The Best Fishing Spots in the Keys – A Complete Guide

Oct 11, 2023 | 9 minute read Comments
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Reading Time: 9 minutes

The Florida Keys are the perfect fishing vacation spot. Thousands of avid anglers who come here each year can confirm it. Many of them trailer their boats all the way from North Carolina or Rhode Island. Is it worth it? Definitely! The sky’s the limit when it comes to fishing here. It takes about 20 minutes to get from inshore flats to deep offshore canyons. So, today, you’re going to get a look at some of the best fishing spots in the Keys. Next time you visit, you’ll know exactly where to go.

An aerial view of Florida Keys with all its little islands, vegetation, and crystal clear waters

Key West: Flats Fishing

There are many reasons that make Key West one of the most popular spots in the Straits of Florida. The city has a rich cultural heritage and buzzing nightlife. You can fly in or drive all the way from Key Largo. Key West is popular among families with kids. You can explore the waters, go on eco tours, go on treasure hunts, and explore landmark buildings.

But it’s not only the Hemingway House, water activities, and good food that make the town so popular. There’s one thing that beats all this. Fishing.

Key West is surrounded by a vast surface of flats that hold Bonefish, Permit, and Tarpon. You can start your vacation by scouting the flats and doing a bit of sight fishing, then switch to the fly. Fly anglers from abroad come here year after year for world-class fishing. To get to the secret spots with big fish, pair up with a local guide.

These skinny waters fish for Snook, Tarpon, Permit, Lemon Shark, and Yellowtail Snapper. You won’t find choppy seas here, only calm waters teeming with fish.

A view from the water of a fishing boat in the Key West flats, with two anglers standing on it, one holding a fishing pole

But that’s not all. Key West lies just 80 miles north of Cuba. Many anglers decide to hire a deep sea charter to take them fishing in the Cuban waters. Multi-day trip, anyone?

If you want to try something that’s quintessentially Key West, then book a fishing trip on a small flats boat. Snook, Permit, and Tarpon swarm these spots, so you want to be as quiet as possible.

Your fishing guide will stand on a casting platform and use a long pole to steer the boat. As the fish are spooky, you don’t want to make too much noise. Your guide will spot the fish from the platform. He will tell you when to make the cast as you stand on the bow, reeling in one fish after the other. It’s easy to understand why Key West is one of the best fishing spots in the Keys.

The Marquesas Keys: Bottom Fishing

There’s one more thing you must try before heading east to explore other riches of the Florida Keys. Just 20 miles west of Key West lies a group of uninhabited mangrove islands that form the Marquesas Keys. These islands don’t have a lot to offer to city lovers but are sheer epicness when it comes to sport fishing.

Three anglers on a fishing boat, being photographed with their catch, a big Grouper

The water depth around the rock piles on the east side of the islands is between 15 and 30 feet. These patches of rocky bottoms are home to an amazing number of Snapper and Grouper.

These waters are so productive that when the conditions align, the action can be non-stop. Head a couple of miles northwest of the island. You will find rocks scattered across the otherwise sandy bottom. This is where the big fish are.

Mutton and Red Snapper, Gag and Red Grouper are the most frequent catches. But you will also often hook into King Mackerel, Yellowtail Snapper, Barracuda, and Sharks.

A middle-aged angler standing on a boat in sunglasses and a hat, holding a Snapper

If your friends think fishing is boring, bottom fishing around the Marquesas Keys is the perfect remedy for them. There’s a lot to target here, and most of these beauties make for delicious table fare, so you’re in for a treat. Use small minnows, pinfish, sardines, squid, and mullet for the best results.

A trip to the Marquesas is another truly local thing to do. If you’re traveling with kids, this fishing trip is a great starting point for them. The fish are there in the water ready to take your bait. You won’t have to chum the bait to heat things up  – the fishing is on fire.

Sugarloaf Key Islands: Backcountry Fishing

It’s time for a bit more intimate fishing! After having feasted on flaky Snapper meat in the Marquesas, head east to Sugarloaf Keys. What makes these islands one of the best fishing spots in the Keys? Here, you will find a maze of mangrove cuts, flats, and creeks rich in fish. It’s scenic, it’s quiet, and there’s plenty of fish.

A fisherman leaning out of the boat, while holding a Tarpon in the water

You can explore these waters from a skiff, or if you’d like a workout, you can hop into a kayak or canoe. If it’s windy offshore, you can always catch fish around the sheltered channels.

Most of these mangrove cuts are only a couple of feet deep. Every now and then you will come across some deeper holes that plunge down to depths of 20 feet. Before you head into these meandering mangroves, fish for pilchards on the flats.

Here you will find clear waters so you can sight fish for Snook, Tarpon, and Permit. You can also run into Jack Crevalle, Bonnethead Sharks, and some Snapper. Stock up on squid and pinfish, and you should have no trouble getting the bite.

Cudjoe Key: Fishing the Channels

Each island in the Florida Keys has strong fishing opportunities. Some places attract anglers who look for tried and tested honey holes. But you should make it your priority to explore spots that don’t make it to the headlines. And that’s exactly what Cudjoe Key has to offer – a lot of fishing potential with less fishing pressure. These channels are easily one of the best fishing spots in the Keys.

A fisherman in a hat standing in clear water, holding a Grouper

Non-local anglers often overlook this network of flats, mangrove islands, and channels. But you shouldn’t. If you do, you could be missing out on a chance to reel in Snapper, Grouper, Bonefish, Permit, Tarpon, and Jacks.

The channels are often shallow and great for sight fishing. You might come across deep, wide cuts which sunken boats and other debris turned into a fishing hotspot.

Plus, these mangrove islands and rich vegetation protect the channels from the wind. This means you’ll be able to hit the water even when other spots are not accessible.

A smiling young woman holding a Barracuda, with blue skies and turquoise water in the background

You can do drift fishing near the shoreline or sight fishing around the flats. Calm waters make Cudjoe Key channels popular among kayak anglers. Rent a ‘yak and explore the murky deep waters.

