Florida Keys Spearfishing: Everything You Need to Know
Apr 28, 2021 | 7 minute read Comments
Reading Time: 7 minutes

From the Everglades to Key West, the Florida Keys are home to some of the best waters in the country – for many reasons. Anglers and water sports enthusiasts flock to these productive seas year round. With spearfishing, you can combine the two! Free dive or scuba off a Florida Keys spearfishing charter, and you’ll target whatever you want for dinner.

Home to reefs, wrecks, and with the deep sea a stone’s throw away, there’s no end to what you can catch. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, there’s something for you in the Keys. Read on and get ready for a pulse-racing trip to the southernmost tip of the US.

Why spearfishing?

Image of a someone spearfishing on the sea bed.

The ancient method of spearfishing was once a necessity for hunters all over the world. It’s still an effective way to catch fish, but it will also open your eyes to a magical underwater world.

Whether using scuba gear in the deep, or free diving with snorkels, you’ll swim with a range of beautiful fish. Expect to be blown away by the colors and how these diverse creatures share the same living space.

When it comes to catching the fish, nothing will increase your heart rate more than the hand-to-hand combat you’ll get underwater. People compare spearfishing to hunting underwater – we can assure you, it’s more than that! At such a close distance to the fish, you must be on alert at all times for predators. You may also need to resort to some heavy lifting if the fish tries to get away.

Another beauty of fishing with a spear is that you’ll get to target exactly what you want. There’s no issue of bycatch, or the wrong fish taking the bait. Go after exactly what you want to take home, and you won’t be let down.

Why the Florida Keys?

An aerial image of the middle Florida Keys

With a wealth of warm waters just out from shore, the Keys are perfect for all kinds of fishing. When it comes to spearfishing, there’s also something for everyone. Spearfishing can take place 365 days of the year, so you’ll never miss out.

Beginners will relish the chance to snorkel the shallow waters and nearshore reefs, while the deep sea will attract pros. Within minutes you can hunt a range of different waters. That means a wider diversity of fish. From dazzling Hogfish to radiant Snappers and monster Mahi Mahi, these waters have it all.

There’s also the chance to hunt for Lobsters when the season hits in summer. Beginners can get your first taste of diving to catch these prized creatures. After a few hours in the water, you’ll be hooked! Just beware, that you can’t use a spear – so it won’t actually be spearfishing!

So where’s the best place for Florida Keys spearfishing?

Sandwiched between the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, there’s no shortage of sweet spots in the 120-mile long Keys. From the northern bays to the ocean depths, there’s plenty to explore.

The Upper Keys

An image of divers spearfishing around the wrecks of the upper Florida Keys

The fishing grounds from the Everglades to Islamorada are famed all over the world. Unfortunately, spearfishing is prohibited in some of the shallower waters. There’s a 3-mile “Sanctuary Preservation Area” that limits the spearfishing opportunities.

If you’ve completed a spearfishing qualification, though, you’re in luck. Islamorada and Key Largo spearfishing trips will take you to waters of medium depth, going after some big, strong, and prized fish. Target Snappers, Groupers, and plenty of other delicious fish in the reefs and wrecks.

The Middle Keys

A diver with a spear gun hunting the shallow rock beds in the Florida Keys

With fewer restrictions than the Upper Keys, and home to more shipwrecks, the Middle Keys are prime spearfishing grounds. Despite restrictions near to shore, the shallows here stretch further.

Out of Marathon, you can explore reefs such as Duck Key. Head toward the Atlantic and you’ll hit wrecks like the Thunderbolt and Adelaide Baker. Along with the reefs, these make for excellent feeding grounds for the fish. Beginners and pros are welcome to make the most of the Snappers, Groupers, Hogfish, and many more delicious fish that call these waters home.

The Lower Keys

An image of a fish swimming above a shipwreck in the lower Florida Keys

The southernmost tip of the US is the gateway to some incredible spearfishing opportunities. Just a stone’s throw from shore, there are plenty of coral heads for beginners to hunt Hogfish and smaller Snappers.

Just a bit further from shore, you can head to famous wrecks and islands that are home to some prized fish. Hit up the Vandenberg or the Tortugas and Marquesas Islands and go after some bigger Groupers and Snappers.

The water gets deeper much quicker here, so there are serious offshore spearfishing opportunities for the most skilled. Head out to the Straits and discover a highway of migrating fish. You can go after Mahi Mahi, Tuna, Wahoo, and many more. It’s so good here, that it’s often considered one of the best spearfishing destinations in the world!

Which fish will I go after when spearfishing in the Florida Keys?


An image of a diver having caught a Lionfish with a spear

Spearfishing can also be a useful way of helping the environment – and Florida Keys spearfishing is no different. The invasive Lionfish takes over the reefs and its venom can prove harmful to the ecosystem. Go after these spiky creatures and do your bit for the environment, and take home a delicious treat, too.

