June 23, 2024

Hardcore Game Fishing

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Cudjoe Key Fishery: The Complete Guide

Reading Time: 10 minutes

It’s not a secret that Key West dominates the Lower Keys’ angling scene. Naturally, everyone’s instinct is to rush to the southernmost point of the continental US. But what if we told you that there’s an equally prolific but less crowded place? Would you opt for it? If your answer is yes, next time you have the urge to hit the “Conch Republic,” think of Cudjoe Key. Cudjoe Key fishing promises the perfect combo of smoking hot angling and a chilled vacation.

Photo taken by Held Fast Charters

With a powerful player such as Key West next to it, it’s hard for Cudjoe Key to take over the headlines. But rest assured, you won’t make a mistake if you choose it as your angling headquarters. Only 20 miles from that fishing epicenter, Cudjoe Key offers everything its neighbor does – thrilling angling, a multitude of underwater rivals, and breathtaking scenery.

Long story short, fishing in Cudjoe Key is always a good idea. So, read on and find out what fish await you here, where you can find them, and how you can go about catching them. Near the end of this article, we’ll also cover fishing regulations as well as some frequently asked questions. So without further ado, let’s dive deeper into Cudjoe Key’s fishing world.

What can I catch in Cudjoe Key?

Being engulfed by water means that Cudjoe Key doesn’t lack underwater residents. Be it inshore or offshore fishing, Cudjoe Key will reward you with some of the most famous fish in the world. Here’s a breakdown of the most common catches.


When we think of inshore royals, Tarpon are the first to come to mind. Dubbed the world’s premier saltwater gamefish, these “Silver Kings” rule Cudjoe Key’s flats. Impressive in size, fighting ability, and gamefish qualities, Tarpon are rightfully on this list. So, if you want to kick off your Cudjoe Key fishing adventure in the shallows, choose Tarpon as your challenger.

Photo taken by Goliath Charters Summerland

If you’ve tested your skills against Tarpon in the past, you’re well aware of what you’re up against. If you haven’t had the chance to clash with these titans before, prepare for back-breaking action. These muscular brutes are notorious for their acrobatic jumps, strong pulls, and unpredictable moves. So, gear up with strong lines and nerves of steel. You’ll need both!

Speaking of fishing equipment, pay attention to your rod. While 7′ jigging rods give you more power, longer rods guarantee better casting control. Regardless of whether you’ll be still fishing, fly fishing, or sight fishing, you’ll be casting a lot. To boost your chances of landing a trophy Tarpon, pack mullets, crabs, or shrimps and hit the shallows in spring at night.

Snappers and Groupers

What Silver Kings are to the shallows, Snappers and Groupers are to nearshore waters. Your next Cudjoe Key fishing combatants are bottom dwellers that patrol the area around the reefs and wrecks. These seafloor lovers come in all shapes and sizes. You can’t go fishing in Cudjoe Key without trying your luck at pulling a bright-colored Snapper or oddly-patterned Grouper aboard. Plus, they make for excellent table fare. What more could you ask for?

A photo of an angler wearing a cap and a pair of sunglasses while standing in the shallows and holding a Grouper with both his hands for the camera
Photo taken by Held Fast Charters

If you were hoping these fish would be easy to catch, think again. Firstly, you have to intrigue them enough to bite, so fine-tune your bait presentation and pack enough shrimp. While you may not have trouble locating them, pulling them out of their depths won’t pass without you breaking a sweat. However, if you manage to overpower them, you’ll feel victorious.

Cudjoe Key is rich in Snapper and Grouper varieties, so don’t be surprised if you end up with more than one brag-worthy fella. Yellowtails, Mangroves, and Muttons are commonly caught Snappers, whereas Gags, Reds, and Blacks are the usual Grouper catches.

Depending on the species, the quota you’ll get to keep will vary. So before you decide they’re all keepers, check out the latest Snapper and Grouper rules and regulations on the MyFWC website.

Mahi Mahi

As you move further toward the deep blue, you’ll realize that the fish gradually become more and more awe-inspiring. If you were struck by Tarpon’s jaw-dropping leaps, were hypnotized by Snappers’ colors, and thrilled by Groupers’ flavors, just wait to see what Mahi Mahi have in store for you. Picture-perfect traits, finger-licking meat, and sportfishing qualities are perfectly blended in these gorgeous beasts.

A photo of an angler wearing a hat and a pair of sunglasses while standing on a Cudjoe Key fishing charter boat and holding small Mahi Mahi caught in the offshore waters on a bright summer day
Photo taken by Airborne Outdoors

While insanely charismatic, Mahi Mahi aren’t the smartest fish in the ocean. But this is good news for you – it means you don’t have to spend too much time luring them your way and you can focus entirely on reeling them in.