As for the bait, you will find a lot of mullet, crab, and shrimp around these fisheries. They are a food of choice for all the game fish around you. If you like action, these channels will give you a chase to remember. Sharks and Barracuda often forage in these waters.

The Bahia Honda Bridge: Tarpon Fishing

If you want to try something Floridian, then you must fish for Tarpon around the Bahia Honda Bridge. This is a unique experience that could put you on the trail of a 100 lb Silver King. Who doesn’t want that?

Two female anglers in water, holding big Tarpon

The channel between the Old Bahia Honda bridge and the Overseas Highway is the deepest inshore fishery in the Keys. The waters drop from 18 to 25 feet and offer some of the best bridge fishing in the Florida Keys.

There is a lot of bait fish moving between the bridge pylons and the pilings, which serve as perfect ambush grounds for game fish. As you warm up to get to the Tarpon business, you can hook into Permit, Sheepshead, Mutton Snapper, and Hammerhead Sharks.

A middle-aged man sitting on a fishing boat, holding a Permit fish, with clear water and blue skies behind him

Tarpon swarm these waterways as part of their migration northwards. They weigh between 70–130 pounds, though anglers have pulled in fish bigger than that. For your best chances at success, use crabs as bait – it works like a charm. The best time to go after your Tarpon is during the spring.

What’s great about this world-famous fishery is that Tarpon feed throughout the day. No reason to get up early – spend your morning snorkeling or enjoy the rich wildlife of Big Pine Key’s Blue Hole, then dedicate your afternoon to Tarpon hunting.

Marathon Humps: Best Deep Sea Fishing

Fishing the Hump out of Marathon (also known as the West Hump) is a tailor-made adventure for seasoned anglers. This fishery is the closest thing to an actual angling paradise. Deep sea fishing is the name of the game here because the water depth quickly plummets to over 500 feet.

Two anglers sitting on a boat, holding a Sailfish, with blue water and skies in the background

The Marathon Hump is a seamount, a mountain that rises from the ocean floor. It offers good shelter and traps a lot of bait fish. The strong currents of the Gulf Stream push the baitfish towards the surface. There they’re easy prey for the trophy game fish.

Around Marathon Humps, you’ll have a chance to fish for monster pelagics or come face to gills with massive bottom fish. These fishing spots are home to Blue and White Marlin, Sailfish, Yellowfin and Blackfin Tuna, Wahoo, and Mahi. The battle with Marlin and Tuna can last for hours. If you want a true test of your stamina, sit tight in that fighting chair!

A fisherman in a cap and sunglasses standing on a fishing boat, at the dock, holding a Tuna

You’ve come to one of the best fishing spots in the Key West, so why not get a delicious meal out of it? If you want to go home with a big, tasty dinner, prepare for bottom fishing battles that will test your skills and patience. Snowy, Strawberry, and Yellowedge Grouper, Tilefish, and Queen Snapper frequent these waters. You will need to pull them up from depths of 450+ feet. But the effort will be worth it!

Islamorada: Inshore Super Grand Slam

After your brawl with Marlin, Tuna, and Grouper, it’s time for something different. Islamorada has the nickname “Sport Fishing Capital of the World,” so you shouldn’t miss wetting a line here. Fish offshore reefs and wrecks, chase Bonefish and Snook on the flats, and go fly fishing for Tarpon.

A fisherman and a boy holding two Bonefish while standing in shallow waters of Florida Keys

But, since you’re in a special place, why not do something special? Try to put your name among the few who have managed to catch Bonefish, Permit, Tarpon, and Snook in a single day.

And given the premier Islamorada fisheries, landing an Inshore Super Grand Slam should be more than possible. These waters are some of the richest fisheries in the whole of Florida.

A smiling woman in sunglasses and a hat holding a big Snook, with greenery in the background

Each of the fish has its own unique features and temperament, so it’s a feat of true skill to land them all in a single day. Plus, you don’t have to travel far offshore. You will be playing hide and seek with the fish around the mangrove islands and flats of Islamorada. The local inshore bite is also great for first-time fishermen who are still learning the ropes but want to catch something bragworthy.

Tavernier Key Reefs: Snapper and Grouper

A reef patch south of Tavernier Key holds a good number of Mutton, Mangrove, and Yellowtail Snapper, as well as Gag Grouper. These fishing trips are perfect if you want some laid-back family time. You can head out in the morning, bend the rods, and get some fish just in time for lunch.

Two young men holding their daily catch of Snapper, with blue water and skies in the background

In case it’s windy and choppy, you might not be able to find baitfish. In that case, use frozen bait, such as glass minnow. It will attract some smaller Snapper. If you can catch live bait, go with ballyhoo. They work well here and can get you Yellowtail Snapper and Gag Grouper.

These fishing trips are relaxing and work well with beginner anglers. But, make sure to look out for some wayward Barracuda. They will often get close to the boat and wait for you to hook into something, then run for it and snatch it. Still, the whole process is a lot of fun, especially for your young ones.

Key Largo: Wreck Fishing

You might know Key Largo as the best place in the world for diving. But that’s only one part of its appeal. Its fishing opportunities are nothing short of fantastic. Many shipwrecks around Key Largo are the epicenter of fish activity year-round.

Three anglers standing on a boat, holding a big Amberjack, with blue skies and water in the background

Duane and Bibb are sunken ships that lie a couple of miles from Key Largo. The fisheries near Duane are 120′ deep. These sandy bottoms are home to Amberjack, Grouper, and Snapper, to name just a few.

Bibb is one of the premier diving sites, with excellent fishing potential. It lies just six nautical miles from Key Largo. Hogfish, Black Grouper, and Snapper swim around the sunken vessel. Make sure you tie your boat to the mooring buoy, as fishing is not allowed otherwise.

Some of the shipwrecks are also used for dive boats. If you wouldn’t like divers to show up in the middle of your fishing spot, it’s best to go out on a local charter. The captains will know which spots are less crowded but still productive.

