Key West Fishing Charters Glossary

Atlantic Ocean Fishery Charters

Key West Florida is a small island lying in the Straits of Florida 129 miles southwest of Miami, Florida and 106 miles north-northeast of Havana, Cuba (24°33′33″N 81°47′03″W). Key West is at the southernmost tip of the Florida Keys, and the city of Key West is the southernmost city in the continental United States.

The island is positioned between the waters of the Gulf of Mexico to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the south. This gives Key West one of the most diverse and prolific fisheries on the planet. An important factor in this is the transport of warm water north into the Gulf of Mexico by the Yucatan Current. This water circulates around the Gulf then drops south along the western shoreline of Florida before emptying eastward through the Straits of Florida and into the Atlantic as the Gulf Stream. The mixing of different water temperatures that occurs around Key West and along the Keys and the load of plankton carried on the warm Gulf waters form the basis of a very abundant food chain topped by a multitude of game fish species that live in or migrate through the waters off of Key West.

The shallower waters of near-shore Key West, the Key West backcountry, and the Gulf of Mexico feature numerous wrecks, reefs, and bottom structure variations that provide homes to large, multi-species fish populations. Barracuda, Cobia, Grouper, Permit, Snapper, Shark, and Tarpon are just a few of the rod-bending sport fish species that offer fun and excitement to millions of anglers each year.

The shallow waters giving onto the living coral reef that lies along the eastern shore of the Keys, the warm, northward-flowing water of the Gulf Stream current, and the much deeper and cooler waters of the Atlantic Ocean lying farther offshore of Key West offer anglers an infinite selection of pristine fishing grounds frequented by reef and wreck-dwelling species, deep-water bottom fish, and the famous large pelagic big game species including King Mackerel, Mahi-Mahi, Marlin, Tuna, Sailfish, and Swordfish.

With this combination of accessible waters, huge variety of marine biosystems, and multitude of resident and migratory fish species, Key West has earned an international reputation as a fisherman’s paradise. The local waters have produced over 600 International Game Fish Association world records. Key West fishing is a truly unique and amazing phenomenon.

Backcountry Fishing Charters

The inhabited islands of the Florida Keys are just one small part of a 100-mile-long strip of shallow water flats, tangled channels, and wild mangrove islands separating the Atlantic Ocean from the Gulf of Mexico. Much of this vast area is untouched marine wilderness, wildlife refuge, or national park. The area along the northern shoreline of the Keys, from north of Marathon Key to north of Key West is known as the Backcountry. A last remaining example of wild, untouched Florida, the Florida Keys Backcountry is a true sportsman’s paradise.

The Backcountry is one of the world’s most diverse marine life ecosystems. The area is natural and unspoiled, with crystal clear water. Shallow water flats and channels, mangrove islands, coral patches, and a range of bottom types including turtle grass, gravel, sand, and limestone provide ideal homes and breeding grounds for a huge variety of fish, animals, and birds.

Fisherman come to the Backcountry primarily for light tackle fishing, with the most famous quarry being the Key West grand slam trio of Bonefish, Permit, and Tarpon. Specialized shallow-water boats and expert guides bring fisherman within visual range of these wily fish, where skillful use of fly or spin-casting tackle and an artificial lure or live bait may bring a lucky fisherman the experience of a lifetime.

Tarpon are the kings of the Backcountry. These silver giants commonly run over 100 lbs. and will give a fisherman the fight of a lifetime when hooked up on a saltwater fly rod. Tarpon are known for their spectacular leaps and runs, and for the beauty of their large eyes and iridescent scales.

Bonefish and Permit are a Backcountry challenge for even the most experienced fly fisherman. These fish spook easily, and have to be approached with silence and stealth. Typically, the guide will pole a flat-bottomed skiff along by hand, often in waters only 1 or 2 feet deep, staying on the lookout for the telltale surface disturbances that mark feeding fish. When fish are spotted, the fisherman attempts the perfect cast in an effort to lay a bait within feeding range. Too far away, and the fish will not see it; too close and the fish will spook and be gone in an instant. Once hooked up, both Permit and Bonefish fight hard, and because the shallow water prevents them from diving, they make strong runs that can strip a reel bare.

