If you’re an avid angler or simply someone who enjoys spending time on the water, you may find yourself wondering, “Where is the best fishing in the Florida Keys?” With its pristine turquoise waters teeming with diverse marine life, the Florida Keys offer an unparalleled fishing experience. From the serene backcountry channels and mangrove islands to the deep blue Atlantic, this tropical paradise is a haven for fishing enthusiasts. Whether you’re after trophy gamefish like tarpon and bonefish or seeking the thrill of big-game fishing for marlin and sailfish, the Florida Keys have it all. So, grab your gear, hop aboard a fishing charter, and get ready for an unforgettable angling adventure in one of the world’s most treasured fishing destinations.
Types of Fishing in Florida Keys
When it comes to fishing in the Florida Keys, there are several different types of fishing experiences you can enjoy. Each type offers its own unique challenges and rewards, allowing you to tailor your fishing adventure to your preferences and skill level. Whether you’re a seasoned angler or a novice looking to try something new, the Florida Keys has something for everyone. The three main types of fishing in the Florida Keys include deep sea fishing, backcountry fishing, and flats fishing.
Deep Sea Fishing
Deep sea fishing is perhaps one of the most popular types of fishing in the Florida Keys. Also known as offshore or sportfishing, this type of fishing takes place in the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico, far away from the coastline. It offers the opportunity to reel in some truly impressive game fish, such as marlin, sailfish, tuna, and mahi-mahi. Deep sea fishing typically involves taking a fishing charter to reach the deeper waters where these larger and more prized fish reside.
For those who prefer a more serene and intimate fishing experience, backcountry fishing in the Florida Keys is the way to go. Backcountry fishing takes place in the shallow, protected waters of the Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico’s backcountry. This type of fishing is perfect for anglers who enjoy a calmer environment and the chance to catch a variety of species, including snook, redfish, trout, and tarpon. Backcountry fishing can be done from a small boat, kayak, or even by wading in the water.
If you’re a fan of sight fishing and enjoy the thrill of stalking fish in shallow waters, then flats fishing in the Florida Keys is right up your alley. This type of fishing is all about wading through shallow flats and targeting species like bonefish, permit, and tarpon. The Florida Keys are known as the “Bonefish Capital of the World,” offering anglers the chance to test their skills and catch these elusive and lightning-fast fish. Flats fishing is particularly popular among fly fishermen who enjoy the challenge of casting a fly and watching the fish take the bait.
Best Fishing Spots in Florida Keys
The Florida Keys are blessed with numerous excellent fishing spots that cater to all types of fishing preferences. Whether you’re looking for a pristine coral reef, a secluded mangrove island, or a bustling fishing pier, the Florida Keys have it all. Here are some of the best fishing spots you should consider visiting during your fishing adventure in the Florida Keys.
Located about 20 miles west of Key West, the Marquesas Keys offer an unspoiled and secluded fishing experience. This group of small islands is surrounded by crystal clear waters, making it ideal for snorkeling and diving. Fishing in the Marquesas Keys offers the chance to catch a variety of species, including bonefish, tarpon, permit, and snapper. The peaceful and untouched nature of the Marquesas Keys makes it a favorite among anglers looking to escape the crowds and enjoy excellent fishing.
Dry Tortugas National Park
If you’re searching for a remote and pristine fishing destination, look no further than Dry Tortugas National Park. Located approximately 70 miles west of Key West, this national park is only accessible by boat or seaplane, ensuring that you’ll encounter unspoiled and abundant marine life. The waters surrounding Dry Tortugas are teeming with fish such as grouper, snapper, kingfish, and barracuda. Additionally, the park’s extensive coral reefs provide excellent opportunities for snorkeling and diving.
Seven Mile Bridge
Spanning, as its name suggests, seven miles in length, the Seven Mile Bridge is not only an engineering marvel but also a popular fishing spot in the Florida Keys. The bridge connects Marathon and Little Duck Key, providing access to the rich fishing grounds of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Anglers can cast their lines from the bridge or anchor their boats nearby to target a variety of species, including tarpon, snapper, grouper, and jacks. The Seven Mile Bridge offers breathtaking views and ample parking, making it a favorite among both locals and visitors.
Known as the “Sportfishing Capital of the World,” Islamorada is a must-visit destination for any serious angler. Situated in the Upper Keys, Islamorada offers a variety of fishing opportunities, including backcountry and offshore fishing. The abundance of fish species in the area, including tarpon, bonefish, permit, snook, and mahi-mahi, make Islamorada a dream destination for anglers seeking a diverse fishing experience. Additionally, Islamorada hosts various fishing tournaments throughout the year, providing an exciting atmosphere for both participants and spectators.
If you’re looking for a unique fishing experience away from the crowds, Content Key is the place to be. Located just south of Islamorada, Content Key offers a secluded and peaceful fishing spot for anglers. This small island is surrounded by shallow grass flats, making it a prime location for targeting bonefish, permit, and tarpon. Fishing in Content Key provides a sense of tranquility and a chance to connect with nature, while still being in close proximity to the bustling fishing community of Islamorada.
