July 24, 2024

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Big Pine Key Fishing Guide: Complete Guide

Reading Time: 9 minutes

Known for its tranquil atmosphere and dreamlike scenery, Big Pine Key is the perfect place to get some hard-earned rest. For anglers, however, its waters provide a world-class playground. Like the rest of the Keys, fishing in Big Pine Key holds limitless potential. It’s where you’ll get to wrestle some of the finest game fish in the ocean.

Thanks to its variety, Big Pine Key offers something for everyone. Inshore, you’ll find shallow bays, extensive flats, channels, and bridges to fish. A bit further from the coast, you’ll discover sprawling underwater reefs, housing various eating fish. And if you’re in the mood for some deep sea giants, the waters plummet to depths of over 1,200 feet just 30 miles offshore.

If this sounds like your type of fishery, stick with us. We’ll explore some of the top species you can encounter in Big Pine Key, as well as where to catch them. You’ll also get to read about ways to approach these waters and things to keep in mind while you plan your trip. When you’re ready, scroll on!

What fish can I catch in Big Pine Key?

With the different fishing grounds in Big Pine Key comes an equal variety of aquatic dwellers to hunt for. Thanks to Florida‘s warm climate, the action goes on year-round. Let’s check out some of the game fish that might end up biting the end of your line.


There’s no better fish to start the list with than Florida’s inshore dinosaur – Tarpon. Even with just a glance at their large, silvery scales and tough, bony mouths, it’s easy to tell that Tarpon are a prehistoric fish. And along with their appearance, they bring power from a bygone era which has helped them remain top predators today. The fight a Tarpon puts up leaves most anglers with burning muscles and sore backs. That’ll leave you in no doubt that the “Silver King” rules this roost.

An angler in a hat leaning over the side of his boat, holding a sizeable Tarpon halfway out of the water.
This photo was taken by Jim Dietz of Mountains to Marshes.

If the challenge of fighting these beasts excites you rather than scares you, you’ll be pleased to know you can find them in Big Pine Key. Large Tarpon visit these waters starting mid-March every year, with the season lasting throughout June.

You’ll find them in the turtle-grass flats, around coral heads, and under bridges. Anglers catch Tarpon using a variety of bait, including crabs, mullet, and pinfish. Or, if you have the know-how, you can fly fish for them and experience what’s probably one of the best inshore battles out there.

Snapper and Grouper

As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, Big Pine Key is home to numerous reefs. These provide a habitat for a wide range of fish, including different types of Snapper and Grouper. Among others, there are Yellowtail, Mutton, Lane, and Mangrove Snapper, as well as Red, Black, Gag, and Goliath Grouper.

An angler in a hat standing on a boat and holding a Goliath Grouper he caught towards the camera, with turquoise waters, mangroves, and overcast skies in the background.
This photo was taken by Craig Clopper of Goliath Charters Summerland.

Out of these, Goliath Grouper grow the largest. These underwater behemoths reach weights upwards of several hundred pounds. Specimens like that almost feel as if you’re trying to reel in a truck off the sea bottom! Goliaths are also the most regulated Grouper species. The 2023 season is the first in many years where harvest is allowed… to an extent.

Although other types of Grouper and Snapper are smaller than Goliaths, they make for excellent table fare. On top of that, they’re very beginner-friendly targets. Your guide will bring you to a prospective reef, then you’ll drop your baited hook down to the bottom. Soon, a hungry fish will bite.

Mahi Mahi

If you venture a few miles offshore from Big Pine Key, you’ll get to add Mahi Mahi to your list of targets. These fish are famous for their striking colors and great taste. Also, they’re great adversaries for anglers new to offshore fishing. Mahi Mahi will battle hard but tire fast, giving you the chance to practice your skills without exhausting yourself.

Four smiling anglers all wearing hats and sunglasses standing on the bow of a charter boat, each holding a Mahi Mahi they caught fishing in Big Pine Key.
This photo was taken by Zach Stells of Boneafide Charters.

You can fish for Mahi Mahi whether you depart from the Gulf or the Atlantic side of Big Pine Key. They’re usually present in the whole area from spring to late summer. Once you’re offshore, keep an eye out for any floating debris, sargasso weed lines, and birds congregating above water. These are telltale signs that there might be bait fish in the area – and Mahi Mahi simply won’t be able to resist them. At that point, you can start trolling and the fish will soon follow.


