Thanks to its phenomenal light tackle fishing, Key West is the go-to place for anglers in search of a record catch. With hundreds of IGFA world records to its name, most of which were achieved on light tackle, this small island has huge reputation in the world of saltwater sportfishing.

What is light tackle fishing in Key West like?

Light tackle fishing is all about putting the angler to the test. It is an art, a form of fishing that matches you up to the fish. Here, there are no fighting chairs or enormous cranking reels to help. And with nothing but a small, simple rod and reel to worry about, it is the perfect introduction to the joys of Key West fishing for new anglers and record-chasing pros alike.

There’s no limit to where you can go with light tackle—all the best Key West fishing spots can be explored with this setup. Explore the backcountry for Snook, battle a mighty Shark or Barracuda in the flats, run after Tarpon in Key West Harbor, or head offshore to put your skills to the test against Sailfish, Tuna, and Mahi Mahi. With a knowledgeable guide and a fast and nimble boat, you’ll have all the possibilities at your fingertips.

Most light tackle fishing in these parts is done aboard a center console boat—that is, a boat that gives you space to walk all the way around the edge as you try to reel your fish in. These boats can fish a variety of waters, being small enough to navigate the Harbor, while having the power and stability needed to fish offshore, too.  

What can you catch?

Well, pretty much anything. As long as it swims and is in season, the right guide can help you target any fish you like with line up to no more than 25 lb test. It all depends on your previous experience and what you want to get out of your trip.

New anglers and families will enjoy fishing the reefs with light tackle. Anchoring near Florida’s rich reef system and chumming the water with pilchards will most likely get you hooked up with colorful Yellowtail Snapper. If you want to put a lot of fish in the boat, this is the trip for you.

Don’t have your sea legs yet? Consider a backcountry or flats fishing charter. These take place in protected waters rich in wildlife. With Snook, Bonefish, juvenile Tarpon, Snappers, and more readily available, this is another good trip for beginners and experts alike.

Want to break a record? Head offshore. Winter and Spring welcome schools of Sailfish and Blackfin Tuna to the reef lines near Key West. Get them excited by chumming the waters and target them with live bait (ballyhoo, goggle eye, and pilchards all the the job very well). Come in the summer, go a little further offshore, and you may even be able to target Marlin on light tackle—the final conquest of many a serious sport angler.

Key West

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Top Targeted Light Tackle Species Fishing in Key West

Barracuda (Great)


Dolphin (Mahi Mahi)

Snapper (Mutton)

What People Are Saying About Light Tackle Fishing in Key West

"Half Day Trip with Capt. Jared"

Kristen Peck fished with Reel Easy Charters on July 14, 2018

Excellent experience! Capt. Jared was friendly, knowledgeable, and flexible. Preemptively offered to start our trip early in light of a gloomy weather forecast. We were able to visit several locations to catch a nice variety of fish, including grouper, barracuda, shark, snapper, and more. Would definitely recommend it!

"Slow start but strong finish!"

Scott Raymond fished with Fish Key West - The Coolwater II on July 1, 2018

Bite was light for a few hours but Ryan got us on the mahi and we had a great time!

"6 hours with Jason"

Kevin Jarrett fished with Reel Easy Charters on April 24, 2017

Trip overall was good. We moved around a bit more than I would have liked, but they seemed to bite a while then stop so maybe that was needed. First fish of the day was a nice shark caught on a pin fish using very light tackle. What a battle! A true fishing memory to last a lifetime. Cooked those yellowtail right on the pier when we pulled up- the best meal I have had in a long time!

Top Light Tackle Fishing Charters in Key West