Fishing in Key Largo: All You Need to Know
Jan 29, 2021 | 8 minute read
Reading Time: 8 minutes

The Florida Keys are legendary, but fishing in Key Largo gives it a completely new dimension. Stretching 33 miles across the largest section of the Keys, it was always bound to be magnificent. With the Everglades on one side, and the depths of the Atlantic on the other, you’ll find no place like Key Largo.

The “Diving Capital of the World” attracts thousands of scuba divers and sportfishing enthusiasts every year. A few miles offshore lies a stunning living coral reef, and it’s something you have to see to believe. Such beauty and natural abundance is rarely seen today, and we should always cherish it.

A premier destination for kayakers and ecotourists as well (the Everglades is a short boat ride away), Key Largo really has it all! And with John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the first underwater park in the United States, to the east, the opportunities are endless. The park protects part of the Florida Reef – the only living coral barrier reef in the continental United States.

What to Catch

Everything! Seriously, you can reel in almost any prized fish species in these waters. Owing to its position and the climate, fishing in Key Largo is as prolific as it gets. We’ve tried narrowing down the list of top catches in the area, so read on!

Spotted Seatrout

When you’re in Florida, your fishing list should undoubtedly include Spotted Seatrout. If you don’t have the time to go further from the shore, the shallow waters of Key Largo are known to hold large numbers of small Trout. However, big ones thrive here as well, as they gather in the creeks for their spring spawn.

A man holding a Spotted Seatrout in Florida

Trout are a great target for all types of anglers – beginners, as well as professional fishermen. It’s one of the best light tackle game fish, and it varies in size from smaller specimens to “Gator” Trout that reach up 18 pounds. Sink your line and get a (big?) surprise at the end. Reap the rewards at the table when you get back home, as these tend to be delicious!

Snook

This one’s a Florida favorite! Hiding around in the network of islands and creeks behind Key Largo, fishing for Snook is very exciting. Chase this species all through the northern sounds for a day of inshore adventure, and you’ll have a great meal at the end of the day for your patience.

A man holding a Snook on a boat in Florida

What makes Snook such a beloved fish in Florida? Everyone who’s ever gone fishing here has had their sights set on this unique creature. It’s strong and stubborn, and it will fight you back, which is something most anglers live for. Use live shrimp or small bait fish for the best results, and snag a brag-worthy Snook to show for your efforts.

Tarpon

If you have your sights set on the mighty “Silver King,” you’ve come to the right place! Tarpon is one of the most sought-after game fish in the world, and Key Largo is surrounded by some rich waters. Visit in March and April, and you’ll find some trophy-sized Tarpon along the oceanside flats, and some bigger ones around the bridges. 

Two men holding a big Tarpon in the water on a beach

In September and October, you’re in for a treat! There’s a brief second Tarpon run, as they pass through on their migration path. The Barnes and Card sounds, as well as Caesar Creek, hold some nice populations of juvenile Tarpon, so you can visit these stunning waters at other times of the year for your fill of the battle. 

Permit

This is one of the most elusive fish you’ll target here, and catching them is a real feat. Local anglers love exploring the flats and trying to get their hands on this silver beauty. Permit are big fish, with most catches in the 10–30 lb range, while some specimens can reach a whopping 60 pounds! 

A man holding a Permit fish on a boat in Florida

Combine their size with their intelligence and endurance, and you get a truly exciting fight, especially on the fly. Are you looking for a challenge? Shallow-water anglers in Key Largo love going after the flats slam – landing a Permit, Tarpon, and Bonefish in one day. And you’ll love it too!

Mahi Mahi

One of the most recognizable fish in the world, this beautiful species brings the tropical feel to your fishing excursion. When you see the vibrant green, blue, and yellow colors showing up from the depths, you’ll know you’ve made it! Known as Dolphinfish in the area, it’s one of the most prized for its game qualities, and for its mouthwatering taste as well.

A man holding a Mahi Mahi on a boat in Florida

To get your hands on this mysterious beast, you’ll have to venture out a little further offshore. Luckily, any direction works! So just decide on which waters to hit and go get your prize. Be prepared though – it doesn’t go down without a fight. However, this will probably be the best fight you have.

Red Snapper

Another one of Florida’s favorite fish, Red Snapper has quite a reputation among anglers. It’s beautiful and it’s big, but it’s also one of the tastiest fish in the world. And with so many reefs and wrecks around Key Largo, fishing for this beauty is something you shouldn’t miss!

A man holding a Red Snapper on a boat in Florida

This list can go on and on – this is one of the richest fisheries after all! You don’t have to limit yourself to the top catches as chances are whatever you want to catch, you can do it here. Jack Crevalle, Grouper, Redfish, Amberjack, Barracuda, Cobia, Wahoo, Tuna, Marlin, Sailfish, and even Swordfish are all honorable mentions.

How to Fish

There’s a variety of ways to explore Key Largo, and different types of fishing you can enjoy in these waters. Keep reading to find out the best ways to go about your fishing adventure here.