They usually swim closer to the surface while lurking around floating debris in search of food. Always hungry, they’ll fall for anything you throw at them. Be it mullet, ballyhoo, or squid, Mahi Mahi will snatch it. Combine trolling and casting to first grab their attention and then you’ll be able to hook them. Once they gulp your bait, roll up your sleeves and show them what you’ve got. To unlock your Mahi Mahi bonanza, go Cudjoe Key fishing in summer.

King Mackerel

We kicked off this Cudjoe Key game fish list with the Silver King, so it’s only fitting that we wrap it up with another royal. So, we saved the best for last – King Mackerel! Better known as Kingfish, these are true aristocrats in sportfishing circles. They enjoy the reputation of being restless and ruthless – everything you’re looking for in their Majesty.

A photo of an angler standing on a charter boat and showing off a King Mackerel caught while fishing in Cudjoe Key in Florida on a sunny day
Photo taken by Fish LLSea

Fast and furious, King Mackerel will spice up your Cudjoe Key fishing experience. These migratory species frequent anything from the inlets and reefs to the open waters. You can find them at almost any depth, but you won’t see them when the water temperatures are below 68 degrees.

Slow trolling works wonders with bigger specimens, while fast-paced trolling is usually reserved for smaller Kingfish. Bear in mind that colossal Kingfish are solitary beings and they aren’t as abundant as their medium-sized namesakes, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t land a trophy Mackerel the first time you head out.

… And More!

While we wrapped the Cudjoe Key fishing A-list with Kingfish, the full list is far from complete. Apart from these commonly caught species, there are plenty more fish that call these waters home. Besides Tarpon, you can land Snook and Permit as well and achieve an IGFA Inshore Gand Slam! The inshore waters are also dominated by Redfish and Bonefish.

A photo of a proud angler wearing a hat and a pair of sunglasses while posing with a big Permit fish with his Cudjoe Key fishing charter in the background
Photo taken by Goliath Charters Summerland

Mahi Mahi and Kingfish aren’t the only speedsters either. Cudjoe Key is a Cobia, Wahoo, Barracuda, and Tuna fishery, too. It isn’t uncommon to cross paths with Sharks and Billfish either. And if you’re into strange-looking but tasty creatures, Cudjoe Key is a Lobster paradise. All in all, you won’t return home empty-handed from your fishing trip.

When should I go fishing in Cudjoe Key?

Fishing in Cudjoe Key is a year-round activity. And while the chances of you ending up empty-handed are low, you can always increase your odds by aligning your hunt with the peak season of your target fish.

A photo of two female anglers  smiling and sitting on a charter boat while one of them is wearing gloves and happily posing for the camera with a Lobster in each hand
Photo taken by Airborne Outdoors

Mahi Mahi, for example, thrive in summer, while Tarpon are usually bigger and better in spring and fall. Kingfish meander the reefs and wrecks in winter, but if you want to make sure they’re around, bear in mind that they prefer temperatures closer to 70 degrees. Most Groupers are closed for fishing until May, whereas Lobsters have two seasons (a sportfishing and regular one). For more information on Cudjoe Key’s fishing seasons, visit the MyFWC website.

How can I go fishing in Cudjoe Key?

Depending on your preferences and whether you want to focus on the backcountry or offshore waters, there are several ways of conquering Cudjoe Key’s fisheries. Below are our suggestions on how you can get the most out of your angling experience in Cudjoe Key.

Charter Fishing

There’s no doubt about it – charter fishing is the most efficient way to explore Cudjoe Key’s waters. Be it the flats or bluewater fisheries, angling aboard one of the top-notch Cudjoe Key fishing charters is the wisest decision you’ll make. While it may be more expensive than surf casting on your own, angling with a licensed charter operator has numerous advantages.

A photo of several angers standing on a charter boat docked in one of Cudjoe Key’s canals and posing with their fish caught earlier that day during a morning fishing trip
Photo taken by Fish LLSea

No other angling approach guarantees the ease of covering a large area as charter fishing does. This means that fishing aboard a boat gives you better flexibility and higher chances of catching various fish without overthinking the logistics behind it. Besides the vessel and mobility, your charter operator will take care of the fishing equipment and permits.

But that’s not all – the most valuable asset is your captain’s knowledge. No one knows these waters better than local captains with years of experience. Not only will they share their local insights with you, but they’ll take you where the fish are biting and show you how to outsmart them.

