April 23, 2024

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Florida Keys Party-Boat Fishing: The Complete Guide

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The amazing fishing opportunities of the Florida Keys aren’t a secret to anyone. It’s the only living coral barrier reef in the US, a perfect getaway for anglers to spend their vacation and escape to this Caribbean-like paradise. How can you share this experience with others with minimal investment? Party boat fishing in the Florida Keys!

What is party boat fishing? What can you catch? Where can you go fishing on a party boat? In this guide, we’ll answer all these questions and many more to help you decide whether a group fishing tour is for you. Let’s dive right in!

What should you expect from party boat fishing?

Those who’ve ever been on a party boat, fishing the Florida Keys’ productive spots, know that it’s a truly unforgettable experience. However, there are a few things you need to know before you set foot on board. 

  • You’ll share the boat with a group of strangers. Party boat fishing is among the most affordable options for those who want to fish the Florida Keys and not break the bank. You’ll be surrounded by people you don’t necessarily know. But you can use that to your advantage! Make new friends with fellow anglers of all levels and ages. 
  • The bigger the boat, the bigger the crowds. While most party boat captains prefer to limit the number of anglers on board, you might still be fishing with dozens of other people. This is especially true if you’re fishing on a party boat as big as 70 feet! 
  • The basics are usually included. Just like on private charters, party boat fishing trips usually come with tackle, bait, and fishing licenses included. However, you’re welcome to bring your favorite rod with you – but make sure to let the crew know in advance just in case. 
  • On-board facilities. Luckily, there are usually toilets on board party boats, along with built-in ice boxes for your freshly-caught fish. In addition to that, there might be enough shade for you to take a break from the summer sun for a while. 
  • Cleaning & filleting services. Depending on the crew, you might get a complimentary fish cleaning and filleting service, or pay an extra fee to get your catch ready for dinner later. 
  • Tips are always welcome. It goes without saying that complimenting the crew for their hard work is never a bad idea. They usually do their best to offer the best service possible, so thanking them with 15% of the trip price is standard practice.

Despite all this, don’t forget to talk to the crew before the trip. Even though you might not get all the attention of the crew during the trip, it’s never a bad idea to discuss your ambitions before you hit the waters. The crew might give you valuable advice on which lure to use or which spots to pay extra attention to. 

What should you bring on a party boat fishing trip?

A large group of anglers at the back of a party charter boat

First of all, the most important thing you need to bring on your party boat in the Florida Keys is your good mood. Then, you can just follow our checklist to make sure you have the best fishing experience! 

  • Suitable clothes. Make sure that you’re dressed in comfortable clothes. You need to be able to maneuver, since you’ll most likely be moving around the boat a lot. Slip-resistant footwear, shorts or baggy pants, and a breathable shirt will do the trick. 
  • Food and drinks. The majority of Florida Keys party boat captains provide all the necessary fishing equipment, but food and drink aren’t normally included. You can hit a local store before the trip and keep your snacks and drinks in a small, non-glass cooler. 
  • Raincoat. Even if the weather forecast doesn’t promise rain, there’s always the possibility of seaspray. Pack a light raincoat if you’re planning to venture out to offshore waters.
  • Wash rag. A towel is a necessity for anyone who’s planning a fishing trip. Fishing can sometimes get pretty messy!
  • Sun protection. You’re probably already aware of the sunny climate of the Florida Keys. Make sure to not forget sun protection – a hat, shades, and sunscreen. 
  • Hand sanitizer. A small hand sanitizer is a must, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. You’ll be fishing with dozens of other people, so keeping your hands germ-free is a good idea. 
  • Sea sickness medication. While the Florida Keys’ inshore waters are normally calm, you never know what to expect when fishing offshore. If you’re prone to motion sickness or you’re stepping on a boat for the first time, take some Dramamine before the trip just in case. 
  • Cash. Having some cash on you is pretty useful since you might be able to buy some snacks and drinks on the boat. As well as that, tips are also normally paid in cash at the end of the trip. 

What fish can you catch and where?

A group of young people on a boat, holding the fish they caught

Party boat fishing in the Florida Keys isn’t like any other experience in the Sunshine State. There are over 800 keys (small islands), with the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean, and everything they have to offer, too. Here, you only have to travel 3-9 miles out to fish the mighty Florida Keys reef system, with the open ocean beyond. 

Below, we’ll talk about reefs, wrecks, and the offshore grounds for your party boat Florida Keys fishing adventure. You can also learn more about party boat fishing in specific destinations, such as Islamorada here or Key West in this guide.

Reef & Wreck Fishing on a Florida Keys Party Boat

A group of anglers show off their catch aboard a party boat in Florida

Reef fishing is an especially fun activity for families. This is when kids (and adults alike) can learn bottom fishing and trolling. Local reefs offer a great variety of fish species to target, while wrecks attract bait fish and large predators. 

So, what can you catch on a reef and wreck fishing trip? The list of potential catches includes a variety of Groupers, including Gag, Red, and Black, along with Lane, Mangrove, Mutton, and Yellowtail Snapper. Barracuda, Amberjack, Hogfish, King Mackerel, Spanish Mackerel, and even Sharks are also common catches on these trips. 