For guaranteed fast fishing action, the Florida Keys Backcountry offers a number of other species that are always biting and easy to catch. Mangrove Snapper, Redfish, Bluefish, and Spanish Mackerel are plentiful and fun to catch. Snook and Cobia cruise the channels and grow to impressive sizes. Sea Trout are abundant, tasty, and good for kids because it is common to catch them as fast as you can reel them in. Ladyfish put on an exciting show with their numerous jumps, while the tough Jack Crevalle makes spectacular hits on big surface lures, followed up with wild, fast-running fights. For a long hard fight followed by spectacular photo opportunities, go for toothy Barracuda or shallow water Sharks on light tackle.Key West Fishing Charters

Key West Back Country fishing offers something for everyone. Experts looking for technical fly-fishing or first time beginners simply out to experience a well-bent rod will all find satisfaction in the Backcountry. And the natural beauty and unique sights that will be encountered make a trip into the Backcountry unforgettable for everyone who experiences this side of the Keys.

Bait Fish

Over the past 15 years, fishing with live bait has become one of the most popular techniques for Key West waters. The careful presentation of a naturally swimming live baitfish draws the attention of many species of fish, and the fishing action is likely to be much faster than it is when trolling dead bait that is rigged to look like it is swimming. In order to keep live bait in a fresh, lively condition, most captains will catch it on the same day that it is to be used. This is usually done with a cast net or with light hook and line. The live bait is then kept in oxygenated live wells, often separated by species. Many different fish species are used as live bait depending on the season and the target gamefish. Ballyhoo is one of the most commonly used baitfish as they congregate on the reef in large schools during the fall and winter months and are easily caught. Other live baits include Blue runners, Crabs, Majua, Mullet, Pilchards, Pinfish, and Threadfin Herring. The idea is to offer the gamefish the bait that they are naturally feeding on. When kept fresh and healthy, live bait can make a major difference in fishing success.

Big Game Fish

In the waters off the Florida Keys, the species typically referred to as big game fish include Marlin, Sailfish, Tuna, Wahoo, and Mahi-Mahi or Dolphin Fish. The billfish in particular, Blue and White Marlin, Sailfish, and Swordfish are the legendary fighters of the deep that for decades have attracted world class professional anglers and enthusiastic amateurs alike to the waters between Key West and Cuba. Billfish are usually pursued well offshore in the Atlantic, outside the reef where the bottom drops to 1500 feet or more. Common fishing techniques include trolling with lures or dead bait, kite fishing, and deep-drifting live bait. In years past, big game fishing was associated mainly with big boats and heavy tackle. However, modern state-of-the-art center console open boats and specialized light tackle now account for a significant number of billfish catches off Key West. Another new trend in big game fishing is the nearly universal practice of catch and release fishing aimed at preserving the numbers of these beautiful fish for years to come. It is also worth noting that the giant, hard-fighting Tarpon as well as Sharks are now sometimes classified in the big game fish category.

Birds of Key West

The lower Florida Keys are home to three National Wildlife Refuges that contain intact eco-systems and habitats for many species of birds and animals. The National Key Deer, Great White Heron, and Key West National Wildlife Refuges were established to protect the native birds and animals of the Keys from damage caused by human hunters and predatory species like raccoons, which were causing excessive losses of bird eggs and young.

Although many refuge areas are only accessible by boat, there are portions open to the public for the purpose of compatible activities such as bird watching, photography, and wildlife observation. The three refuges are home to 285 species of birds, including some species that are unique to the Florida Keys. The peak birding occurs during the spring and fall migrations, when it is possible to see such interesting birds as the Antillean Nighthawk, Black-whiskered Vireo, Gray Kingbird, Great White Heron, Mangrove Cuckoo, and the White-Crowned Pigeon.

If you visit the refuges, it is important to avoid disturbing nesting birds and wintering wildlife. The feeding and resting opportunities offered by the refuges provide birds and animals with a chance to build the energy reserves needed to handle the stresses of harsh weather and migration, and they are critical to the survival of many species.