Every year, Blue and White Marlin, Sailfish, and deep-dwelling Swordfish visit the Florida Keys. In terms of game quality, these fish sit at the very top of every list. With incredible speed, acrobatics, and raw power, Billfish are ultimate fighting machines. So, naturally, the challenge of reeling one in is something deep sea anglers relish and dream of accomplishing.

Two anglers standing on the stern of an Big Pine Key offshore fishing boat, one holding a giant Sailfish by its tail and the other by its bill near sunset on a clear day.
This photo was taken by Josh Grangroth of Chartered Rentals.

The best time to fish for Marlin and Swordfish out of Big Pine Key is in summer. Sailfish, however, are caught more frequently in spring, as well as late fall and early winter. Regardless of which fish you set out to catch, get ready for a ride offshore. You’ll have to go over 30 miles south from Big Pine Key, to the continental dropoff, where the waters get deep enough for Billfish to show up.

Trolling is the name of the game when fishing for Marlin and Sailfish. You’ll either troll dark-colored lures or live bait such as ballyhoo, spanish mackerel, or even blue runners. Meanwhile, Swordfish are a completely different affair. During the daytime, they lurk at depths of over 1,000 feet. To catch them successfully, you’ll need specialized deep-dropping gear and electric reels.

And Many More!

Besides Tarpon, fly fishing enthusiasts will be glad to know there are Permit and Bonefish stalking the Big Pine Key flats. Catching all three in one day will net you what’s called an “Inshore Grand Slam” in the Keys. And for even more variety, there are also Redfish, Snook, Jack Crevalle, and numerous other fish eager to gobble up your bait in the shallows.

A woman in sunglasses and a hat smiling and holding a sizeable Bonefish caught fishing in Big Pine Key, with another man and the center console of a boat visible behind her, as well as pale blue waters.
This photo was taken by Robert Horachek of Kingfisher Backcountry Charters.

On the reefs, you’ll frequently encounter ravenous Barracuda, Sharks, Amberjack, and seasonal visitors such as King Mackerel and Cobia. Further offshore, there’ll be Yellowfin and Blackfin Tuna, as well as Wahoo for you to battle. So when we said that these waters are diverse, we really meant it – there’s always something to catch!

Best Ways to Fish in Big Pine Key

Depending on what kind of fishing you’re comfortable with and what you want to catch, there are different ways to tackle the Big Pine Key fishery. Have a look at a few of the options.

Charter Fishing

Whenever you encounter a new fishery, the best way to get to know it is with a professional. And who better than local pros? This is where Big Pine Key charter captains come in with their extensive knowledge of the waters, fish patterns, and seasons. With one of them at your side, a productive fishing trip is all but guaranteed.

A catamaran fishing boat next to a wooden dock on a beach, with beautiful blue waters and clear skies around it.
This photo was taken by Warren Pettegrow of Alliecat.

What’s even better is that your captain’s boat will be at your disposal. This means you can visit whatever fishing grounds you’d like, from skinny flats to offshore dropoffs. Your guide will typically also provide all the necessary equipment, saving you the trouble of traveling with your own.

Another benefit charter captains bring is that they’ll be able to tailor your trip to your skill level. So if you’re fishing with your family or if you’re simply a novice angler, they’ll know where to take you to keep your trip comfortable and exciting. This way, you’ll get the perfect introduction to the Florida Keys sportfishing scene.

Shore Fishing

While a boat will give you more variety, there’s plenty of fish you can battle from Big Pine Key’s shores. There are flats, bridges, and backcountry waters in the area you can easily access without ever leaving the comfort of the coast. Here, you’ll find Tarpon, Permit, Bonefish, Snook, Jack Crevalle, and even the occasional Goliath Grouper or a roaming Shark.

A man with long hair and a beard standing in ankle deep water in the flats in the Florida Keys, casting with his fly rod high up in the air.
This photo was taken by Craig Clopper of Goliath Charters Summerland.

As an added bonus, you’ll get to enjoy some stunning scenery while fishing. Big Pine is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the Keys, ideal for anglers who like to combine fishing with some rest and relaxation. You might even spot the rare Key deer which is abundant here.