Big Pine Key
For anglers who enjoy a quiet and natural setting, Big Pine Key offers an ideal fishing destination. Known for its abundant wildlife and protected nature reserves, Big Pine Key provides excellent opportunities for backcountry and flats fishing. The surrounding waters are home to a variety of species, including bonefish, permit, tarpon, snook, and redfish. Additionally, Big Pine Key is famous for the Key deer, an endangered species unique to the Florida Keys, adding an extra touch of natural beauty to your fishing experience.
Located at the northernmost point of the Florida Keys, Key Largo is a paradise for both divers and anglers. Its close proximity to the Everglades National Park and the only living coral barrier reef in the United States ensures an incredible variety of fish species. Tarpon, bonefish, permit, snook, grouper, and snapper are just some of the fish you can expect to catch while fishing in Key Largo. Whether you choose to fish in the backcountry, offshore, or explore the numerous wrecks and reefs, Key Largo offers something for everyone.
Key West Harbor
No fishing adventure in the Florida Keys would be complete without a visit to Key West, and Key West Harbor is a fishing spot you won’t want to miss. The harbor provides easy access to the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, allowing anglers to target prized game fish like marlin, sailfish, tuna, and mahi-mahi. Additionally, Key West Harbor offers excellent flats fishing opportunities, with bonefish, permit, and tarpon being common catches. Key West itself is a vibrant and bustling city, offering various attractions, dining options, and nightlife to complement your fishing experience.
Bahia Honda State Park
Situated between Marathon and Key West, Bahia Honda State Park offers not only beautiful beaches and clear waters but also excellent fishing opportunities. Whether you’re fishing from the shore, a boat, or even a kayak, Bahia Honda State Park offers a chance to catch a variety of fish species, including tarpon, snapper, grouper, and jack. The park’s natural beauty and tranquil atmosphere make it a perfect spot for fishing enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.
Indian Key Historic State Park
If you’re a history buff looking to combine your love for fishing with a cultural experience, Indian Key Historic State Park is the place to go. Located near Islamorada, this small island has a rich history dating back to the early 19th century. While the island itself is worth exploring, Indian Key Historic State Park also offers excellent fishing opportunities. Whether you choose to fish from a kayak or a boat, you’ll have the chance to catch a variety of species, including snapper, grouper, tarpon, and permit. Fishing in Indian Key Historic State Park is not only a great way to relax and enjoy nature but also an opportunity to learn about the area’s fascinating history.
Deep Sea Fishing
When it comes to deep sea fishing in the Florida Keys, booking a fishing charter is the way to go. Fishing charters provide all the necessary equipment, knowledge, and expertise to ensure a successful and enjoyable fishing trip. Charter captains are experienced anglers who know the best fishing spots and techniques, increasing your chances of catching your desired species. Additionally, fishing charters often offer different trip durations and package options, allowing you to choose the one that best suits your preferences and budget.
Deep sea fishing in the Florida Keys offers the opportunity to target a wide range of species, depending on the season and location. Some of the most sought-after fish during deep sea fishing expeditions include marlin, sailfish, tuna, mahi-mahi, grouper, snapper, kingfish, and wahoo. Each species presents its own unique challenge and requires specific techniques and equipment, making deep sea fishing a thrilling and dynamic experience.
To increase your chances of a successful deep sea fishing trip, it’s important to learn and master the popular techniques used in this type of fishing. Some common techniques include trolling, bottom fishing, live bait fishing, and kite fishing. Trolling involves dragging lines with lures or bait behind a moving boat to attract and entice fish. Bottom fishing, as the name suggests, involves dropping a baited hook to the bottom of the ocean to target fish that dwell near the seafloor. Live bait fishing entails using live baitfish or other live creatures as bait to tempt hungry fish. Kite fishing involves suspending a baited line from a kite, allowing the bait to hover above the water’s surface, mimicking a natural prey item.
The fishing seasons for deep sea fishing in the Florida Keys vary depending on the species you’re targeting. Some species, like sailfish and marlin, have peak seasons during the winter months when they migrate to warmer waters. Tuna, mahi-mahi, and wahoo can be found year-round, with different times of the year offering better opportunities to catch them. Bottom-dwelling species, such as grouper and snapper, have regulations and specific seasons to protect their populations. It’s essential to check local fishing regulations and consult with your fishing charter captain to ensure you’re fishing within the legal limits and during the optimal seasons for your target species.
Benefits of Backcountry Fishing
Backcountry fishing in the Florida Keys offers several benefits that make it a favorite among anglers. One of the main advantages is the peaceful and serene environment that backcountry waters provide. Away from the open ocean and crowded fishing spots, the backcountry offers a sense of tranquility and a closer connection to nature. The calm, shallow waters also make backcountry fishing accessible to anglers of all skill levels, from beginners to experts. Additionally, backcountry fishing allows for a greater variety of fishing techniques, such as sight fishing, fly fishing, and kayak fishing. Whether you prefer casting with a spinning reel or using a fly rod, backcountry fishing has something for everyone.