Boca Grande Channel

The Boca Grande Channel is a 6-mile wide passage lying 17.5 miles due west of Key West and separating the Mule Keys from the Marquesas Keys further west. The channel is in a marine region that includes protected island and water areas that are part of the Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges. The area features white sand beaches, shallow sand bars, coral patch reefs, sunken wrecks, and great fishing. It is a popular destination for day-tripping locals and visitors alike, and light tackle boats go there on windy days to find calm water and plenty of fish.

Chum Slick

Chumming is the use of attractants (chum) to draw fish to the angler’s location and incite them to feed. The chum usually consists of various fish or shrimp oils, blood, ground fish, or other by-products. For shark fishing, blood and by-products from large animals such as cattle may be used.

A chum slick is created by slowly and gradually releasing the chum into the water at a controlled rate. The type of chum used and the way it is dispersed depends on the fish species being targeted. A typical scenario would have the chum mixed and dispersed in such a way as to leave some material floating on the surface, other particles suspended just below the surface, and some portions sinking toward the bottom.

Professional guides have their favorite species-specific chum recipes and dispersal techniques. It is important to use the right type and amount of chum for the fish species being targeted, with the primary objective being to induce a feeding frenzy in which many fish gather in one place and begin to compete for available food.

Conch

Besides being a nickname for Key West natives, Conch are fast-growing marine snails that feed on algae. Although the term is generally applied to several types of large sea snails, true conches belong to the family Strombidae, specifically the genus Strombus and other closely related genera such as Eustrombus. The larger types of Conch found in the Carribean, such as the Queen Conch, can grow from tiny larvae into adult snails weighing about 4.5 pounds in 4 years. Conch move from shallow water into deeper waters as they grow, then return to lay eggs in the shallows.

A conch’s shell grows in a spiral pattern with bumps around the outer surface. When they are small, these bumps are long and spiky, which may confer protection against predators and/or stabilize them in moving water. These bumps become less pronounced as Conch grow, possibly because the larger shell provides more protection and/or their greater mass keeps them steady in the water. As the Conch matures, the body of the snail pushes on the growing shell and makes the opening flare out. This allows the mature snail to move along with lagoon floor with the shell opening flat against the bottom.

Conch is the second most popular type of edible snail after the Escargot, and the meat can be eaten raw, as in salads, or cooked, as in fritters, chowders, gumbos, and burgers. In The Bahamas, where Conch is considered to be the country’s main dish, it is typically served as fritters and salads. When British loyalists who had fled the early United States for the British colonies in the Bahamas during the revolutionary war years returned as settlers to Key West, they brought with them the nickname “Conchs” in reference to the prevalence of Conch in the Bahamian diet.

Coral Reef

A coral reef is a natural underwater structure formed by colonies of tiny marine organisms called polyps. Polyps belong to a family of animals known as Cnidaria, which also includes sea anemones and jellyfish. The polyps cluster in groups and extract the minerals from seawater to secrete hard carbonate exoskeletons which support and protect their bodies. The stony accumulations of these exoskeletons are what form coral reefs. Coral reefs grow best in warm, clear, sunny, agitated waters such as those found along coastlines in tropical regions. Often called “rain forests of the sea” coral reefs are incredibly rich, bio-diverse environments, which is a paradox since they mainly grow in nutrient-poor waters. The Florida Keys are the remains of ancient coral reefs formed some 150,000 years ago, and lying off the Keys today is the 190-mile-long Florida Reef Tract, the only living coral barrier reef in the continental United States. In the shallow waters to the landward side of the main reef bands are numerous areas of patch coral. Both types of coral reef structure offer important habitat for game fish and many other species.

Deep Sea vs. Offshore Fishing Charters

In Florida, “Deep Sea Fishing” or “Offshore Fishing” are often taken to mean fishing far offshore in the deep, blue Atlantic waters of the Gulf Stream as opposed to the near shore waters around the Keys or in the Keys Backcountry extending north from Key West along shore towards Marathon and Islamorada. The Keys became well-known for this type of fishing in the early days of motorized sport fishing, when authors like Ernest Hemingway and Zane Grey publicized their adventurous battles with big billfish in the early 1900’s.