Charter Fishing

If you’re planning to see as much of the Keys as you can, then booking a trip on a fishing charter is your best bet. This way you’ll be able to cover a lot more ground, and enjoy some of the best fishing opportunities in the area. Not to mention the benefits of an experienced local captain showing you the best spots and techniques needed to reel in a trophy!

Charter boats docked on the waters of Key Largo, Florida

And with water all around you, a fishing charter can take you to depths you wouldn’t normally get to visit. Whether we’re talking about the Gulf of Mexico or the vast Atlantic, fishing here is bountiful whatever direction you go. Combine that with some amazing diving opportunities, and you have yourself an adventure you’ll never forget!

Kayak Fishing

The nearby Everglades National Park is a unique ecosystem, and it’s best explored by hopping in a kayak. Every year, thousands of fishermen and eco-tourists come to the area for the chance to see the natural wonders of the Everglades with their own eyes. Enjoy the sun as you meander down the winding waterways, looking for that next prized specimen.

First person view from a kayak in Key Largo, Florida

Looking for some more adrenaline? Hit the waters of the Florida Bay and cruise the flats in search of the best fishing the Keys have to offer. Your adventurous spirit will thank you, and the excitement of reeling in a beast from a kayak is unmatchable.

Shore Fishing

For those of you who want a more relaxed fishing experience without having to get out on the water, Key Largo offers unparalleled fishing opportunities from the shore as well. Seeing as there’s water everywhere you look, finding a good spot to sink your line and have a nice day in the sun isn’t hard at all.

A view of a pier in Key Largo, Florida

Card Sound, Barnes Sound, Blackwater Sound, Largo Sound… the list goes on! Just head on down, and you’ll find an abundance of spots to fish in peace. The Southern Glades are just a short drive away, if you’re looking to explore one of the most beautiful natural habitats in the world while waiting for the fish to bite.

Where to Go

Key Largo is the largest section of the Keys, so it’s not easy to figure out the best spots to hit for a day of fishing. However, we gave it a shot! Keep reading to find out where the best places for some rod-bending action are.

The docks with palm trees in Key Largo, Florida
  • Duane shipwreck: If you’re up for some amazing wreck fishing, this is a local favorite. Thousands of fish roam this site a quick boat ride away from shore. Here you’ll find all of the Florida favorites congregating, and your line is sure to tug.
  • Bibb shipwreck: It’s known as one of the premier diving sites, but the fun doesn’t end there! Grouper, Snapper, and Hogfish all love roaming the waters around this sunken vessel, so this is a must-visit for any passionate angler. 
  • John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park: Want to combine fishing with other fun activities? The first undersea park in the United States offers great fishing, while also giving you the chance to enjoy snorkeling and scuba tours.
  • Card Sound Road Bridge: Prized fish are known to congregate around bridges, and this one is sure to yield great results. Sink a line and expect Redfish, Trout, and Snook at the end of it.
  • Marvin D. Adams Waterway: Connecting Largo Sound and Blackwater Sound, this is a prolific waterway with great access to some great fishing. You can sit back and enjoy your day while reeling in Trout, Snook, Redfish, and Tarpon.
  • Molasses Reef: This is the most beautiful and the most visited reef in the Keys, known for great snorkeling opportunities, as well as amazing fishing. What’s more, it’s easily accessible from Key Largo, and you can get some good-sized Snapper and Grouper in its depths.
  • Harry Harris Park: Head on down to Tavernier and visit this park and beach area, fun for the whole family. Fishing and snorkeling are common activities here, so expect to enjoy the beach and the underwater world, but also reel in Snapper and Jacks. 

When to Go

Now that you know how to fish and where to go, the question is when can you do it? The best thing about Key Largo is that it’s truly a year-round fishery. Blessed with great weather, amazing fishing grounds, and unparalleled natural beauty, any time of year is a good time to visit! As there’s water everywhere you go, there’s always something you can target.

An infographic showing seasons and regulations for top fish species (Permit, Spotted Seatrout, Snook, Red Snapper, Mahi Mahi, and Tarpon) to target in Key Largo, Florida

That being said, some fish species are under strict regulations, including seasonality and bag limits. This is something to pay attention to, as you want to be fishing within the law, preserving the nature and fishery for generations to come. Above you’ll find seasons and regulations for the most common catches, and for more information, you can always consult the FWC website.

Why Key Largo? It’s a Water Wonderland!

Why? If you’re still not convinced, just look at the sheer beauty of Key Largo. It’s a true fishing paradise that leaves every angler wanting more. The Everglades, the Gulf, the Atlantic, amazing flats and backcountry, beautiful bays, marshes, and sounds, not to mention the reefs and beaches – this place really has it all! And when you get here, you’ll never want to leave…

A man snorkeling in the reefs of Key Largo, Florida

Have you visited Key Largo? Did fishing here meet your expectations? Tell us all about your adventures or ask anything you want in the comment section below. We’d love to hear from you!

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