Best Places to fish in Florida Keys

Best places to fish in Florida Keys

The Sunshine State is well known for its fishing and Florida Keys streching from Key Largo in the north all the way down to Key West in the south offers some really good fishing every day of the year.

Florida Keys are known to host well over 50 different fishing tournaments each year and even if you’re not fishing competitively there are tons of places for you and your family to find fish in. The Keys attracts an abundance of anglers every month of the year, so you’ll never be all alone. Remember to keep your distance, we still have this pandemic, so be aware of your surroundings.

These are the best places to catch fish in Florida Keys:

Islamorada

Islamorada, FL
Islamorada by Chris O'Brien on Flickr

Islamorada is where you can really get your picture-worth catches, and it also proudly call itself the Sport Fishing Capital of the World, which is something it tend to live up to. This is the place where saltwater fly fishing as well as backcountry sport fishing was really pioneered.

If you’re going to Florida Keys for the first time to catch fish, this is a must see place. Islamorada boasts a very high density professional offshore charter boats with really top-notch captains.

One of the reasons that Islamorada provides an unrivaled diversity of fishing opportunities is because it’s location. You’ll find Islamorada in between Florida Bay (also referred to as the Backcountry) and the Atlantic Ocean.

Islamorada has some of the most exciting bonefish, snook, sailfish, shark and tarpon fishing you could ever find. It's location with the Florida Bay on the west coast and the Atlantic Ocean on the East, you can experience catching so many different species to fish! There are hundreds of charters to take you out with the best captains in the keys.

Light tackle anglers can easily catch Tarpon and Bonefish from the shore while small-boat anglers have an even wider repetoar of fish available to them. Some 10 to 20 miles offshore the Guld Stream flows past the islands which brings seasonal visitors such as kingfish, wahoo, sailfish and marlin. But you can also find a lot of dolphins (mahi-mahi) and tuna close enough to the shore to be targeted by small-boat anglers.

Some of the top targeted species in Islamorada are:

Fish Species Size Food Quality Habitats
Tarpon 25 to 80 lbs None Flats, Inshore, Backcountry
Great Barracuda 5 to 15 lbs Low Reefs, Shores
Redfish 3 to 12 lbs Good Inshore, Flats, Backcountry

Islamorada is really a place anglers of any skill level will enjoy. You’ll find an abundance of delicious Hogfish, Snappers and other species if you hit up the reefs, while more experienced anglers test their guts against the Great Barracuda or other big-sized fishes that really put up a fight.

Keys Bridge Fishing

There are for obvious reasons a lot of bridges in Florida Keys, and these make for some great fishing spots. The bridges in this list are known for being very nice fishing spots year after year. If you’re going after a specific bridge to catch fish but it’s going slow, make the most out of your day and find another bridge close by (they’re not far) and try your luck there.

As soon as you drive past Key Largo in the north and begin going south bound you’ll start seeing fellow anglers right of the bat. They’re probably standing on the first bridge dropping their baits.

1. The bridge at Channel #2

The Channel #2 Bridge has a very convenient fishing platform for you to put your gear on before getting to work. This place can get pretty crowded at times, so be sure to get here in time, which usually means early morning. Before you start fishing, make sure to use a chum bag to spice things up. Just fill it up with some chum – chopped up pieces of fish – and attach a weigth to itso it sinks. Attracts more fish to your spot and hopefully increases your catch rate.

The Yellowtail Snapper are a popular catch around this area and they tend to bite quite well during the day. The best time to find a Yellowtail Snappers or even Tarpon is while the tide is transitioning. You should also look for shadows in the shallower water as the fish will try and seek shelter from the heat there.

The Channel #2 bridge depth is from 8ft to 18ft where the most common depth are 10ft to 14 ft deep. Fishing at the Bridge at Channel #2 is usually very good during the incoming tide, but the outgoing tide works very well too.

You’ll find really concentrated pools of Tarpon in the center of the channel, which is perfect for some Tarpon night time fishing. You can always find live bait at this location. During the night, just use some chum and drop some lighting from a lantern and the fish will come to you in an instant. You can use both jib baits or live shrimp that you toss out to the bay.

During the night and early morning, you’ll also find Grouper and Snapper, but more towards the center.