Which of these fishing spots have you tried before? What other spots in the Keys are a must-fish? We’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments below. Otherwise, it’s time to find a local charter and start catching fish!

Author profile picture

Stefan is a writer at FishingBooker, who especially loves fly fishing.

Comments (101)

Manuel Molinet

Mar 24, 2024

My son and I are headed out of Sigsbee marina on a 20’ whaler and are looking for the best place to bottom fish under 30’ of water. We are looking to catch snappers. I am old and can’t go to deep water without getting sea sick. 🤢 thanks.

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    Tanya

    Mar 25, 2024

    Hi Manuel, thank you for reading our blog and reaching out. Taking everything you mentioned into considerations, it might be worth checking the Fleming Key area for starters. It’s the closest spot from the Sigsbee Marina where you can try your luck at catching Snappers (Yellowtail Snappers to be more precise). Hope this helped. Let us know how it went. Tight lines!

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Paul

Feb 10, 2023

Coming in to Duck key May18-26, 2023. Bringing my 25’center console. Plan to fish just about everyday. Looking to go off shore and back country. Native to Chesapeake bay and OC off shore. Would love to get some action on my own. Ideas?

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    Rhys

    Feb 10, 2023

    Hi Paul,

    Rhys here from FishingBooker. Bringing your own center console is a great way to explore both the inshore and offshore waters, and you’ll have no shortage of spots to explore out of Duck Key! Some of the most accessible deep sea honey holes are around the “Marathon Humps” southwest of Duck Key. As for the backcountry, the Duck Key Channel should be your first port of call, with Tom’s Harbor Cut and the Channel Key Pass also offering plenty of exciting action. I hope this helps.

    Tight lines,

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Brad Parsons

Jan 29, 2023

Headed to key largo 3/10-3/12 looking to catch mahi-mahi and tuna and maybe a sail. Should we charter out of key largo or Islamorada? Thank you

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    Tanya

    Jan 30, 2023

    Hey Brad,
    Since Key Largo and Islamorada are only 15 miles apart and you plan on targeting offshore species, there’s no need to worry about the departure point.
    You can either charter out from Key Largo or Islamorada, just make sure to book a charter operator that suits you and chose a more convenient option for you.
    And let us know how it went 😉
    Tight lines!

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Mike Baumann

Jan 4, 2023

Hi guys-
Thanks for the informative article. My girlfriend and I are staying in Key Largo from Jan 7th -14th, 2023. We’d like to find some relaxed shore-based angling for fish we can cook up at the bungalow. I appreciate your suggestions for bridge fishing, but any other spots you could recommend would be welcomed. Also we might like to fish from a party boat. Do you have suggestions for a specific boat?
Thanks in advance for replies!
Mike

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    Andriana

    Jan 5, 2023

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for reading, I’m glad you enjoyed the article. There’s plenty to do and fish for in Key Largo in January. For some solid fishing action from the shore, you can go to the Marvin D Adams Waterway, commonly called The Cut or the Key Largo Cut. Long Creek could also be a good spot, as well as Lake Surprise if you’d like to go freshwater fishing.

    When it comes to fishing from a party boat, it seems that there aren’t any in the immediate Key Largo area on our website, here’s the offer of shared trips in the entire Keys area, if you’d like to explore the Keys a bit more.

    I hope this helps Mike, have a great trip to Key Largo!

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Ferraty Bruno

Dec 13, 2021

Hi,

Your article is great and fishing in the keys sounds easy.

I am coming from paris to spend a week in florida mid january.

I plan to stay 2 days around key Largo or islamorada.

I fish light with lure and looking especialy for barracudas and permit.

Can you advise a few spot from shore, i like to walk around flats.

Thank you

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    Andrijana Maletic

    Dec 14, 2021

    Hi Bruno,

    Thanks for reading, I’m glad you found the article useful.

    Keys are a great winter fishing spot, whether you’re fishing from shore or with a guide. For Barracuda and Permit, there are plenty of backcountry spots and flats you can explore, and Kudas are especially productive. We’d recommend giving Channel #2 Bridge (around pylons) a try – you’ll find it between Marathon and Islamorada.

    Channels on Kudjoe Key generally offer excellent fishing, and there are plenty of flats and mangroves there that offer solid action. You can also try the bars in Bahia Honda Park, the Barracuda bite can be very good there.

    I hope you have a good time in Florida, Bruno, let us know how it goes.

    Safe travels and tight lines!

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Jeff bruno

Jul 28, 2021

Hi everyone, where would you rent a boat for 5 days in or around key west. Not a charter

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    Vuk

    Jul 28, 2021

    Hi Jeff,

    For starters, it might be best to try a place like Spencer’s Boatyard since they’re located in Key West proper.

    Hope you have a great time on your trip!

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Stephen Andros

Jun 27, 2021

Going tocudjoe key in july are there patch reefs close by

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    Karin

    Jun 28, 2021

    Hi Stephen,

    Thank you for your question. There are 2 banks of reefs that are running along the Keys. They are about 7 and 9 miles out from Cudjoe Gardens Marina.

    However, it is important to note that many of the reefs are protected. I’d recommend checking out this map to get a general idea of the reefs and sanctuary boundaries and then heading out and marking the spots as you go.

    If you want to save some time I’d recommend going out with a guide. That way you can get to know the waters, find a few fishing spots and learn how to fish them. Afterward, you can always head out on your own. It may initially cost you a few hundred bucks but will save you hours if not days of trial and error and is well worth it in the long run.

    I hope this helps!

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Beck

Jun 22, 2021

Great article. Planning a trip to Islamorada early November. Have a boat. Any recommendations or tips for that time of year? We’re not so much into the sport, as we are the tastiness. Just looking to bag a fish or two for the grill. Haha. Native Floridians… Thx!

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    Vule

    Jun 23, 2021

    Hi Beck,

    Thanks for reaching out!

    If you’re looking for tasty fish, the best thing to do is visit the reefs. Pickles Reef is a productive spot in the area, where you can bottom fish for species of Snapper and Grouper.

