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Florida Keys Fishing Is Famous For A Reason

According to the International Game Fish Association, more saltwater world records have been established in the Florida Keys than any other angling destination on the globe.

Hiring a charterboat or flats' guide is advisable for the best fishing. Not only does the Keys captain offer local expertise and full equipment, he or she already possesses the necessary state fishing licenses required for all Florida visitors or residents.

When and Where to FishFish Rules app

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Types of Florida Keys Fishing

Bonefish, tarpon, and permit are favored inshore species, but jacks, Spanish mackerel and barracuda also abound, especially in the winter months. Burly grouper and snapper haunt the reef areas. Acrobatic dolphin fish (mahi-mahi), billfish, tuna and wahoo cruise offshore.

If the day's catch is not headed to the dinner table, taxidermists can provide exact reproduction mounts, for a three-dimensional memory!

Flats/Backcountry Fishing:

Key Largo | Islamorada | Marathon | Big Pine & Lower Keys | Key West

Deep Sea Fishing Florida Keys

The Keys are surrounded by miles of shallow sand and grass flats. Here, species like the bonefish root out crabs, shrimp and small fish in water as shallow as six inches. Beautiful flats are found on the Atlantic side of the Keys and in the fabled backcountry, a region of uninhabited mangrove islands on the Gulf Side of the island chain.

Species caught: tarpon, permit, bonefish, redfish, snook, sea trout, barracuda, jacks, sharks, and cobia.

Tackle: fly, spin, plug.

Light Tackle Fishing:

Key Largo | Islamorada | Marathon | Big Pine & Lower Keys | Key West

Deep Sea Fishing Florida Keys
Photo courtesy of
Rob Harris/Conchy Joe's
Light tackle boats are some of the most flexible charters in the Florida Keys, because they allow for either a casual family trip for some tasty "dinner fish" or a fly rod expedition for a record kingfish. Almost any species are achievable with light tackle, from tarpon to deep water sailfish, and anything in between, such as tuna, cobia, dorado, snapper, ceros and wahoo.

Deep sea, Offshore:

Key Largo | Islamorada | Marathon | Big Pine & Lower Keys | Key West

Deep Sea Fishing Florida Keys
The Keys are bordered by the Gulf of Mexico on one side and the Straits of Florida on the other. Outside our reef, the water plunges to depths of 1,500 feet or more. Here, colorful dolphin fish teem just below the surface along mats of floating Sargassum grass or pieces of driftwood. Billfish, the biggest prize of them all, cruise out here too.

Species caught: blue marlin, white marlin, sailfish, spearfish, kingfish, dolphin, wahoo, tuna, barracuda, cobia, grouper, snapper, jacks and sharks.

Tackle: spin, conventional trolling gear, fly.

Party Boats:

Key Largo | Islamorada | Marathon | Big Pine & Lower Keys | Key West
Party boat fishing offers an angler a more economical means of enjoying a day of fishing, and usually run multi day or full-day trips to areas throughout the Keys, such as the Dry Tortugas. Seldom are reservations required.

Wreck Fishing:

The Keys were famous through history for swallowing up ships. Today, shipwrecks are thankfully rare but the old wrecks nevertheless make great fishing spots. Schools of permit and amberjacks swirl around the coral-covered structures. Snapper and grouper inhabit the crevices.

Species caught: permit, amberjacks, jacks, grouper, snapper, cobia, sharks, and barracuda.

Tackle: spin, plug, fly.

Reef Fishing:

Vast coral formations protect the Keys from storms and provide homes for bottom fish such as grouper and snapper. On the Gulf side, smaller patch reefs dot the seascape. Schooling fish such as the yellowtail snapper and mackerel are never far away from these structures.

Species caught: yellowtail, kingfish, cero mackerel, cobia, sharks, and barracuda.

Tackle: spin, plug, fly.

Harbor Fishing:

Most of the waterways in the Keys are natural, although a few have been dredged over the decades by the U.S. Navy and the shipping industry. They are great places to anchor up and prospect for a host of fish species.

Species caught: tarpon, permit, cobia and sharks.

Tackle: spin, plug, fly.

Bridge Fishing:

Anglers can also fish without a boat. The historic bridges that border the Florida Keys Overseas Highway are noted fishing platforms, but a saltwater license is still required. Fishing from one of the bridges is the perfect place for the person who just wants to "wet a line". The bridges are a combination of fishing pier and artificial reef all rolled up into one package! Excellent fishing can be had from the Long Key Bridge, both the bridges at Toms Harbor, and the west end of the Old Seven Mile Bridge.

Deep Sea Fishing Florida Keys
Photo courtesy of
AntiqueFishingReels.com

Western novelist Zane Grey fell in love with the Florida Keys in the early 20th Century, and a few years later so did novelist Ernest Hemingway.

Grey and Hemingway knew that no other place in North America boasted such a vast array of fish species and habitats, from shallow flats and backcountry to coral reefs and the azure Gulf Stream waters.

Deep Sea Fishing Florida Keys
The places that Grey and Hemingway loved so much are now protected by the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Everglades National Park and several national refuges. The two authors would be pleased to know that fishing is still permitted in most of these waters thanks to a widely practiced, catch-and-release approach that balances preservation with recreation.

Good luck and tight lines!