How to Fish in the Keys
Shark fishing is probably your biggest bang for your buck when it comes to fun fishing. Black tip sharks, Bull Sharks, Lemon sharks, Reef sharks, Hammerhead, and Nurse sharks are a legitimate possibility on every trip. Fighting fish in the beautiful Florida Keys backcountry is always a treat. No matter what the weather conditions are, there is always a spot in protected waters where you can chum up some sharks. And while you are at it, there are usually plenty of other species that are willing to take a bite of your shark rig. Live bait is the preferred method, but some of the biggest sharks have been caught on frozen or cut bait. Steel leaders, big hooks, and heavy duty rods and reels are the tools of choice. Great trophies; synthetic mounting is easily accommodated.
Groupers and snappers are usually caught at the barrier reef or on some of the numerous patch reefs in the both the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico . Big fish eat little fish out here in the wild, so once again, live bait is the preferred method of hooking up. However, some monster groupers and snappers have been caught on frozen shrimp or cut squid. Live pinfish are like candy to the big groupers, and are easy to fill the live-well with. Believe it or not, occasionally we troll the re-define with diving lures. When we do hook up, it is almost always a keeper. Freelining live shrimp and chumming for yellowtail snapper is always a sure way to fill the fishbox with that nights dinner.
Key West is notorious for its numerous wrecks in both the deep and shallow waters in the Gulf and Atlantic; and for good reason: they are loaded with fish. Its possible to catch any number of species wreck fishing. Heavier tackle is needed for the deeper wrecks and after wrestling a few big Amberjacks up from 100 – 200 feet it is often necessary to relax with a cold drink to recover before we try something else.
Snorkeling the patch reefs and shallow water wrecks for snapper, grouper, and the almighty hogfish is a great way to spend the day; especially in the summer months when the water temperature is well into the 80’s. It is also the same territory we hunt for lobsters when they are in season August through April. Returning to the dock with a few keeper hogfish and lobsters is a sure way to turn a few heads and also treat the tummy. Key West’s version of a surf and turf meal.
Off-shore trolling for Dolphin and other migratory species is a tried and proven method of targeting big fish. We are sub-tropical down here so we always have some action but when the annual migrations come through the spring, summer, and fall – look out – it’s game on.
Hanging out at the sand bar and shell collecting while experiencing “Zero G’s in the Florida Keys” is another great way to spend time on vacation. Many, many hard core fishing charters have ended the day with a few cold drinks at the “wallowing station” on a sandy bar on the way back to the marina. Boca Grande is a remote Mangrove island that is ideal for a mid day picnic or as a destination in itself. Sandy beaches away from the main island speak volumes for themselves.
Probably the single most important part of any fishing trip is the bait fishing. It’s not hard and doesn’t take too much time to throw the cast net on some live swimmers; but it is absolutely essential to give yourself the best chance of real success in catching the trophy fish that you want. Big fish eat little fish and that is just the way it is. We like to start out catching little fish and then feed them to the bigger fish and keep working our way up the food chain. If we are lucky enough to have some Ballyhoo find their way into our chum slick and get close enough for us to throw the cast net on them we are instantly into the next level of bigger fish. All kinds of species do nothing but follow Ballyhoo around so when they find us: we find them. By the end of a good chum slick we could be wrestling Mackerels, Barracudas, Jacks, or Sharks. Good clean family fun.
It is also the same territory we hunt for lobsters when they are in season August through April. Returning to the dock with a few keeper hogfish and lobsters is a sure way to turn a few heads and also treat the tummy.
Lionfish have become a major problem in the Keys. A serious invasive species, a side benefit is they are quite tasty. we can arrange our own little Lionfish derby.