    However, you can also stay inshore and go after Mangrove Snapper. Hope you have fun!

    Tight Lines,

    Vule

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brian donohue

May 3, 2021

Coming down late June and staying in Key Largo- should we charter from Key Largo or look at Islamorada/Marathon for the best fishing charter?

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    Sean

    May 4, 2021

    Hi Brian,

    Thanks for reaching out.

    To be honest, both locations offer incredible fishing at that time.

    It all comes down to what kind of fishing experience you’re looking for. If you’d like to fish inshore and do some bottom fishing, Key Largo might be the better option. However, if you’d prefer to go offshore and catch a monster, Islamorada and Marathon won’t disappoint.

    I hope this helps. If you’d like advice on which particular charter to choose or need any assistance in booking, let me know and I’ll have our Customer Service team reach out.

    Tight lines!

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Neal Roberson

Mar 8, 2021

Great article,

Coming down May 8th -15th and bringing a flats boat. Plan on getting a guide during the beginning of the week also. Are the chances decent at making it out to the patch reefs in the flats boat? I know it is a complex fishery but we are going to try and put something in the box.

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    Albert

    Mar 8, 2021

    Hi Neal,

    It depends on where in the Keys you are, what the weather’s like, and how experienced you are with your boat, but it’s definitely possible.

    My advice would be to talk it all through with your guide once you’re there. Show them your boat and ask about the weather for the following couple of days. They’ll be able to give you the most up-to-date info on what’s safe and doable.

    Have you booked your charter already? I’d recommend sorting it in good time to make sure the best ones aren’t booked. You can find a ton of great guides here.

    I hope this helps! The Keys are a truly incredible place to fish, and I’m sure you’re in for a great time. Let us know how you get on.

    Tight lines!

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    Neal

    Mar 9, 2021

    Thanks Albert,

    We are staying in Marathon beside the wildlife and environmental area. We will sort the guide ASAP I definitely do not want to be scrambling looking for a guide last minute. I can promise we will not want to leave at the end of the trip haha !

    Thank you for the reply!

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    Albert

    Mar 10, 2021

    Hi Neal,

    Happy to help. Have a great trip!

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Trisha

Jan 25, 2021

GREAT ARTICLE! I am heading to the keys with 7 girlfriends at the end of March and would like to book a charter. Where would the best place to catch tuna be? Also do you know of any charters that would fit 8 girls? (I’ve found alot for a group of 6) We are not experienced but I thought it would be fun! Thanks for any advice

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    Albert

    Jan 26, 2021

    Hi Trisha,

    Thanks for getting in touch. I’m really glad you liked the article!

    Sounds like you’re in for a lot of fun! As you say, most charters have a six person limit, but there are a few boats in Key West that can take eight. I’d recommend contacting the captains and talking through your options for the day (scroll down to the “About the Captain” section on their page.

    In terms of the fish, winter is a great time to target Blackfin Tuna all along the Keys, and there should be plenty of Mahi Mahi and Kingfish around, too. You’ll probably need a full day trip to have a decent shot of them, though.

    I hope this helps. Feel free to get in touch with our Customer Service team if you need any help booking a trip.

    Tight lines!

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    Keith Ketcham

    Feb 8, 2021

    Coming down in Feb staying at big pine renting 22ft center for me and my 5 kids. We are hiring a guide for one day but ill have boat for week. Where would u recommend for some good bottom spots near big pine?

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    Albert

    Feb 8, 2021

    Hi Keith,

    Big Pine Reef is an easy hop south of Big Pine Key and is good for tasty bottom species like Mutton Snapper. If you’re looking for something more specific, your guide will be able to hook you up.

    All the best!

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    Greg

    Feb 19, 2021

    Excellent information in your article! Rented a place in Marathon for 4 days fishing the last week of April. We’ve fished lakes and bays but no experience “driving a boat” in and around the keys. We are (specifically) looking at a 26′ boat. Is this significantly harder to “handle” than a 20-23″ boat in the area? Is it too big for inshore or bay fishing?

    We have three full days of fishing and want to bottom fish/drift fish/cast. We plan to bring a bass-sized & larger-sized open-face reel/pole combo. Rent a couple larger deep sea poles the day(s) we go offshore.

    Do you have any recommendations regarding the boat, equipment and of course – places to fish?

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    Albert

    Feb 22, 2021

    Hi Greg,

    Thanks for getting in touch. I’m glad you liked the article!

    A smaller boat will definitely make inshore fishing easier, although you’ll need a proper flat-bottomed boat to hit the shallow flats. However, a 26′ boat will be more stable farther out if you want to hit the reefs. It really depends what you’re focusing on. If you’ll be spending most of your time bottom and drift fishing, a bigger boat should be fine.

    It sounds like you should be set for equipment, especially if you rent some bottom fishing gear when you get there. Just make sure all your equipment is safe for saltwater fishing.

    In terms of where to fish, you should check out out Marathon blog post. It has a ton of info on the local area. I’d also recommend heading out with a guide to get the hang of the main fishing areas.

    I hope this helps. Have a great trip!

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    Bob Miller

    Mar 4, 2021

    Trisha: Funny, I’m also fishing at the end of March with 8 guys, most of them are rookies. I booked a 1/2 day private charter with Captain Conch Charters out of Key West. Look em up on-line? They have a special boat and license that will accommodate up to 10 anglers. Most private charters can only handle up to six, per USCG Regs. Maybe my 8 lucky guys can meet up with your lucky 8 gals? :-).

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Arlhey

Jan 6, 2021

Hi Sean,

Do you know any popular spots between Key Largo and Marathon for Barracuda fishing. I have heard there are flats where hundreds of barracudas are waiting on bait fish to pass by?

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    Sean

    Jan 8, 2021

    Hi Arlhey,

    Thanks for reading.

    A good nearby spot you can check out is Channel #2 Bridge. It’s located between Marathon and Islamorada, just outside of Lower Matecumbe Key. Cudas love to swim around the pylons here, and anglers typically have great success catching them in this area.

    I hope you’ll find this helpful.

