Offshore Fishing in Key West, FL
A Key West offshore fishing experience is one you'll remember for the rest of your life. Located right between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, you can head out of the dock in any direction and you’re sure to hook into massive big game fish—and lots of them. The waters surrounding Key West are rich with opportunity, from extreme depths in the Straits of Florida to the scattered islands of the Dry Tortugas out west. Come aboard and see what makes this place one of Florida’s top fishing destinations.
What to Catch and Where to Find it
The Straits of Florida
Stretching along the south of Key West is the Florida Reef, a natural barrier extending 6 miles into the Straits of Florida. Bottom fishing here will bring up a variety of species throughout the year, including Snapper, Grouper, and other bottom feeders. You can also catch King Mackerel and Barracuda cruising around, or even Sailfish on occasion.
Just beyond the reef, fishing takes on a new persona. Here the seafloor plummets a thousand feet below. Now you’re truly fishing offshore. Swordfish and an array of Snapper and Grouper species cruise the depths below. Up above, the warm waters of the Gulf Stream carry a steady parade of Sailfish, Tuna, Wahoo, Mahi Mahi, and Marlin. With any luck, you could catch some of these species on a trip as short as 4-6 hours.
Sailfish, Tuna, and Wahoo tend to peak in these waters between winter and spring. Other pelagic fish reach their peak seasons in warmer months. Charter a boat between spring and fall for a chance to catch the widest variety of species.
The Gulf of Mexico
Fishing offshore in Key West might also take you north into the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf is home to many of the same game fish you’ll find in the Straits of Florida and the Atlantic, including Marlin, Sailfish, Tuna, Mahi Mahi, King Mackerel, and Wahoo. Countless wrecks and reefs in the Gulf hold Snapper, Grouper, Amberjack, Triggerfish, Hogfish, and more.
Bear in mind that you’ll have to travel a lot father if you plan on catching big game fish like Sailfish and Tuna in the Gulf (a full day trip, at the very least). Most pelagic species are abundant here during summer months.
The Waters to the West
Even more offshore fishing possibilities lie to the west, at the Dry Tortugas and Marquesas Keys. The Marquesas Keys are famous for holding massive Sharks, including Tiger, Bull, Lemon, and Hammerhead Sharks. Located 26 miles west, these fishing grounds are just a 45 minute boat ride away.
For excellent shallow water bottom fishing, head to the Dry Tortugas. Trips to these islands 75 miles away from Key West are extremely weather dependent. While you can find 8-9 hour trips, an overnight charter is recommended to make sure you get plenty of fishing time.
Key West Offshore Fishing Techniques
Depending on your target species, fishing offshore could have you trolling, kite fishing, jigging, bottom fishing, and so much more. You’re likely to troll for big game pelagics like Wahoo, Tuna, Marlin, Mahi Mahi, and King Mackerel. Ambitious anglers take some of these species by fly fishing, including Marlin.
You’re likely to lure Tuna, Sharks, and even King Mackerel by chumming and then casting a live or dead bait.
Bottom fishing and jigging will help you catch pretty much any bottom species on the reef and in the deep waters offshore. In water thousands of feet deep, you’re likely to deep drop for Swordfish, Tilefish, and colossal Snapper and Grouper.
Top Targeted Offshore Fishing Species in Key West
- Size 15 to 35lbs
- Food Value Average
- Game Qualities Excellent
- Habitats Nearshore, Offshore, Reef
What People Are Saying About Offshore Fishing in Key West
"Half day with Captain Justin."
Weather prevented us from going offshore but Justin put us on a lot of Mangroves and unfortunately just undersize red grouper. Caught enough keepers for the Mothers Day brunch. Would have liked a few big ones but that's fishing.