bay boats and traditional flats fishing skiffs. Shallow draft is a must any boat fishing the flats or the backcountry waters off Key West. Traditional flats fishing skiffs require a dedicated person to pole or propel the boat through the shallows while spotting fish. Bay boats utilize an electric trolling motor to propel thought the shallows. Mostly it can be preference but the smaller skiffs only carry two flats fishermen as the bay boats can carry up to 4.
See my article about the difference between a bay boat and a flats fishing boat.
Our reef is HUGE! in fact.. its the only living coral reef in the Continental United States. Stretching from the mainland of Florida off of Miami all the way past Key West to the Dry Tortugas. The reef line lays just 4-7 miles south of Key West stretching both East and West. The reef is home to countless species of fish, corals and water creatures of all types. Key West reef fishing is very popular. The reef is where an abundance of our food fish species comes from such as the very tasty and popular yellowtail, mutton and mangrove snappers. All of our grouper species are caught when we are reef fishing. To add to the sport fishing fun depending on the Key West fishing season we catch sailfish, tuna, wahoo, kingfish and dolphin on the reef.
Mostly light tackle spin fishing and conventional rods and reels are used for reef fishing Key West. Live bait is very popular as is cut bait and artificial lures.
The typical boats we use when we are reef fishing are center console or "open" boats ranging in size from 26- 36 ft. Speed is key when fishing the reef as longer distances away from the popular spots near Key West might be needed to provide better results.
Some say Hemingway made deep sea fishing in Key West famous and that might be so. He spent much time here on his boat called the Pilar. He wrote about it in his books. Who wouldn't fall in love with the blue waters of the Gulf Stream as they provide a conveyor belt of migratorial sport fish that come right by our island. Its not a long run to deep water where these famous sport fish live. Thats what makes us an incredible destination for fishing. I would say our most popular sport fish would be the sailfish followed by the dolphin (mahi mahi) for it's table fare and then the wahoo, tuna, white and blue marlin. All the fish just listed are in season all year long, however they are only here seasonally. Check out our Key West fishing seasons calendar for more details.
Sport fishing boats are very popular for Key West deep sea fishing. Manned by a two person crew (captain and a mate) they are heavy and handle the seas very well. Some deep sea sport fishing boats offer inside seating and air conditioning, some do not.
Deep sea fishing is done by trolling mostly. 4- 10 knots trolling live and dead baits behind the boat in target rich areas. Fishing gear can range in size from 15 - 50lb tackle. Stand up tackle and trolling in the chair tackle is most popular.
This is a link to a web site that covers the costs for deep sea fishing charters - Deep Sea Fishing Rates
A World Class Destination
The complete fishing destination. We have it all. Located in the Continental United States we are easy to get to. Easy to get around and very comfortable to stay. Loaded with amazing places to eat and lots of attractions to visit.
We have the Key West international airport (EYW) that brings connected flights in daily from all over the world. Delta, American, Silver, and United airlines have regularly scheduled flights daily. EYW is also home to a fantastic private airplane facility.
Drive down. US 1 starts in Miami and the overseas highway brings you all the way in across 42 bridges that will offer you views of our beautiful flats and backcountry waters that take your breath away. A recommended way to get here if it's your first time.
We have rental cars from Avis, Hertz and Dollar just off the top of my head right at the airport but I often reccomend folks just use rideshare Uber or Lift to get around. Parking is a premium, the resorts charge for cars and parking downtown can cost you an Uber ride, save the money and use rideshare unless you are planing on going up the Keys then rental car makes sense. Mopeds are very popular as are electric cars, again parking issues. Electric bikes are becoming the norm.
all the majors are here in for places to stay. For whatever you have for points or frequent stay we have Hyatt, DoubleTree, Marriott and more. Do your research. The island is only 4x5 miles so being close to down town might be important or being close to your Key West fishing. Rule of thumb is the farther away from down town the less expensive for the name brand resorts. We also have bed and breakfasts as well as some ma and pop places to stay as well. Here is a web site with some good Key West accomodation reccomendations.
Keeping fish to take home? make sure you have refridgerators or freezers in your place to stay.
Restaurants and Night life
Cook your catch from your fishing or enjoy some of our famous restaurants for a great meal. Fantastic places to eat, some have the island feel and some dont. You can hardly walk two blocks and not come past a restaurant. We have some reccomendations here at Key West Top Ten Restaurants.