    Tight lines!

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    Sean

    Jan 14, 2021

    Hey Sean,
    We will be bringing a flats and offshore boat to the keys end of June 1st of July. We are lockng in a house this week. If you were getting a week stay with the family who loves to fish where would you pick to stay? Thanks Sean

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    Sean

    Jan 15, 2021

    Hi Sean,

    Thanks for reading.

    Key West and Islamorada are both great picks. They both have incredible backcountry, flats, and bluewater fishing just a stone’s throw from town.

    Key West arguably has the better offshore bite because you can run into the Gulf or the Atlantic so easily. However, Islamorada’s deep sea action is still incredible, and you’ll also have the entirety of the Florida Bay to explore inshore.

    It all depends on what you want to do on your downtime, really. Staying in Islamorada, you can take a day trip to Miami or the Everglades. On the other hand, Key West is more remote so it gets (slightly) fewer crowds. It’s also a great launching point for boat trips out to the Dry Tortugas.

    I assume that you’re trailering your boats but if you were planning on mooring for the duration of your stay, Key West is the better option, as it offers a larger number of marinas and boat ramps.

    I hope you’ll find this helpful.

    Tight lines!

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    Capt Matt Spector

    Feb 15, 2021

    For lightz out barracuda fishing. Trying wading out to the bars on bahia honda park just sw of Marathon. Use 1ft of #10 wire with spoons or rapala wax wings or with live bait 1ft of wire with pink or chartreuse jigs and live shrimp. Hope you in have a blast!

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Chad

Jan 4, 2021

Thanks for the info, much to choose from! If coming in early May with a group of 8, what options do you recommend? Will probably only go one day. I’d of course love to catch a big one, but I think more action in the clear waters will be what everyone enjoys. Thanks!

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    Sean

    Jan 5, 2021

    Hi Chad,

    Thanks for reading.

    In May, you pretty much can’t go wrong with any of the fishing spots in the Keys. That being said, if you’re looking for nearshore or flats fishing, Islamorada is probably the best choice.

    If you’re looking for a challenge, you can go for Tarpon, Bonefish or Permit. On the other hand, species like Mutton and Mangrove Snapper will be a lot more fun for beginners. Both should be abundant in early May. They taste delicious, too, so you can bring your catch to one of the local “hook & cook” restaurants for dinner.

    I hope you’ll find this helpful.

    Tight lines!

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Brad

Nov 12, 2020

Thank Sean! Great article, just booked a trip for January 2021 with the family. Have not really planned the trip out yet but definitely looking to fish the flats on a fly rod. Key west or Islamorada?

Thanks,

Brad

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    Sean

    Nov 16, 2020

    Hi Brad,

    Thanks for reading.

    To be honest, I’d say that you won’t go wrong with either location. I would wait and see what the weather turns out to be like.

    The flats around Islamorada should offer more wind protection, but on a given day, Key West can be calmer and more productive.

    Sorry for not giving you a concrete answer, but you can rest assured that fishing-wise, both locations are incredible.

    Hope you’ll have a great time. Tight lines!

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Ian

Oct 19, 2020

Hey Sean, love the blog, most informative!
We are going to be staying at Fiesta Key RV resort Nov. 9 – 16, I rented a 22 center console, what would you suggest for some great fishing?
Thanks,
Ian

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    Albert

    Oct 20, 2020

    Hi Ian,

    Thanks for getting in touch. I’m glad you liked the article.

    We’ve actually got an entire post on fishing in Islamorada, which is just up the road. It includes a ton of info on the top spots and species in the area.

    If you want to make the most these waters, I’d strongly recommend booking a charter. Even a couple of hours with a guide can save you days of trial and error on your own, and with fishing this good it really is worth it. You can find lots of local charters here, as well as a full calendar of what fish are in season right now.

    I hope this helps. Let us know how you get on!

    Tight lines!

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Michael Jabczynski

Oct 18, 2020

Fishing outside our cottage in Duck Key, what type of fishing license will I need? Also would that be the Atlantic or the Gulf?

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    Albert

    Oct 19, 2020

    Hi Michael,

    Monroe generally counts as Atlantic for seasons and regulations – except for Snook, where it follows the Gulf regulations.

    In terms of licenses, Florida residents can fish saltwater from shore with a free saltwater license, while non-residents need to buy a saltwater license. We’ve actually got an entire article on Florida fishing licenses if you want more info.

    I hope this helps!

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Leigh Hergatt

Sep 23, 2020

Hi. I am organizing a week long family fishing to the Keys in early January 2021 for our family of 6. Is Key West a good place to stay to be able to fish in different places- bridges and deep sea fishing and inhabited islands? I really enjoyed your article. I have never been to the Keys. Any input you can give me would be greatly appreciated to make this an amazing fishing experience for our family!
Leigh

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    Albert

    Sep 23, 2020

    Hi Leigh,

    Sounds like you’re in for a treat!

    Yes, Key West is an amazing spot for all kinds of fishing. In fact, I’d say it’s one of the best spots on the planet!

    We’ve actually got an entire article on fishing in Key West here which should cover all your basic questions. If not, feel free to drop me another line there and I can give you some more info.

    My main recommendation would be to take at least one charter while you’re in Key West. It really is a world-class fishery, and it’s definitely worth making the most of while you’re in town. My usual tactic when visiting somewhere new is to head out with a guide right at the start. That way you can get a feel for the area and pick up some tips on good local fishing spots. It saves a lot of trial and error.

    I hope this helps. Feel free to get in touch if you have any more questions.

    Tight lines!

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Maria

Aug 8, 2020

Hello. We are thinking about staying at Margaritaville Resort off of Duval Street area and keeping our boat at their marina. Is this a good area to fish at and do you recommend anywhere in particular. I have a teenage son that is crazy about fishing the older he gets. Any help would be appreciated to ensure he has a great fishing trip. Thank you.

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    Albert

    Aug 11, 2020

    Hi Maria,

    Thanks for getting in touch. In short, anywhere in Key West is a good place to fish!

