The tropical weather, nearby Gulf Stream and the 125-mile-long arc of islands that comprises the Florida Keys create a fishing environment unique in the world.
Get to know this diverse fishery with some quick essentials.
- Year-round fishing in the Florida Keys, uniquely enabling anglers to fish in different bodies of water on the same day, means a noteworthy or at least edible catch is possible virtually any time.
- According to the International Game Fish Association, more saltwater world records have been established in the Florida Keys than any other angling destination on the globe.
- Exceptional table fare comes from the Keys’ most popular summer visitor, the dolphin, also called dorado or mahi-mahi.
- Pioneering Keys captains who fish at depths of 1,200 feet or more are successfully catching deep-water swordfish under the bright subtropical sun during daylight hours — a practice virtually unheard-of until recent years.
- Off the Keys’ “inner” curve and the Florida mainland is Florida Bay, referred to by locals as the backcountry or flats. This region of shallow, unmarked waters is home to five of the most sought-after game fish: bonefish, tarpon, permit, redfish (red drum) and snook.
- Many backcountry species are year-round residents of the Keys. Permit, for years exclusive to the Lower Keys and far north Key Largo, are showing up on flats everywhere in between, in the greatest numbers April through September.
- Tarpon, also called silver kings, range from 60 to 150 pounds and are challenged in the spring along the entire length of the Keys, on flats and in deeper channels. Tarpon come close to Keys bridges April through July.
A successful and educational day of fishing is best accomplished with one of the Keys’ experienced charter captains. Charter fleets dot the Keys from Key Largo to Key West and boats range from 26-foot outboard-powered center consoles to 65-foot air-conditioned, long-range sport fishers. Hiring a backcountry guide is recommended since the shallow, unmarked waters of Florida Bay can be confusing and potentially treacherous for the inexperienced.
In addition, much can be learned from the offshore captains and backcountry guides of the Keys, whose knowledge of local waters and local species is unparalleled.