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Saltwater Fishing Tips: Fishing in Key West

Updated on May 4, 2011

Key West fishing charters

Key West is famous for numerous things, and saltwater fishing is right up there at the top of the list. You might not need many saltwater fishing tips for these bountiful waters. The fishing in Key West is legendary – the ultimate fantasy of many anglers. According to the International Game Fish Association, more than 400 world-record fish have been landed in the Florida Keys. America’s only living coral reef – the third largest in the world – skirts Key West, too.

While throngs of tourist flock to Key West every year for the history, the scenery, and the party-like atmosphere, the fishing in Key West holds a special place in the hearts of anglers. Fortunately for them, there are scores of Key West fishing charters. Because there are so many, the prices are very competitive. By visiting different websites of Key West fishing charters, you’ll be able to find one that matches your needs and your budget.

Fishing Key West provides for some great scenery!
Fishing Key West provides for some great scenery!

Why fishing in Key West is so awesome!



Key West is surrounded by bays, shallow flats, deep channels, and a huge reef. The productive Gulf Stream is nearby, too, and it’s one of the most fish-rich currents on the globe. The Florida Keys are also the dividing line between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. All these add up to some superb fishing in Key West.


Many Key West fishing charters practice catch-and-release with several fish species, carefully handling the fish and returning them unharmed to the water. This practice is done especially with billfish. That means that the populations are not being decimated, so there’s a constant supply of large predatory fish species.


Another reason fishing in Key West is so popular is because of the great year-round climate. The lowest average temperature is 65 degrees, in January, and the hottest average temperature is 89, in August.


For fishermen, this means that the surrounding waters of Key West remain a fairly consistent temperature all year, with no major drops, so there’s no reason for the fish to go into hiding or to stop biting. No matter what the season is, fishing in Key West is always great!



There's plenty of shark fishing in Key West.
There's plenty of shark fishing in Key West.

Available types of fishing in Key West


You’ll find several types of fishing in Key West, and it would be hard to say which is the most popular. One of the most pleasurable is flats fishing. The flats near Key West are beautiful, with clear turquoise water in a natural setting. This is the place to land bonefish, permit, and tarpon. Key West holds the state record for the largest tarpon – it tipped the scales at 243 pounds.


Key West waters are littered with wrecks, and the natural reef extends beyond the Dry Tortugas. These areas offer some amazing Key West wreck and reef fishing because many species of fish are attracted to the bottom structure. Likely catches here include a variety of snappers and groupers, along with cobia, sharks, amberjack, and barracuda.


Offshore fishing in Key West is perhaps the most thrilling of all the angling methods offered. The ninety-mile stretch of water between Key West and Cuba is one of the most fertile in the entire world. Fishing in the Gulf Stream off Key West will produce catches of dorado (mahi mahi), king mackerel, cobia, wahoo, tuna, sailfish, swordfish, and both blue marlin and white marlin.


Shark fishing in the Keys has its loyal followers, too. Several shark species can be found in less than ten feet of water, and because of the water’s clarity, you can usually see the sharks attacking your bait. With Key West shark fishing, you’ll have excellent opportunities to catch bull sharks, hammerheads, nurse sharks, lemon sharks, spinner sharks, blacktip sharks, and tiger sharks. The state record white shark was caught off Key West, weighing in at 686 pounds.



Grouper fishing in Key West is very productive.
Grouper fishing in Key West is very productive.

Key West deep sea fishing


For the ultimate angling adventure, try Key West deep sea fishing. This is world-class fishing for big brutes like billfish and other giants of the deep. Most of the Key West deep sea fishing for these species is done by trolling, and what you catch depends largely on what time of year you’re fishing.


If you’re hoping to catch a trophy blue marlin, visit Key West in May, June, July, or August. Big barracudas can be landed all year, and sailfish are active every month except for July and August. Fish Key West in the summer if you’re after wahoo, and in the winter if you’re after mackerel.


Fishing in Key West produced the state record blackfin tuna and the state record yellowfin tuna. If you want to get in on some of this action, try Key West deep sea fishing in October through May.



Many Key West fishing charters are available.
Many Key West fishing charters are available.

Key West fishing charters


Key West fishing charters are definitely the way to go if you want to do some serious angling. No matter what kind of fishing or what species of fish you’re seeking, charter boats will accommodate you. You might prefer to spend just a few hours flats fishing, or you might decide to spend a full day fishing the reefs and wrecks or doing some offshore trolling.


You’ll find all kinds of Key West charter boats, too. These include large party boats with restrooms and full galleys, fast offshore charter boats for trolling, and smaller skiffs for flats fishing. You can go alone, with a few friends, or with the entire family. Many Key West fishing charters welcome kids, and if you’re a novice, the crew will be glad to provide help.


If you’re planning on hiring one of the Key West fishing charters, find out everything that’s included in the price. Different boats and captains include different amenities, and they all have different rules. One thing you definitely don’t want to forget is your camera. You’ll want to get pics of the fish you catch, along with the splendid scenery. Fishing in Key West is an experience you’ll never forget!


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