    Where you go depends on the kind of boat you have. If you have a shallow draft and can fish the flats safely, I’d suggest exploring the channels and mangrove islands north of town. You can hook Permit, Snook, and Bonefish there, as well as small Snapper.

    If you have a bigger boat, you can haul in a ton of tasty fish in deeper water around the reefs south of Key West. Think Snapper, Grouper, Sharks, and big Permit, depending on the time of year.

    You can find a lot more in-depth info in our complete guide to fishing in Key West.

    I hope this helps. Be sure to let us know how you get on.

    Tight lines!

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Billy ray

Jun 23, 2020

I am heading down to Layton next week and renting a 22′ deck boat, Any ideas on where to fish and what I may catch? also what would be the best bait to use.

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    Albert

    Jun 23, 2020

    Hi Billy,

    You can find plenty of info on the area on our Islamorada article. Generally, expect plenty of Tarpon, Bonefish, and Mangrove Snapper, as well as good catches of Snook and Redfish.

    I hope this helps. Let us know how you get on!

    Tight lines!

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Todd Norton

May 12, 2020

I just bought a condo in key largo (bay side). I’m going in two weeks and will be taking my 24 foot center console. What would you recommend that’s not biting off too much too soon?

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    Albert

    May 12, 2020

    Hi Todd,

    You’ve got plenty of options. It all depends on what you’re into.

    If your boat runs shallow enough to fish the mangroves, you’ll find a ton of Redfish and Snook, as well as Tarpon if you want more of a challenge.

    Otherwise, you can head out to the patch reefs to target several species of Snapper and Grouper.

    I hope that helps. You can find a lot more info on fishing in Key Largo here if you’re interested.

    Let us know how you get on!

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Sean Harris

Mar 19, 2020

I haven’t tried any of these spots but would love to try the Marathon hump especially. I main just fish from bridges and piers and shorelines. Going on a charters is way to far out of my price range.

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    Albert

    Mar 19, 2020

    Hi Sam,

    Thanks for the comment. The hump really is a bucket list fishing spot!

    Fishing on a charter doesn’t have to be as expensive as you’d think. If you split the cost between a few friends or joined a shared trip it can cost under $100 in most places.

    Tickets for larger drift boats can be half that or even less. You might not get the full charter experience, but if you’re after a cheap day at sea and some tasty fish to show for it, you can’t beat it!

    All the best!

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Joe

Feb 25, 2020

Im headed to fiesta key in mid april and would like to know where to fish from shore to put my 7 year old on some fish and then myself on some sharks.

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    Albert

    Feb 25, 2020

    Hi Joe,

    A great place to start would be the Overseas Heritage Trail (the old Channel 5 Bridge). You can find all sorts of fish around the bridge pillars there. You can also head over to Long Key State Recreation Area if you want something less roady.

    I hope you have a great time. Let us know how you get on.

    Tight lines!

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Mike

Feb 20, 2020

We are heading to Marathon for a week in early August, and renting a 25′ CC for fishing. We did pretty good catching large nurse sharks by 7 mile bridge with Bonito chucks on the bottom. This time we would like some different species, like lemon, bull or blacktip. Any tips on how we could make that happen?

Thanks
Mike

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    Albert

    Feb 24, 2020

    Hi Mike,

    Sounds like you’re in for a lot of fun!

    Oily baits like bonito are a great choice, so no need to switch things up there. If you really want to draw in Sharks, try making some chum, too. It’s messy work but well it’s worth it!

    Lastly, try fishing in the evening or at night. That’s generally when Sharks are most active.

    If that still doesn’t producing the results you’re after, you could always take a short charter with a local guide. That way, you can get the inside line on where and how to find each species.

    I hope that helps. Let us know how you get on this summer.

    Tight lines!

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Tom Wolhar

Feb 8, 2020

Thank you for all your suggestions . Driving from Ft Lauderdale next week to the Keys . Would like to stop a bunch of times on the way to fish from shore . Was going to use artificial shrimp lures with flavored spray . Is that a waste of time ? I could buy shrimp and use an aerator . Just looking for some fun catch and release .Chartering on Saturday for serious fishing . Any help would be appreciated. Fish On !

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    Albert

    Feb 10, 2020

    Hi Tom,

    I’ve never tried fishing with flavored spray but you’ll probably catch something with it. Actual shrimp are preferable if you can keep them fresh. However, if you’re just looking for a little fun along the road, you should be fine with lures.

    Have you chosen your charter yet? If not, feel free to get in touch with our Customer Service team and they can hook you up with an experienced captain.

    Let us know how you get on.

    Tight lines!

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Toby Keisler

Jan 26, 2020

Hey guys, ya’ll seem to be very informative. We come to Florida every year for a week to fish. Always have been 30 minutes north of Clearwater. Plenty of trout and grunts. An occasional charter with red snapper and grouper. But this year we are going to key largo. If we can’t find a house to rent with a boat, I’m renting one. That being said, itll be mid Aug. We’d love to catch any snappers or groupers, mahi,trout and red fish. Basically anything to fill my freezer! Any tips would be greatly appreciated! Thanks guys!

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    Albert

    Jan 27, 2020

    Hi Toby,

    Thanks for getting in touch. I’m glad you liked the article!

    You shouldn’t have too much trouble finding fish in Key Largo. The main tip I’d give you is to fish as early as possible, before the heat and humidity set in.

    We’ve got a rough guide to fishing in Key Largo here (scroll down past the photos to where it says “Fishing in Key Largo). There’s also a calendar of what will be in season each month.

    If you’re around for a while, it might be worth going out with a guide just to get to know the main fishing spots. Even half a day with a local can save weeks of trial and error on your own.

    Otherwise, just head to one of the local reef.. There are plenty of them.

    I hope that helps. Let us know how you get on!