Surf Casting

A photo of an angler standing in the ankle-deep water and casting a fly fishing rod in the shallows on a bright and sunny day
Photo taken by Goliath Charters Summerland

If you prefer solid ground under your feet while fishing, then surf casting is for you. You’ll have plenty of hotspots to explore and even more fish to catch. Cudjoe Key is ideal for angling from the beach or the shallows. You don’t have to limit yourself to the shore, feel free to wade, too! It’s dripping with easily accessible corners, so if you prefer fishing on foot, just pack your rod and choose a spot. Tight lines!

Kayak Fishing

A sunset view of an angler kneeling on a paddle board next to an ice box and tackle box and paddling in search of decent fishing grounds
Photo taken by Held Fast Charters

If neither charter fishing nor surf casting intrigue you, what about kayak angling? It combines the best of both worlds – it allows you to move around while fishing at your own pace. Plus, it gives you a stealth approach, so you can look for your fish without spooking them. Apart from kayak fishing, local anglers sometimes cast from their paddle boards. While it sounds easy, have in mind that you’ll need to perfect the skill of balancing, casting, and reeling in at the same time.

Where are the best Cudjoe Key fishing spots?

With the Gulf of Mexico on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other, Cudjoe Key is bathing in water. And when a place is completely surrounded by water, you can wet your line anywhere and you’ll be in for a treat.

While this has its perks, it may be difficult to pinpoint the exact fishing location without local insight or fish-finding devices on an offshore adventure. But here are several proven fishing grounds to get you going.

An infographic illustrating the different fishing spots around Cudjoe Key on a map, including Cudjoe Bay, Cudjoe Basin, Gopher Key, Kemp Channel, and Rattlesnake Lump, against a dark blue background.
  • Cudjoe Bay. If in doubt about where to start, give Cudjoe Bay a try. This is where the island’s marina is located, as well as the majority of the charter operators.
  • Gopher Key. When you move further out from the bay to the open waters, you’ll come across Gopher Key. High fish activity is often reported in this region.
  • Rattlesnake Lumps. The opposite side of the island has its own Gopher Key called Rattlesnake Lumps. This spot is ideal for flats fishing.
  • Cudjoe Basin. If you want to get closer to the Gulf of Mexico, you can pass Bow Channel and Rattlesnake Lumps and reach Cudjoe Basin.
  • Kemp Channel. This is an excellent area for different types of fishing. If you set off from the Blimp Road ramp, you’ll come across a quarry that’s great for kayak fishing. When you move towards Budd Keys and Knockemdown Key, you’ll stumble upon the flats that are perfect for sight and fly fishing.

Anything else I should know?

An infographic featuring the flag of Florida and text that says "Cudjoe Key Fishing Regulations What You Need to Know" against a dark blue background.

If you’re fishing aboard a charter boat with a certified captain, you don’t have to worry about regulations as your captain will take care of everything. This means that they’ll pay attention to the size and bag limits and obtain all the necessary permits. However, if want to fish on your own, make sure you respect the latest rules surrounding your hunt.

If you’re 16 or older you must possess a recreational saltwater permit if you plan to fish in Cudjoe Key. Besides a valid fishing license, you should double-check the bag and size restrictions for each fish you plan on targeting as well as be familiar with their season. For both Gulf and Atlantic regulations, check out the MyFWC site.

Cudjoe Key Fishing FAQs

A photo of two happy anglers posing while standing in the water and fly fishing with their boat standing still in the background on a bright and sunny day
Photo taken by Goliath Charters Summerland

Cudjoe Key: A New Key West Fishing Hub

A photo of a flats boat gliding slowly through the shallows surrounded by mangroves, with another boat in front of it in the distance
Photo taken by Goliath Charters Summerland

With the same angling opportunities and fish on offer as Key West, Cudjoe Key could easily become the next fishing hub. It just comes down to whether you prefer the hustle and bustle of its neighbor to the calmer atmosphere of Cudjoe Key. But as far as fishing goes, Cudjoe Key is as equally promising as Key West. Then again, you don’t have to take our word for it, go and check it out yourself and then tell us all about it.

Have you ever been fishing in Cudjoe Key? Did you fish in any of the above-mentioned hotspots? What did you catch? Hit the comment button and share your experience with us – or ask any Cudjoe Key fishing-related questions below.

The post Cudjoe Key Fishing: The Complete Guide appeared first on FishingBooker Blog.

By: Tanya
Title: Cudjoe Key Fishing: The Complete Guide
Sourced From: fishingbooker.com/blog/cudjoe-key-fishing/
Published Date: Tue, 09 May 2023 16:53:00 +0000

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