Fishipedia Top 5 (or 10): Things that make the Florida Keys great

September 23rd, 2011| No Comments

Just a few reasons why the Florida Keys is still one of the world’s hottest fishing destinations…

1. There’s a charter forFlorida Keys tarponeveryone

Just look at this page. Nowhere else has the same number of guides, or such a wealth of readily-tapped and easily accessible local knowledge.

Backcountry, flats, reefs and wrecks, inshore and offshore, split charters and private. Whatever type of guide or charter you want, you’ll find it in the Keys.


2. Its diversity is unrivalled

Depending on where you are in the Keys, you’ll have access to the Gulf of Mexico, Florida Bay, The Everglades, the Atlantic, offshore and inshore waters, flats and backcountry options. Nowhere in the world has a comparable confluence of different bodies of water, and that gives the Keys the edge.

You can wake up in the morning and decide between going offshore for billfish, dorado, king mackerel and wahoo, or heading to the wrecks in search of permit, cobia, snapper and cudas, targeting the flats for permit, tarpon and bonefish, or heading into the backcountry in search of snook, redfish and sharks.

Florida Keys: fishermen's paradise

3. It’s got year-round sport

Most people pitch up in the winter months when the conditions are less favourable in the north of America and beyond and the sailfish sport in particular is at its most productive. Then there’s prime tarpon time (from May onwards), but don’t write off the summer months – many guides will tell you that’s when permit and bonefishing is at its best.


Long Key State Park, Florida4. There are plenty of DIY options

Sure, you’re probably going to have a more successful time if you stump up the funds for a guide or charter, but there are plenty of spots you can fish yourself in the Keys.

If you’ve got your own boat, you can target bridges for tarpon (night and first light are particularly productive times), you can wade the flats at Long Key State Park and Bahia Honda for bonefish, hire a kayak and head out into the backcountry in search of permit, cudas, bonefish (and the rest), or stop at any of the bridges where fishing is permitted and get stuck in.


Feeding the tarpon at Robbie's Marina5. It’s family-friendly

Think Florida + kids and you rarely get much past Disney. But the Keys is just about the perfect destination for family vacations. Feed the tarpon Robbie’s Marina (careful with your hands!), swim with dolphins at the Theater of the Sea, treat your partner to some down time at the All About You Day Spa, or just kick back on the beach at Bahia Honda State Park.

And if you need a family-friendly place to stay, you could do worse than Hawks Cay, where you’ll even find captains specializing in kid-friendly charters.


6. Travel light, fish with the best

Of course we all love taking our own gear away with us – after all, it cost us enough in the first place. But if, for whatever reason, you can’t then it’s not a problem. Florida Keys charters and guides carry all the best gear so you’ll also be in safe hands. Remember, it’s a thriving, competitive industry down there, so the onus is on skippers to carry all the best gear – if they don’t they can be sure the next guy will.


Florida Keys permit7. It’s still the ultimate permit fishery

As Thomas McGuane says in his seminal book, The Longest Silence, “the definitive permit is a fish from the Keys”. And really, there’s still nowhere better for chasing the sickle-tailed devil.

Excellent numbers of fish, a plethora of dedicated guides, and a mentality geared towards preserving this most noble of flats adversaries, this is a fishery built for the permit fisherman. That said, you’ll still have your work cut out. But isn’t that the point?


Palolo worm8. It’s got the palolo worm hatch

Tarpon are hard enough to catch at the best of times. May as well make it a damn sight easier by fishing for them at the one time they lose their mind. The only trouble is accurately predicting the hatch – May or June during full moon phases are the best times to catch it, but even there’s no guarantee. Find yourself in the middle of it and you’re in for a treat.

As the worms hatch from coral, forming into clouds and heading in unison for the surface, the tarpon gather among them, losing themselves in the smorgasbord on offer, seemingly possessed by a narcotic ennui. You, meanwhile, saddle up with the 12-weight and smash into your best chance of multiple hook-ups in the midst of one of nature’s unexplained wonders.


Sloppy Joe's: A Key West institution9. It’s got the history

A rich and storied past, studded with legendary tales of heroic conquests and notable figures who opened the door for future fishing generations. Hemingway, Zane Grey, Billy Pate, Stu Apte, Steve Huff, Dick Brown, Andy Mill… the list goes on and on. These are the fishermen who blazed the trail, set the bar and in many instances wrote the books that have inspired people to chase their dreams in this incredible fishery.


Florida Keys - Route 110. It’s easy

– Easy to get to. If you’re coming from afar, you can fly to either Miami or Key West, and if you’ve got a boat, you can sail down there yourself of course.

– Easy to get around – Route 1, all the way down from the Upper Keys to Key West. And you’ll never have to stray far from it to get to your destination.

– Easy to communicate – none of the language problems you might face in some other, more remote fishing destinations. For one thing that makes it a whole easier to communicate with guides.

– Easy-going. As they say down here, “no shoes, no shirt, no problem”.


>> Something you want to add to our list? Let us know in the comments below…

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