If you love hard fights with big, strong gamefish, then Shark fishing is for you. Once fishermen hook and battle a 300lb adult Bull Shark, most quickly discover why Shark fishing is so addictive. In 3 feet of water on the flats, out on the reef, or deep down on a wreck in the Atlantic or Gulf – Where ever you catch a shark, you’re in for a challenge.
The most commonly caught Shark around Key West is the Lemon Shark, which usually runs around 125 pounds. At times, many big Bull Sharks and even a few Hammerheads are encountered in Key West harbor and patrolling the Backcountry channels and Flats edges. Other fun, easy-to-hook species include Black Tip Reef Sharks and Dusky Sharks. Out in deep water, most of the Sharks caught tend to run bigger, and fishermen sometimes hook a Tiger Shark or a Hammerhead in the 8 to 10-foot range.
Sharks in the Backcountry
Sharks are everywhere in Key West waters. A lot Key West Shark fishing is done in the Backcountry. The clear, shallow water of the channels and Flats make for easy and exciting sight-fishing. In many cases, Sharks are drawn in when anglers are fishing for other species. Sharks are quick to home in on the thrashing and blood of hooked smaller fish like the Mangrove Snappers, Jacks, Ladyfish, Pompano, and Sea Trout that are so plentiful in the Backcountry. Once these big predators arrive at the party, it is difficult to get a hooked fish to the boat in one piece. At this point, heavy gear is cast out and the fight is on.
It’s a lot of fun to take on Backcountry sharks on light spinning gear or even a fly rod. When they are gathered up and hungry, Sharks will take large surface or shallow lures like plugs, poppers, and big wet flies. Or you can just toss live or dead bait out on the surface. Either way, you will likely be rewarded with a view of the Shark taking your bait. Then the hard work begins as you try to grind down 300 pounds of top-tier ocean predator. Expect many hard runs when you finally start to get your Shark reeled in and it spots the boat.
In deep water on the reef or over wrecks, Sharks can become a problem. They steal bait on the way down and attack hooked fish so fiercely that it can become difficult to get a catch up in one piece. This is another case where a fisherman may decide to drop a big chunk of bloody bait down and take on one of the beasts. If you are serious about getting on a large Shark, fish the deep water. Catch a few Bonito on the run out, chop some for a chum slick and drop a whole one down on a big hook with wire leader. This is good for Bull and Reef Sharks 6 to 8-feet long and is also the best shot at a Tiger.
Key West Shark Fishing – Ethical Angling
Key West Shark fishing is as close as you get to guaranteed fish catching action. Every season, a lot of happy anglers go home with tired arms after battling big Sharks on light gear. It is not unusual to see 600-pound Sharks in Key West waters, and there is quantity as well as quality. The waters are literally Shark-infested.
It is great fun to catch Sharks and you get some wonderful photo ops. However, it is important to note that the Key West charter captains are not the “Shark Hunters” of the bad old days or the former television series of that name. Most serious Key West game fishermen now realize the importance of the Shark as a keystone ocean predator. Sharks have been around for nearly as long as there have been oceans, and they are a biological link that ties into the survival of nearly every other species in the sea.
Like lions on the African Savannah, Sharks cull the sick and weak members of various prey species, keeping fish stocks healthy and balanced. On any Fish Key West charter, you will see Sharks fought sportingly on light tackle then released unharmed and healthy. This not only ensures the continuing availability of good Shark fishing, but also helps keep the marine ecosystem as a whole in good condition.