Kayak Fishing

With narrow channels winding between different islands, along with shallow waters, and lush mangroves, the coastal waters around Big Pine Key can be tricky to navigate. To deal with this, backcountry fishing guides in the Keys use specialized boats with shallow drafts. However, for solo anglers, kayaks are almost equally effective to get to all the nooks and crannies.

A view across the water of a kayak fisherman paddling in calm waters near Big Pine Key at sunrise on a cloudless day, with two fishing rods are sticking out from the vessel.

Just think about it – kayaks are silent, small, and easily navigable as long as the waters are calm. This makes them great for sneaking up on inshore fish and hitting the less-pressured spots.

The only caveat is that it can be tricky to fish from a kayak if you haven’t done it before, even though modern vessels are very stable. But if you can handle that and the weather serves you, kayak fishing in Big Pine Key is a fantastic, intimate way to experience these waters.

Where can I fish in Big Pine Key?

An infographic illustrating the different fishing spots around Big Pine Key on a map, including No Name Key Bridge, Bahia Honda Bridge, Inshore Channels, Atlantic Reefs, and Wood's Wall, against a dark blue background.

Now that we’ve covered the species and ways to fish in this part of the Keys, the next question to tackle is where to go. The spots we’ll cover here are just a few of the many, of course, and you’re sure to discover more if you pair up with a charter captain. Still, let’s go over a few areas to visit while you’re fishing in Big Pine Key.

  • No Name Key Bridge: Connecting Big Pine Key to its namesake island to the west, No Name Key Bridge offers great mixed-bag fishing. Tarpon, Jack Crevalle, and Mangrove Snapper are just some of the fish you can catch here. Occasionally, anglers even get into a battle with Barracuda and Sharks.
  • Bahia Honda Bridge: Located just 15 minutes from Big Pine Key, the Bahia Honda Bridge is a legendary Tarpon spot in the Keys. It’s where these silvery beasts are caught every year. Besides them, Mangrove and Mutton Snapper, as well as Hogfish and Barracuda are also possible targets.
  • Inshore Channels: Big Pine Key is surrounded by various coastal channels, as we’ve already mentioned. Specific spots nearby include the Newfound Harbor Channel, Spanish Harbor Channel, and Niles Channel. Each will serve you well if you’re looking to reel in Snapper, Grouper, or the occasional Tarpon.
  • Atlantic Reefs: While there’s good reef fishing all around the Keys, the Atlantic side of Big Pine Key is famously productive. Within just a few miles of shore, you’ll get to catch your fill of delicious Grouper, Snapper, Amberjack, Spanish and Cero Mackerel, and more. When it’s the season, even Mahi Mahi and Wahoo show up on the reefs.
  • Wood’s Wall: About 30 miles off the Atlantic coast of Big Pine Key, lies Wood’s Wall. This is an underwater ledge where the ocean floor sharply drops to depths of 2,000 feet. This area is known as a Blue Marlin hotspot among local anglers. To add to that, you could also hook into Tuna, Wahoo, and Mahi Mahi if the Billfish aren’t biting.

Big Pine Key Fishing FAQs

Big Pine: A Fishing Gem in the Lower Keys

A view of the beach and beautiful waters in Bahia Honda State Park near Big Pine Key, with some shrubs to the left and a palm tree to the right on a sunny day.

While Key West may be more famous for its flats fishing and Islamorada for its deep sea action, Big Pine Key offers both of these in good measure. The Bahia Honda Tarpon hotspot is mere minutes from it, while Marlin are caught just 30 miles offshore. And in between these two, you’ll have bountiful opportunities to catch all kinds of food fish to put in the cooler. All you need is the right guide to help you focus on what you’d like to catch the most, and the adventure can begin.

Have you ever been fishing in Big Pine Key? What’s your favorite Tarpon spot? Let us know in the comments below!

The post Fishing in Big Pine Key: The Complete Guide appeared first on FishingBooker Blog.

By: Marko
Title: Fishing in Big Pine Key: The Complete Guide
Sourced From: fishingbooker.com/blog/big-pine-key-fishing/
Published Date: Mon, 05 Jun 2023 07:21:28 +0000

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