Key West Fishing

Key West fishing is a popular way to spend a day while visiting our island. After all, the fishery that surrounds us is rich and diverse with the waters of both the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean at our doorstep. And, every type of fisherman, from novice to expert, has an option of inshore, reef or offshore fishing. 

Inshore Fishing

Angler jumps a tarpon on a tarpon fishing charter; photo courtesy of Dream Catcher Charters.

Inshore fishing is fishing in the near shore backcountry waters, all within sight of land. This includes the flats, the harbor, channels and other shallow waters. And, the reef protects the backcountry waters, making for calm conditions, ideal for those that get seasick. 

The backcountry waters act as a nursery for many fish species, and over harvesting in this area is detrimental. For this reason, anglers should expect to practice catch and release on these trips. Although, it is not unheard of to keep a fish or two for a meal. Still, do not expect to fill up a cooler on these inshore charters.  

One of my favorite things about flats and backcountry fishing is that this area is absolutely beautiful. Oftentimes, anglers get to see seabirds and sea turtles along with the picturesque views. And, the guide can have anglers fishing in as little as ten or fifteen minutes after leaving the dock, making the most of the time on the water. 

Flats Fishing

Looking for a technical edge? Then the flats, which are super shallow areas of the backcountry, provide sight fishing for tarpon, bonefish, permit, and barracudas with fly fishing or spin fishing gear. Sight casting to a tarpon or a bonefish on the flats and having them connect to the bait is exhilarating. However, this involves a lot of hunting, laser focus, and accurate casting. With that being said, catching a single fish constitutes a great day of flats fishing. 

Backcountry Fishing

But, for those looking for more of a rod bending experience, the backcountry offers easier game such as jacks, sharks, snappers, and more. Anglers of any experience level can enjoy this charter. And, it is rare that an angler does not catch a fish on these charters. 

Reef Fishing

Island Genn with a dinner sized snapper caught on a reef fishing charter.

Reef fishing is done beyond the backcountry where the waters deepen and the coral reef houses many fish species. Most prized among these for fishermen include snapper and grouper species for their fight and for their taste. 

Since these waters are deeper and unprotected, this may not be the ideal option for those that get seasick. However, if you are looking to fill a cooler, reef fishing is a popular option.

The runtime to the reef is about thirty minutes. Fishing methods vary greatly depending on factors such as the conditions, spot features, and what is being targeted. However, reef fishing primarily constitutes bottom fishing. The bite here can be tough if there is a slack current, but it otherwise has a pretty consistent bite.

Wreck Fishing

Most captains combine wreck and reef fishing together. However, many of the wrecks that hold fish are found well beyond the reef. Hence, incorporating wrecks makes for a longer day. And, seas are potentially much rougher. This is a great trip for adventurous anglers that do not get sea sick and are looking for food fish to bring back with them.

Like reef fishing, wreck fishing focuses on fishing the bottom for snapper, grouper and other deep water species. The captain may anchor up or drift over areas.

Offshore Fishing

Capt. Steven of the InXS with a good sized dorado (aka mahi mahi or dolphin fish) caught on a deep sea fishing charter.

Offshore fishing is fishing deep waters beyond the reef. Some people call this blue water fishing or deep sea fishing. Whatever your term, this type of fishing is generally done by trolling baits behind the boat and waiting for a fish to strike. 

Avoid this type of charter if you get seasick. However, for those wanting to be like Hemingway and try for a marlin (summer and fall months best) or fish for other pelagic species such as dolphin (mahi mahi or dorado), tuna, mackerel, wahoo, and sailfish, then this is the trip to book. 

Because pelagic species travel, this type of fishing can be very hit or miss. Slow days can prove very boring. But, when the bite is on there are few things that are more exciting. And, it is an experience just seeing how majestic these fish are in the water. One of the coolest things that I ever saw on the water was a sailfish swim right under my boat.

How to Book a Charter

Booking a fishing charter is easy. Call us at 305-292-7212 and speak to me, Island Genn. I can go over more specifics with you and help you pick the best option for you. Want to know more about the different species that can be caught? Then, check out my Fishing Seasons page. In addition, read the latest fishing reports for even more information.

More About Key West

Do you want to know more about Key West? Additionally, you can check out our sister site, for lots of information on other Key West activities.

Happy fishing!

Island Genn – Key West Concierge 

About the author: Island Genn

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