In modern Key West however, Deep Sea and Offshore are general terms that refer more to the type of boat, tackle, and techniques used by fishermen rather than the specific fishing location, distance from shore, or species of fish targeted. People often associate Deep Sea fishing with traveling far out to sea in large diesel-powered sport fishing craft then fishing very deep waters for large fish like Marlin, Sailfish, and Tuna. This type of fishing has a reputation as a luxury experience, with air-conditioned salons, below-decks cabins, bridge decks, and many other creature comforts available to passengers. The classic sport fishing vessel also features a tall tower that allows the captain to control the boat while maintaining excellent visibility of the surrounding waters. The rear deck of the boat is called the cockpit, and it often contains a fighting chair where fishermen can strap in and do battle with large fish on heavy tackle while a deck hand provides assistance. Arrangements of multiple baits or lures are trolled behind the boat to attract and catch fish, and sport boats usually have long outriggers that help spread the baits and allow numerous lines to be trolled without tangling.

In contrast, Light Tackle fishing refers to a similar fishing experienced carried out from smaller, lighter, and faster craft. Light tackle boats are generally open, with the captain controlling the boat from a center cockpit. The control station most often has a shade roof called a T-Top over it, and there may be a raised control station on top of this to allow for increased visibility. Although they have no enclosed cabin or fighting chair, light tackle boats are capable of trolling as many lines and taking the same species of fish as sport craft.

Light tackle boats are more versatile and mobile, which allows them to be used in a wider range of conditions and with more fishing techniques than the larger sport fishing boats. A variety of fishing gear may be used according to purpose, with saltwater spinning gear and fly rods being common. Many anglers prefer light tackle boats because they can run out to the fishing grounds faster, allowing for more fishing time. They also operate more efficiently and generally cost less to charter than sport fishing vessels.

Dolphin

The dolphin is a marine mammal closely related to whales and porpoises, and almost forty species of dolphin live in the shallower continental shelf waters of oceans worldwide. Like whales and porpoises, dolphins are descended from terrestrial mammals that began living in the water about 55 million years ago in the Eocene epoch. Adult dolphins vary in size from about 4 feet in length and 90 pounds in weight, to 30 feet and 10 tons in the case of the Orca, or killer whale, which is a member of the dolphin family. All dolphins are carnivores that eat mostly fish and squid. They live in family groups called pods, and female dolphins bear live young called calves. Dolphins are among the most intelligent animals on the planet.Flats Fishing Charters

Dolphins are very common around Key West, and they are a popular tourist attraction. Dolphins appear to be friendly and playful animals, and they often interact with humans in various ways. They commonly ride the bow waves of sea-going vessels, and many anglers consider them to be a sign of good luck. The Dorado, or Mahi-Mahi, is a Key West game fish that is often called a Dolphin or Dolphin Fish. However, it is not at all related to true dolphins, which are warm-blooded, air-breathing mammals.

Dry Tortugas

The Dry Tortugas is a group of small islands located at the extreme western end of the Keys. They lie about 67 miles west of Key West, and 37 miles beyond the Marquesas Keys. The islands of the Dry Tortugas comprise about 143 acres in total area, and some of the islets are little more than sand bars that may disappear below the water at times then reappear months later. Seven islets run from east to west, although at times in the past two centuries there have been as many as 11 islands.

Some of the islands have thin growths of mangroves and other vegetation, others have only small patches of grass or are devoid of plant life. Several of them are only about 1000 square feet in size and may be covered with water on an exceptionally high tide or in the event of a storm. In general, the islands rise abruptly from relatively deep water.

The first European to discover the islands was the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León, in 1513. The Dry Tortugas are now an unincorporated area of Monroe County, Florida. With their surrounding waters, they constitute the Dry Tortugas National Park. The waters of the Dry Tortugas offer some legendary fishing on patch reefs, wrecks, various reef ledges, and other structure. The snorkeling is also world class. Above water, the historic Fort Jefferson is well worth a visit, and the beaches are incredibly beautiful.

Federal Permits

A major advantage of fishing with Fish Key West is the ability to fish in the Federal waters of the National Marine Sanctuary. We are one of the few charter operations in Key West that have Federal Waters Charter Fishing Permits. These permits allow our captains to enter protected waters in the Gulf that contain many of the best wrecks and huge populations of fish that are under much less fishing pressure than those closer inshore. Operations without Federal permits must avoid the many areas that are no-enter and no-take zones, and are forced to stay in State waters closer to shore, where there are far more guides and locals alike fishing.

