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Key West Fishing Charter Options: From the Flats to the Deep Sea

Updated on September 20, 2012

Key West offers every kind of salt-water fishing imaginable.

Do you watch Old Man and the Sea, at least once a year? Is The Perfect Storm one of your favorite movies? Do you have dreams of being a salty, deep-sea fisherman yourself, or at least play one on your vacation? Or do you want to spend a day angling in the shallows? If so, come to Key West where all your dreams can come true! You do not have to be an expert to experience a little big game fishing on your week off. There are many options, based on your experience and personal preferences. (Thanks to Photobucket member beansfowler for the backcountry fishing photo. Congratulations on your first catch of the day!)

Barracuda are one of the larger predator species that can be caught in the waters off Key West, Florida.
Barracuda are one of the larger predator species that can be caught in the waters off Key West, Florida.
Bonefish charter boat off Key West | Photo by Photobucket member bartkywst
Bonefish charter boat off Key West | Photo by Photobucket member bartkywst

New to saltwater fishing? Hire a guide for the best experience.

You can rent a boat of your very own, or you can charter one. If you decide to charter a boat, you get to choose whether or not you would like a fishing guide to come with it. Your fishing guide will be a professional deep-sea fisherman that knows the Key West coastline better than he knows his own home. Theses experts have spent their lives on the waters off Key West, and will add a little native Floridian flavor to your experience. If you are choosing a guide, it is important to make sure that they have a Captain's license, so that they are qualified to take charters out. This means they will be well trained, not only in fishing, but boat handling, safety, emergency preparedness and local Coast Guard rules and regulations.

Not sure how to find a guide? A local attractions booking agency like Tours Key West has connections with local fishing guides and can help you choose a guide whose a good match for your level of experience and your itinerary.

Key West & Florida Keys Fishing Guides

Key West flats fishing is perfect for beginners. Photo by issbartal on Photobucket.
Key West flats fishing is perfect for beginners. Photo by issbartal on Photobucket.

Light Tackle fishing off Key West

Even beginning anglers can haul in an impressive catch with basic fishing equipment.

Some of the fish that you can expect to catch depend on where in the Key West area you go and what type of equipment you prefer to use. If you are into light tackle equipment, like fly fishing rods or light spin rods, there are lots of angling opportunities. The Gulfstream is rife with marlin and sailfish if you are interested in angling in the Lower Keys. You can also catch permit, tarpon and bonefish there. If you love to fish coral reefs, you can go out on a party boat for a day or night fishing experience that you'll never forget. These gorgeous reefs are known for their large snapper and grouper populations.

If these light-tackle fishing opportunities sound perfect for you, there are fishing boats designed specifically for this type of fishing experience. It is important to choose the right fishing craft for your destination, because the Florida coast is shallow and can be dangerous, especially around the reefs, so you do not want to take a boat along the shoreline that is created for deeper waters. Light-tackle boats usually have a center console and a smaller engine than their larger counterparts.

Flats fishing off Key West gets you close to sport fish, eatin' fish, and aquatic life like sea turtles.
Flats fishing off Key West gets you close to sport fish, eatin' fish, and aquatic life like sea turtles.

Key West Deep Sea Fishing Tips

Key West Deep Sea Fishing
Key West Deep Sea Fishing

If you are more interested in deep-sea fishing, you will need to follow the lesson we all learned from the classic movie Jaws: "get a bigger boat!" There are charter boats designed around carrying around deep-sea tackle and reeling in the bad boys of the fishing world: marlin, tuna, dolphin, wahoo and sailfish, to name a few. Deep-sea fishing usually takes place when the water is at least 30 meters deep. On the Florida coastline, this means you’ll have to travel quite a ways to find a good spot. Make sure to plan for an entire day’s outing, with plenty of water, food, sun block, sunglasses, bug spray, lifejackets, hats, and warm clothing for the trip in and out. Even on the hottest day, speeding across a body of water can cool you off. That way if you are out for a night trip, you’ll be prepared.

Fishing for Yellowtail Snapper, Permit and Amberjack off Key West

Capt. Blair travels to Key West, Florida to fish offshore for yellowtail snapper, permit and amberjack with Capt. Rush Maltz.

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      SpiritOfHalloween 4 years ago

      Good lens on salt water fishing... you've shared valuable information here. I wish i could catch the big fishes just like in the images.

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      tmstrekkie 4 years ago

      Interesting lens and a great location to go sea fishing.