Targeted Species in Backcountry Waters
The backcountry waters of the Florida Keys are home to a variety of fish species that thrive in the shallow and protected habitats. Some of the most commonly targeted species in backcountry fishing include snook, redfish, trout, tarpon, and bonefish. These fish can be found hiding among the mangroves, shallow flats, and grassy areas, offering anglers the chance to sight fish and test their angling skills. The backcountry is also known for its excellent opportunities for catching juvenile tarpon, which provide an exciting fight for anglers of all ages.
One popular method of fishing in the backcountry is kayak fishing. Kayaks offer anglers the ability to navigate shallow waters and access areas that larger boats cannot reach. Kayak fishing provides a unique and eco-friendly way to explore the backcountry and target various fish species. Whether you choose to paddle through the mangroves or drift along the flats, kayak fishing allows for a more intimate and immersive fishing experience.
Stand-Up Paddleboarding (SUP) Fishing
Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) has gained popularity in recent years, and it has also become a popular way to fish in the Florida Keys’ backcountry. SUP fishing combines the tranquility and balance of paddleboarding with the excitement of fishing. Standing on a paddleboard provides an elevated viewpoint, allowing anglers to spot fish more easily and cast their lines with precision. SUP fishing is a fun and adventurous way to explore the backcountry waters while enjoying the solitude and beauty of nature.
Shallow Water Fishing
Flats fishing in the Florida Keys is all about targeting fish in shallow, clear-water environments known as flats. These expansive areas consist of sandy or grassy bottoms and are typically less than three feet deep. Flats fishing can be done by wading, poling a skiff, or using a shallow-draft boat. The shallow water provides the perfect conditions for sight fishing, where anglers can spot and cast their lines directly at the fish. Flats fishing is a thrilling and challenging experience that requires stealth, patience, and precise casting.
Bonefish Capital of the World
The Florida Keys proudly hold the title of the “Bonefish Capital of the World,” making it a bucket-list destination for anglers who want to target these powerful and elusive fish. Bonefish are prized for their speed, strength, and agile behavior, putting up an impressive fight when hooked. The flats of the Florida Keys provide the ideal habitat for bonefish, as they thrive in the shallow, warm waters and feed on small crustaceans and baitfish. Catching a bonefish is considered a significant achievement among anglers, and the Florida Keys offer excellent opportunities to pursue this coveted species.
Permit is another highly sought-after species in the flats of the Florida Keys. These strong and fast fish are known for their challenging behavior and finicky feeding habits. Permit are often found in deeper parts of the flats or around structures such as wrecks and bridges. Targeting permit requires precise casting and presenting the bait or fly in a natural and enticing manner. Catching a permit is considered a true testament to an angler’s skills and is a memorable achievement for any fishing enthusiast.
Flats fishing in the Florida Keys also offers an exciting opportunity to pursue the iconic silver king, or tarpon. These prehistoric-looking fish are known for their acrobatic jumps, sheer strength, and thrilling fights. Tarpon can be found cruising the flats or near bridges, channels, and other structures where they congregate. Successfully hooking and landing a tarpon requires skill, patience, and a good understanding of their behavior. The Florida Keys provide excellent opportunities for tarpon fishing, especially during the spring and summer months when the tarpon migration is at its peak.
The flats of the Florida Keys are a fly fisherman’s paradise, offering some of the best opportunities for fly fishing in the world. Fly fishing in the flats requires precision casting, stealth, and the ability to “read” the water and spot the fish. Whether you’re targeting bonefish, permit, tarpon, or other species, fly fishing allows for a more intimate and challenging experience. The Florida Keys offer a variety of fly fishing guides and charters catering to both beginners and experienced fly anglers, ensuring a memorable and successful fly fishing adventure.
The Marquesas Keys are a group of uninhabited islands located approximately 20 miles west of Key West. This remote location ensures a pristine and unspoiled fishing experience, far away from the hustle and bustle of the more populated areas of the Florida Keys. Accessible only by boat, the Marquesas Keys offer a tranquil and secluded fishing spot that remains largely untouched by human presence.
Top Fish Species
The crystal clear waters surrounding the Marquesas Keys teem with a variety of fish species, making it a prime fishing destination. Some of the top fish species you can expect to catch in the Marquesas Keys include bonefish, tarpon, permit, snapper, and barracuda. The healthy and vibrant marine ecosystem attracts these fish and provides anglers with exciting opportunities to pursue their desired species.
Charters and Guides
Given the remote location of the Marquesas Keys, booking a fishing charter or guide is highly recommended. Professional charter captains and fishing guides have the knowledge and experience to navigate the waters surrounding the Marquesas Keys and put you in the best spots for catching fish. They will provide you with all the necessary equipment and offer valuable insights into the local fishing techniques and strategies.
Best Time to Fish
The Marquesas Keys are a year-round fishing destination, offering excellent opportunities for anglers regardless of the season. However, certain times of the year may be more favorable for targeting specific species. For bonefish, the best months are typically from March to November, while tarpon and permit fishing is most productive during the spring and summer months. Snapper and barracuda can be caught year-round, providing anglers with consistent fishing opportunities. It’s always a good idea to consult with local fishing experts or your charter captain to determine the best time to fish based on your target species.