Feeding Frenzy

A feeding frenzy occurs when a large school of baitfish or the presence of a large quantity of any other type of food such as chum or shrimp boat trash attracts a school of predator fish or causes a number of normally solitary fish to gather. The predator fish all begin feeding at once, become excited and aggressive, and compete for the food. During a feeding frenzy, baitfish often become panicked and move wildly, for example, leaping from the water or running into shallows. The predators will strike blindly at anything, including bare hooks, each other, and sometimes at humans if they are in the water. Bluefish and some species of Sharks are particularly known for this type of feeding behavior. Because this type of feeding releases a lot of blood and scraps in the water and leaves wounded baitfish, flocks of birds are attracted to the feeding site, and charter captains use this sign to locate schools of game fish.

Flats Fishing Charters

The Key West Flats are expanses of shallow water lying near shore around the Keys, over bottoms composed mainly of sand, sea grass flats, stony substrates, and patch corals. Relatively deep channels border and cross the Flats. Flats fishing is a technical style of angling involving the hunt for particular species of fish that feed in the shallow waters, especially Bonefish, Permit, Barracuda, and Sharks. Tarpon fishing also takes place in the channels and in some areas of the flats.Fishing Charters Key West

Flats fisherman use specialized shallow-draft skiffs made to operate in as little as 2 feet of water. In the rear of the boat is a raised platform where the guide stands to spot fish and pole the boat silently into position. After visually locating the fish, the angler uses light spinning gear or a fly rod and accurate casting to carefully place bait directly in front of the feeding fish without spooking them.

The object of Flats fishing is to experience this unique style of hunting elusive and difficult to catch game fish by sight, then landing them on the lightest of tackle, fly rods in particular. The game fish species found on the Flats are fast swimmers and hard-fighting fish, and merely bringing one or two to the boat in a day is a major fishing accomplishment. The ultimate goal of Flats fishing is the Key West Grand Slam – boating a Tarpon, Bonefish, and Permit, ideally all on the same day.

Flats Grand Slam

A Key West Flats “Grand Slam” refers to catching a Bonefish, Permit, and Tarpon all in one day of fishing. The official International Game Fish Association definition of an Inshore Grand Slam is the landing of any three of four major Keys game fish species on the same day: Bonefish, Permit, Tarpon or Snook.

Florida Keys

The Florida Keys are a string of islands formed from the remains of ancient coral reefs and lying off the tip of the Florida peninsula. The Keys begin at the southeastern tip of the peninsula about 15 miles south of Miami, and extend in an arc south-southwest and then westward to the last inhabited island Key West, and on to the uninhabited islets of the Dry Tortugas. The Keys lie along the north edge of the Florida Straits, and divide the Atlantic Ocean to the east from the Gulf of Mexico to the west. The Florida Keys lie in the subtropical latitudes, and the climate is tropical, with year-round warm weather. The Florida Keys also mark the northern reaches of the Caribbean sea, and the southern tip of Key West is only 90 miles from Cuba. The Keys are relatively sparsely populated, with only about 79,535 residents, 32% of which live in densely populated Key West.

Gulf of Mexico Towers

Well offshore of Key West in the Gulf of Mexico is a series of huge US Air Force communication relay towers that sit in depths of 35 to 110 feet of water. Each tower is supported by 5 enormous round steel legs that angle at 45 degrees down from just below the water line to the massive concrete pad that anchors the tower. The towers lie anywhere from 10 to 20 miles offshore, and well beyond the 9-mile state line marine limit. The towers sit on a broad, empty seafloor plain that is nearly devoid of fish-holding structure, so they are fish magnets that draw huge numbers of fish, including large schools of big pelagic game fish and hundreds of giant Goliath Groupers.

The towers are so isolated and distant that most sport fishing boats never visit them. Moreover, to legally fish the federal waters in which the towers stand, and keep the fish, a Federal Gulf of Mexico Charter Boat Fishing Permit is required. Fish Key West Charters are one of the few Key West Fishing Guide services with the experience and expertise it takes to get the Federal Permit and take advantage of the pristine fishing grounds that lie around the towers.