You can always follow the tide times and levels for the Channel #2 Bridge here.

2. The bridge at Channel #5

You’ll find the Channel #5 bridge at bit more to the south and this is also a location that attracts a lot of anglers from all over the place. You have a really rich wildlife here and usually an abundance of Tarpon and Jacks.

If you need live bait to catch even bigger fish further down south, this is a really good spot. One really good thing about the Channel #5 Bridge is that you can get all the way down to the water level.

3. Seven Mile Bridge

One of the positive things with this bridge is that it has a really good water level and plenty of space. In this time and age, that’s a good thing.

The Seven Mile Bridge connects Knight’s Key, which is a part of the city of Marathon in the Middle Keys to Little Duck in the Lower Keys.

The Seven Mile Bridge actually consist of two bridges. The newer of the two bridges are open for vehicles and the one you want to hit up is the older one that’s only open to cyclists and pedestrians.

4. Bahia Honda Bridge

The “Silver King” are available en masse around these bridges. If Tarpon is the fish you’re after, this is the place to be. While Tarpon can and will put up a good fight, this is the place to catch ’em even during broad daylight.

Mwanner (CC BY-SA 3.0)

If you have a bit of angling experience, not only can you find Tarpon here but also Tiger, Hammerhead and Bull Shark if you’re lucky.

5. Boca Chica Channel Bridge

With good current flow, this fishery is a really good place to hit up before arriving to Key West. The deep water cuts at this place gives really good spots to drop the line. At the Boca Chica Channel Bridge you can come very close to the water level, which will give you really good opportunity to catch Tarpon swimming in the shadows looking for prey. This is usually a very good spot for nighttime fishing as well.

If you do go out fishing in the night, a good idea is to bring some mosquito repellent with you.

Marquesas

Fishing in Marquesas is a great spot to fish no matter the month or season. It’s highly recommended for beginners and children because the waiting between catches is very short. If you have kids, you know how important this can be, even if fishing can be a waiting game for the adults.

Key West marks the southermost tip of the continental United States. Situated between the Atlantic Ocean and the Guld of Mexico. The Keys has something to offer anglers ranging from toddlers to grandparents.

Florida Keys Fishing Species

Some of these are very easy to catch, such as X while some other species such as the Tarpon can be a good fight. The Tarpon is a very bony fish and not very tasty. It is a great game fish since it’ll give you a good fight. Most Tarpons are returned to the sea once caught.

Make sure to stock up on bait, such as squid, pinfish or pilchards before hitting the water in the Keys. You don’t want to come unprepared, because there’s a lot of catch to fish to catch in either the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf.

These are a subset of all the different fish species you can find around Florida Keys:

One of the most flexible ways to catch fish is with light tackles and almost any species in Florida Keys can be caught with it:

  • Wahoo
  • Cobia
  • King Mackerel
  • Bonefish
  • Blackfin Tuna
  • Yellowtail Snapper
  • Hogfish
  • Cero
  • Blacktip Shark
  • Permit
  • Atlantic Tripletail
  • White Marlin
  • Gray Snapper
  • Mutton Snapper
  • Great Barracuda
  • Tarpon

Good starting gear for bridge fishing

  • Use a relatively simple spinning rod. Make sure that it’s tested for the weight of the fish you’re trying to catch.
  • A mono line for some extra flexibility.
  • As stated above in the article you can use chum to attract fish before baiting them.
  • For actual bait, try pilchards, pinfish, squid or even shrimp.
  • Get a small weight in order to keep your bair deeper in the water if necessary.
  • One thing fishing has in common with photography is that the best time of day to do it is during dawn or dusk.

Fishing Licenses

Make sure to have any fishing license you’ll need in place before setting out to fish in the Keys (or any other part of Florida). Out-of-state fishing licenses are not valid in Florida.

There are different rules for residents and for visitors. The least expensive place to buy a fishing license is at your local tax collectors office. But many sport retailers such as Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Sports Authority along with many bait-and-tackle shops all around the state sell licenses for a small additional fee.

You can also order a Florida Fishing License by calling 1-888-FISH-FLORIDA (888-347-4356) toll-free.

Follow this link to get more information on how to order the license online or in person.

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