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Jim

Dec 23, 2019

Great tips and definitely peeks my already obsession with salt water fishing. We will be staying in Marathon from late December to first week in January. Renting a 23′ fishing boat with a 200hp outboard. I have 2 boys
Ages 17 and 12 we have done several charters in the past and we want to just fish with no one to say times up .
We are allowed a ten mile radius with the rental I believe maybe a bit more.
I figured to hit some wrecks, reef, etc where the fish are biting to get them hooked. Basically fill the freezer. Then do some trolling for some bigger sporty fish.
Any tips or interesting spots to try close by would be very appreciative.
Thanks for your time and knowledge

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    Sean

    Dec 24, 2019

    Hey Jim,

    Thanks for reading.

    A couple of good spots that are very close to home are Key Colony Beach inlet, and the Seven Mile Bridge.

    The Thunderbolt wreck is a very productive area, so you might want to check it out.

    For trolling, I’d recommend hitting the patch reefs around 5-6 miles to the south. Please note that some of these reefs areas are protected. Since the regulations are constantly changing, I’d recommend checking locally which reefs are ok to fish around at this time.

    I hope you’ll find this helpful.

    Tight lines!

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Alex Sanchez

Aug 2, 2019

Going to be in Marathon next week. Where should I start when looking for a good flat for Bones and Permit. Our boat gets skinny and she’s sneaky when being pole’d. I’ve stalked Snooks and Reds in Tampa but I’ve never fished the Keys.

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    Albert

    Aug 2, 2019

    Hi Alex,

    Sounds like you’re in for a treat!

    Around Marathon itself, the flats on the south side of Seven Mile Bridge usually hold some good Bonefish, as do the shallows in Curry Hammock State Park.

    Heading up towards Islamorada, Anne’s Beach is supposed to be an awesome spot.

    If you want more info, be sure to check out our guides to Permit and Bonefishing in the Florida Keys.

    I hope that helps!

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David

Jul 17, 2019

Heading down to Cudjoe on Friday. Renting a 26 foot boat from the marina. Any advice on what to target? Is bait pretty easy to find or should we just purchase? Looking to do two days offshore and one day closer to Cudjoe depending on weather.

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    Albert

    Jul 19, 2019

    Hi David,

    You’re generally best off bottom fishing or staying inshore this time of year.

    On the reefs, Yellowtail, Mutton, and Mangrove Snapper should be biting hard, as well as some Hogfish and a few Black Grouper.

    Inshore, you’ve got Redfish, Bonefish, Tarpon, and Jacks.

    July is also a good time for Blue Marlin and Swordfish, although a 26′ boat will probably be a little small for that.

    I hope that helps!

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Sheri Montgomery

Jul 8, 2019

Taking our annual trip to the Keys in August, this year we are staying in Key Colony, any close wrecks or good fishing, diving spots near? My sons also like to spear fish if you have any advice on that as well.

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    Sean

    Jul 10, 2019

    Hey Sheri,

    Thanks for reading.

    The area around Key Colony actually has a few great spots for fishing, spearfishing as well as diving.

    For spearfishing and diving, you can check out the Thunderbolt or Adelaide Baker wrecks. In August, these waters hold good numbers of Yellowtail Snapper and Hogfish.

    You can also take a look at our Florida Keys Spearfishing guide for more information.

    If you’re planning on going further out, you can fish for Great Barracuda and Wahoo.

    I hope you’ll find this helpful.

    Tight lines!

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curtis

Jul 1, 2019

hi this was a great read heading down to marathon in late aug and renting a boat for the week what kinda fish should i be going after any dolphin that time of year!

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    Albert

    Jul 1, 2019

    Hi Curtis,

    Thanks for the comment.

    You’re in for a treat fishing out of Marathon. You can catch anything from Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, and Tuna to Snapper and Grouper during a single outing!

    During August, you’ll have the best chances if you go reef fishing. You can target Yellowtail, Mangrove, and Mutton Snapper, as well as Tripletail, Hogfish, Grouper, and more.

    It can get too hot during the day, though, so many anglers recommend fishing during the night time or early in the morning.

    We’ve got an entire guide on fishing in marathon here, where you can find info on fishing spots, seasonality, and a whole lot more.

    I hope that helps!

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Dan

May 8, 2019

Myself and 2 buddies will be staying in Islamorada for a week in mid July and we will be fishing off my small 16′ bonefisher. Any help you can provide for general locations to fish the flats and hopefully (depending on weather) fishing a wreck or the reef. We can trailer the boat anywhere but we are in Islamorada.

Thanks

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    Sean

    May 12, 2019

    Hi Dan,

    Thanks for reading.

    There are a number of fishing spots for you to check out around Islamorada.

    Eagle wreck, for example, just off Lower Matecumbe Key is a very productive spot.

    Conch Reef is another good spot for Barracuda, Hogfish and Grouper.

    A little further down, you can check out 7 Mile Bridge for some nice Yellowtail. Also, if you don’t mind a longer ride to Key Largo, make sure to check out shipwrecks Duane and Bibb.

    I hope you’ll find this helpful.

    Have a good one!

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    Dan

    May 12, 2019

    Thanks for the info. Trying to get as much as I can before we get done there. Appreciate it

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    Sean

    May 14, 2019

    You’re most welcome, Dan.

    Have a good one!

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    Rafael H Alvarez

    May 14, 2019

    Thanks for the spots remember all these spots got to be in the Gulf side I’ll have a Gulf of Mexico reef fish license

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    Sean

    May 14, 2019

    You’re most welcome, Rafael.

    I hope that the MYFWC map will help you decide which spots you can fish on the Gulf side.

    All the best!

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Michael Dixon

May 5, 2019

taking daughter to marathon for first keys fishing in mid may. what fish could she catch not going out to far ? thanks

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    Sean

    May 6, 2019

    Hi Michael,

    Thanks for reading.

    In May, you and your daughter will have an excellent chance of catching Bonefish, Mutton and Yellowtail Snapper, as well as Permit.

    I’m not sure how experienced you guys are, but if you’re up for a challenge, you can also try your luck against Tarpon, as they are also on the bite in May.

    Should you need any assistance in finding a fishing charter in Marathon, please feel free to contact our Customer Service.