Lobster Diving

The waters around Key West are home to Florida Spiny Lobsters, or “bugs” as they are called locally. These are tropical lobsters that lack the large claws of the cold-water Maine Lobster, but have similarly delicious tail meat. Lobster diving involves diving down and searching for lobsters along underwater ledges or under coral heads in shallow water. Depending on the location of the lobster, and the skill of the diver, it may be possible to grab the creature’s antennae or the back of its carapace and pick it up. More often, the Lobster will spot the fisherman and back into its den. In this case, a short “tickle stick” is used to push in behind the Lobster and startle it with pressure on its tail. When the bug emerges, a net is placed behind and over it. When a free hand is reached toward the Lobster, it will jet up and backwards with a flick of its tail, hopefully ending up in the net. With skill and luck, a diver will be able to regularly land the daily bag limit of 6 lobsters, particularly in the early season when they can be found under nearly every rock and ledge.

Mutton Snapper Spawn

Mutton Snapper are a fish species that arrive in May and June each year to spawn under the full moon in the shallow waters near Key West. They are beautiful fish, with olive-tinted backs, red side and tail fins, and bold striping. They commonly run to 15 lbs. or more in weight. Mutton Snapper hunt the reef for baitfish, shrimp, crabs, squid, and snails. Mutton Snapper are known as harder fighters than other members of the Snapper family, and they make excellent eating fish as well. When the Mutton bite is on during the spawn, it is common for boats to catch limit after limit of the fish.

Northwest Channel

The Northwest Channel is the deepwater gap between Key West and the shallow flats and islets beginning two miles to the west. The main channel is 5 miles from Key West and angles north to south from the Gulf to the Atlantic. It is large and deep and is used by commercial and fishing vessels, particularly when traveling towards the southwest mainland coast of Florida. The channel features several wrecks and numerous ledges, as well as jetties, all of which are home to many species of fish year-round. From the east, the Northwest Channel is the first deep passage in 45 miles that fish can use to migrate from the Atlantic into the Gulf. The Flats on either side of the channel are excellent Tarpon and Permit fishing grounds, and the deeper holes hold large schools of Tarpon in the spring.

Patch Reef

Patch reefs are isolated, relatively small growths of coral that typically occur in the near-shore shallows around Key West. The majority of the patch reefs lie inshore of the main living coral barrier reef that extends along the southern edge of the Keys. They are usually circular in shape and set amidst sand or sea grass flats. Patch reefs offer shelter and habitat to many fish, with several species mingling on a given reef. There are thousands of patch reefs, and they make great fishing spots during the winter and good sites for snorkeling and diving in the summer.

Reef Fishing Charters

The best way to experience non-stop action and a full freezer? Book yourself a trip on a Key West reef fishing charter. The reefs off the shores of Key West are simply loaded with fish, practically guaranteeing you’ll see nonstop fishing action on a reef and wreck charter. In fact, if your goal is catching as many fish as possible, this is how to go. North America’s only living coral reef stretches from Miami to the Dry Tortugas, about 70 miles west of Key West. The coral cover provides shelter for thousands of species, most importantly the tastiest of fish, grouper and snapper!

The coral reef around Key West is known for its spur-and-groove formations, which offer excellent shelter for all types of fish. Our charter captains have years of experience, so they know exactly where on the reef to anchor up and send down the lines. Bottom fishing targets grouper and, snapper, but you might haul up any number of other species. Sharks can show up, which might mean you’re in for a bit of a workout. Jacks,Cobia and Mackerel can show up anywhere in the column as well, making your catch of the day an impressive mix of species.

So you see, between the excellent natural resources of Key West’s reef system and the highly experienced guides working the boats for Fish Key West Florida, you are in for one heck of a productive day! How could you go wrong?

For maximum haul potential, Key West reef fishing has long been and remains today the most popular type of charter if you’re serious about the amount of fish you want to bring in. Fish Key West Florida offers half day, three-quarters day, or full day charters to the wrecks and reef.