Snappers and Groupers

An image of two anglers with a Grouper and Yellowtail Snapper dockside in the Florida Keys

Usually targeted on the same trips, the range of Snappers and Groupers in the Florida Keys are unmatched anywhere else. You can target Mutton and Yellowtail Snapper, along with Gag, Black, and Scamp Grouper.

These bottom-dwelling creatures love the warm waters and live along the reefs or wrecks of the Florida Keys. Known for their delicious taste, they’ll prove a worthy reward at the end of a hard day’s spearfishing.


An image of a man holding a Hogfish in the Florida Keys

Generally disregarded by conventional anglers, colorful Hogfish are ideal for spearfishing beginners. They tend to congregate in the shallows, so you’ll free dive for them. The fact that they’ll dazzle you with their beauty as you go after them makes them an even easier target! After devouring the fruits of your labor at the end of the day, you’ll be desperate to get back in the water.


Image of a man holding a Wahoo after spearfishing

Speaking of bigger things, those of you with experience on a spear will relish the chance to target some big game fish. While they may not be at the top of the menu, lightning-quick Wahoo will provide a thrilling experience. You’ll need to be on top of your game to get this strong beast, and the mild meat at the end of the day will still fill you up.


An underwater image of a diver with a Tuna after catching it with a spear

If you thought that going after Wahoo wasn’t for the faint-hearted, then Blackfin Tuna is on another level. Beware of these rapid beasts as their fins can become razor sharp when cutting through the water. Keep your distance and target them with pinpoint accuracy. The fight won’t end after you’ve speared one. Use all your strength to bring it out of the water, before devouring a delicious treat at the end of the day.

Mahi Mahi

An image of a Mahi Mahi swimming away from a charter boat

With Billfish protected for conservation purposes, the other big game fish you can target when spearfishing around the Keys is Mahi Mahi. The dazzling green and yellow beauty is a table favorite all over the world. Fast and prone to fight, experts with a spear will need to make sure to bring your A-game to land these beasts. Catch one of these in the deeper waters and the whole family will be singing your praises over dinner.

What else should I know about Florida Keys spearfishing?

Before you grab your spear and go fishing in the Florida Keys, you should know what to take with you. The waters may be warmer than you expect, so you’ll want a thin wetsuit. Make sure you’re prepared for the water and kit yourself out with some fins and snorkeling gear, or a scuba set if you fancy going deep.

If you’re going spearfishing for the first time, get ready to hold your breath for a period of time. While most charter operators will require some qualification to take you to the depths, you should familiarize yourself with a snorkel if spearing in the shallows.

You’ll also want to make sure you have the right spear. If you’re going with a Florida Keys spearfishing guide, you may have no choice in what you get. If you must bring your own though, you should choose between a speargun, pole spear, or Hawaiian sling. Find out which suits your needs with our user-friendly guide.

An image of a diver near a Shark in the Florida Keys

When in the shallows, you should also beware of Sharks. Most of them are protected, so make sure not to target them – but, more importantly, stay safe! The vibrations created by your spear may alert the Sharks to some unusual activity and they could come to see what’s happening. They aren’t attracted to human flesh, but stay out of their way so as not to confuse them.

Your best bet of staying safe is heading out with an experienced Florida Keys spearfishing or diving guide. Any qualified diver will know the best spots to go and will make sure that all the equipment is set up. They’ll also give you all the support you need to stay safe and have a fun day out!

Have you been spearfishing in the Florida Keys? Are you looking to book a trip? Let us know your experiences in the comments below.

Comments (5)
  • Jim

    Aug 9, 2020

    Pretty sure spearing lobster in the Keys is illegal

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      Aug 10, 2020

      Hi Jim,

      Thanks for reading and for pointing this out. You are correct, and I’m sorry if it didn’t come across as clear that you can’t use a spear when hunting for Lobsters. I’ve tidied up the text to hopefully make it more explicit.

      Tight lines,

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      Apr 21, 2021

      I came to the comments to say the same thing. In the lobster section it says:
      “As they crawl along the ocean floor, you’ll get to test your skills with a spear gun or hand-held spear, learning the ropes before moving on to bigger things.”

      I think its still unclear for new folks – lobster here in the Keys can not be speared. You need a gauge with you in the water to check for size, and you need to check for eggs, before bringing any lobster out of the water and onto your boat. Definitely not a species to test your skills with a spear gun on.

      With so many options for fishing, I don’t recommending including lobster in this list at all since the article is specifically about spearfishing.

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      Apr 22, 2021

      Hi Shawn,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m sorry, I thought I’d deleted that part. I included Lobster as I think it’s a great way to get first-timers and children into diving before they start spearfishing. Looking at the piece, I agree it probably shouldn’t be included as it’s an article dedicated to spearfishing, as you said. I hold my hands up to that, and I’ve deleted the specific Lobster section. I hope there’s no longer any confusion.

      Tight lines,

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      Apr 22, 2021

      Thank you! I really appreciate the article and encouragement to get new people into a great sport!


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