    Tight lines!

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Rodeo

Apr 22, 2019

I will be at Key Largo resort end of May. What fish might I be looking for if I wade off the resort beach ? Kind of like surf fishing. I’m bringing topwater, and

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    Sean

    Apr 22, 2019

    Hello Rodeo,

    Thanks for reading.

    May will be excellent for Tarpon fishing around Key Largo. You should also see an abundance of Mangrove Snapper, Snook and Gag Grouper.

    I hope you’ll find this helpful.

    Tight lines!

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Jeff

Mar 25, 2019

Hi Sean,

Very informative article. I plan to be in the Keys mid May. Is there a particular inland species you would suggest I target at that time of year and where?

Thank you, Jeff

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    Sean

    Mar 26, 2019

    Hi Jeff,

    Thank you for reading.

    In May, you can expect some great Tarpon, Bonefish and Permit fishing on the flats of Key West. The backcountry will also be teeming with Mangrove Snapper.

    For more information, you can check out our guide for backcountry fishing in Key West.

    I hope you’ll find this helpful.

    Tight lines!

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Albert

Mar 10, 2019

Hi Sean, love this article; its very informative and targeted at what, where and when…
Regarding baitfish, I like casting for glass minnows to use for flag yellows. Is there a good spot in the mid to lower keys where there’s the best chance to catch up to them? I’ve have spotty opportunities under the bridges from the boat as well as casting from atop of the bridges. But again, it’s a hit and miss…

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    Sean

    Mar 18, 2019

    Hello Albert,

    Thank you for reading the article, I’m glad you liked it.

    For Flags, your best bet in the mid to lower Keys is Marathon. The local reefs are full of Yellowtails, and glass minnows should work great here.

    I hope you’ll find this helpful.

    Have a great day!

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    Rafael

    Apr 18, 2019

    Hello,i wanted to ask you ,if I get a gulf of Mexico Reef fish licence,,,what wood be my dividing line ,from the gulf to the Atlantic ? Could I fish some of the Atlantic side,,,?

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    Sean

    Apr 18, 2019

    Hello Rafael,

    Thanks for reading.

    Basically, anything to the south-east of Key West would be considered outside of the Gulf.

    I’m afraid that you wouldn’t be able to fish on the Atlantic side with the Gulf Reef Fish Anglers License. The license program was implemented by the FWC so that they can better understand the impact of recreational anglers’ catches on Gulf species.

    I hope you’ll find this helpful.

    Tight lines!

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    Rafael Alvarez

    Apr 18, 2019

    So I would have to fish on the North part of all the keys right nothing on the south of the keys

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    Sean

    Apr 19, 2019

    Hello Rafael,

    Thanks for replying.

    Yes, you would need to be in Gulf waters, so to the north-west of the Keys. Please note that the Gulf Reef Fish license excludes Monroe County, so you’d probably need to go a little further out, but still within state waters.

    For more information, you can call the FWC at 850-488-4676.

    Tight lines!

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    Rafael Alvarez

    Apr 19, 2019

    How many miles off the land. Offshore

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    Sean

    Apr 22, 2019

    Hi Rafael,

    That would depend on where exactly you are in the Keys.

    Please take a look at this map provided by the FWC.

    For more information, I would advise contacting the FWC at 850-488-4676.

    Have a great day!

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    Rafael

    Apr 23, 2019

    Thanks again for your time and consideration,, that was all that I needed to know,,,,

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    Sean

    Apr 23, 2019

    You’re most welcome, Rafael.

    Tight lines!

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Joe

Mar 2, 2019

Where’s best in April would like to do deep sea for sail fish and a day in the flats

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    Sean

    Mar 8, 2019

    Hello Joe,

    Thank you for reading the blog.

    Deep sea fishing for Sailfish is great around the Marathon Hump.

    As far as flats fishing is concerned, Key West is your best bet. Bonefish will be on the bite at this time. You could also venture onto the reefs for some Permit.

    We’re here should you need anything else.

    Tight lines!

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Al Sereika

Feb 3, 2019

I’m on one of these Marathon Key channels in between the houses. What can I catch right of the of the house and what should I use?

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    Sean

    Feb 4, 2019

    Hey Al,

    Thanks for reading the blog.

    I’m not exactly sure what you mean by “right of the of the house”, but I can tell you that you will have no shortage of species to fish for from the docks!

    Depending on when you want to fish, you’ll have a good chance of catching smaller Snapper, Sharks (they are bound to turn up if you chum the waters), Grouper and Tarpon if you’re lucky. The lower bridges will give you the best of chances to catch most of these, but only heavier tackle will allow you to catch a Tarpon or a Shark. If you’re planning on fishing in February, you’ll have a great chance of catching Grouper.

    For baiting, a cast net for minnows will go a long way, but live shrimp will get the job done too.

    I hope you’ll find this helpful.

    Tight lines!

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islamoradafishingflorida

Dec 27, 2018

Amazing Blog.
I really love to read more about your fishing services.
Key Largo Backcountry Fishing

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Mike Markoff

Oct 14, 2018

Thanks for the great info. Going to be staying on a houseboat in the black water sound/ surprise lake area. The boat is moored out in the water- any tips for casting from the house boat ?

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    Sean

    Nov 7, 2018

    Hey Mike,

    Thanks for reading the blog, I’m glad you like it.

    Casting from your houseboat would provide you with some excellent fishing opportunities.
    Lake Surprise and Blackwater Lake are home to Spotted Seatrout and Snapper. I would recommend casting around 6 AM or 6 PM. As far as the equipment goes, a 7 ft rod, the old egg beater spinning reel and live shrimp will do the trick. There are a lot of bait shops in the area, so you won’t have trouble finding them.

    We’re here should you need anything else.

    Tight lines!

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Philip Rogerts

Oct 1, 2018

Great Stefan, really I have learned so many important things about fishing. So interesting & informative post you did here. Thanks.

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    George

    Oct 4, 2018

    Thanks for the kind words, Philip! Glad you enjoy our writing.

    George

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