Shark Fishing Charters

If you love extremes, and fighting big game sport fish is on your agenda, then Key West shark fishing charters are just for you. Hook one adult Bull Shark and you’ll quickly find out why shark fishing is so addictive. Hook one on the flats, out on the reef, or in the Gulf – it doesn’t matter where you catch a shark, you’re in for a ride!

Of course there are smaller sharks out there, but we target the big boys for maximum sport. It’s a lot of work, but what a thrill to finally see the monster you’ve fought when you bring him to the surface. Of course, it’s catch and release for sharks, and touching the leader counts as a catch. Common sharks caught routinely on Key West shark fishing charters are Bull Sharks, Lemon Sharks, Black Tip Sharks, and Hammerhead Sharks. Tiger Sharks, Reef sharks, and Dusky sharks make frequent appearances as well. All the sharks are strong, even the Nurse Shark, which is not as aggressive or exciting to catch but still puts on quite a pull if you hook a large one.

Most shark fishing done by Fish Key West Florida is on the flats, channels, or in the back country. Here, where the water is shallower, come, and clearer, the best technique is most likely light tackle or fly tackle. Using large surface lures like poppers is quite exciting, since you’ll most likely see the shark make the bite. Just imagine a 300 hundred pound shark charging through the shallow water toward your bait, surface lure, or large fly as you brace yourself for the moment. The excitement comes from this moment of attack, when the shark’s powerful jaws chomp down on your hook. It’s quite possible to see and hear the attack, if the water is shallow enough. Patience and hard work will pay off, as you slowly gain on him, reeling him in bit by bit. It’s often a “two steps forward, one step backward” game, as the shark will get a burst of energy and make a run. Just hold on if he does, and wait till he stops. Then it’s reel, reel, reel, nice and slowly, steady as she goes.

There’s nothing quite like shark fishing in Key West, and if you love salt water sport fishing, you have try this! Imagine the force behind an adult Bull shark, feeling the power as you fight one-on-one. You will be proud for long after your day of fishing, once you’ve reeled in a big monster shark by yourself.

Fish Key West Florida’s guides can make it happen for you, back country or reef, day or evening. All gear is provided- just be ready for some thrilling shark fishing action!

Shrimp Boats

Gulf of Mexico shrimp boats work the waters off Key West through the night using large trawl nets to catch the prized Gulf pink shrimp. In the morning, the shrimp boat crews sort the shrimp out and dump the by-catch back in the water. The result is a chum slick consisting of hundreds of pounds of live baitfish, crabs, shrimp scraps, and other popular fish food that floats on the surface and drifts with the currents to attract large schools of several types of game fish. Blackfin Tuna, Bonita, Cobia, Kingfish, and Sharks can all appear, and the massive volumes of bait spark feeding frenzies that offer the ultimate in action fishing as charter boats follow the shrimpers to fish just yards from the larger craft. It is common for anglers on these trips to catch fish until their arms are exhausted from fighting fish that hit the bait within seconds on every cast.

Split Charter

Split Charter refers to the practice of two or more unrelated individuals or parties sharing the cost of a single fishing charter. By splitting the overall cost of the charter in this way, each party saves money. For example, a captain who has only 4 people booked on a trip that can accommodate 6 may be able to take two more on board. This is why fishermen walking the Key West charter docks sometimes see signs advertising space for 1 or 2 people to join an upcoming trip on short notice, with no reservation. Besides being cost-effective and convenient, splitting a charter gives anglers the chance to meet people and enjoy fishing with new-found friends.

Wreck Fishing Charters

The more than 200 known shipwrecks lying in the Gulf and Atlantic within range of Key West are a prime source of fish-holding structure. There are hundreds of wrecks on the bottom of the Gulf alone, including everything from large freighters to commercial shrimp and fishing boats, airplanes, and the coral-covered rubble piles left from wrecks many decades old. The Gulf wrecks lie in water ranging from 10 to 130 feet deep, and they offer ideal homes to a wide range of species including classic sport fish like Cobia, Grouper, Goliath Grouper, Kingfish, Permit, Snapper, and many others. Fish can be caught at depth on the wreck, as well as on the surface above, and live bait, lures, and flies can all bring success. The action can be fast at times, and it is common to have a fish on every rod in the boat at once while wreck fishing.