If you’re thinking about booking a party boat fishing trip in the Keys and don’t want to travel too far out, consider heading to the local reefs and wrecks. You’ll most likely fish in calmer waters closer to shore, which is also a safer option for all ages.

Offshore Fishing on a Florida Keys Party Boat

An angler in a cap and sunglasses holding a big Grouper on a party boat

The best part about offshore fishing on a party boat in the Keys is that you’ll get the opportunity to fish the bluewaters on a budget. However, you’ll want to book at least an 8 hour trip, as there’ll be a bit of traveling involved. 

More good news is that you can catch a lot of reef species in the deeper water, too – just bigger. Plus, you’ll be able to add other bigger and tougher fish species to your list. You can target various types of Snapper, including Red when the season allows, along with Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, Jacks, and Sharks. If you’re booking a winter fishing trip, there’s a chance you might come across Sailfish

Not all party boat operators offer offshore fishing, though. Make sure to check with your crew in advance. 

When should you go party boat fishing in the Florida Keys?

A bird's eye view of a party boat in open waters

The short answer is — anytime! There’s never a bad time to fish in the Keys. The bite is always on. However, not all species can always be targeted. To avoid overfishing, the state of Florida imposes strict regulations for certain species, depending on which side of the Keys you’re fishing in. Feel free to consult the FWC website

Summer and fall can be the busiest months of the year, since thousands of locals and visitors come to the Keys in search of their next trophy. Spring is perfect for a reef fishing trip and a healthy dose of Snappers and Groupers, while winter is reserved for big game trophies such as Sailfish in the offshore waters.

Types of Party Boat Trips in the Florida Keys

When it comes to the types of party boat trips on offer, most operators run shorter and longer trips. On half-day excursions, you’ll get plenty of time to get to all the nearshore reefs and wrecks, battle with whatever’s biting, and get back to shore. However, shorter trips are usually reserved for inshore fishing in the Keys. 

For offshore adventures, you might want to book a longer charter. Not all excursions are the same, so you’ll need to pick one that suits your group, budget, time, and skill level. 

Half Day Trips (Morning/Afternoon)

A group of kids each holding a freshly-caught fish, the Florida Keys

As we mentioned above, half-day excursions are the most beginner-friendly – and most popular. They normally around 4 hours, with just 10 minutes reserved for traveling to the fishing grounds. Snappers and Groupers are among the most common targets on both morning and afternoon trips, although you can also go for Mackerel, Mahi Mahi, Amberjack, and even Cobia. 

As soon as you reach the reefs or inshore waters, the crew will help you set up the gear, bait your hook, and advise on how to target the fish. After that, it’s totally up to you to employ your favoresd technique and land the fish. 

A half-day trip is the most kid-friendly option. However, it’s best to check with the crew if the kids are allowed on board. In some cases, captains offer separate half-day trip excursions designed specifically for children. There might be an age limit, though, along with required adult supervision.

3/4 Day Trips (6–7 Hours)

Kids fishing in Islamorada on a party boat with a crew member holding a rod

Adding a few more hours to your time on the water means more grounds to cover and fish to land. Depending on where in the Keys you begin your excursion, you can venture up to 25 miles offshore. This allows you to target larger fish on the reefs and wrecks, including Cobia, Sharks, Mackerel, along with Groupers and Snappers. Just like on half-day trips, you’ll get assistance from the crew with setting up rall the gear. 

These longer trips can also be kid-friendly. But they’re more suitable for teenage anglers who can learn about fishing and, of course, help you fill the cooler.

Full Day Trips (8+ Hours)

An angler holding a Red Snapper on a boat

Some say full-day trips are slow and steady, while others think that the long haul means more action. Whatever it is for you, an 8, 10, or 12 hour trip allows you to truly enjoy what deep sea fishing has to offer without spending thousands of dollars. 

Keep in mind that there’s travel involved in full day trips to get to the offshore honey holes. Passionate anglers say that any trip is worth it, though, considering that the reward could be anything from Marlin and Sailfish during winter to Mahi Mahi in summer.

Specialized Trips

A view from the water of a boat marina in Key West

Florida Keys party boat operators may offer specialized trips for a specific fish species. Book a proper Grouper extravaganza in May. Or try Red Snapper party boat fishing for the official season opener! In other cases, these excursions can be dedicated to Tuna, Sailfish, Marlin, or even Swordfish hunts. 

While party boat fishing in the Florida Keys is a year-round pleasure, specialized trips are mostly seasonal. And, as you’ll be spending the whole day on the boat targeting a specific species, you may come back to shore with less fish than you expected.

Private Trips

A large group of anglers all dressed in blue after a party boat fishing trip in Islamorada

As you may have guessed, private trips on a party boat aren’t that common. In some spots throughout the Keys, though, you can rent out a party boat for a celebration or team bonding and choose how you want to fish.

If you’re planning a company or anniversary party, booking a large boat for your group isn’t a bad idea. You’ll get the entire vessel to yourself, and the crew will offer you their undivided attention. Naturally, these kinds of trips are much less affordable.

Florida Keys Party Boat Fishing: Share the Magic

A group of anglers sitting on a party boat holding a daily catch of Blackfin Tuna

So, there you have it. Now that you know all about party boat fishing in the Florida Keys, you can decide whether this type of adventure suits you. Whether you’re a beginner just testing the waters, an amateur angler looking to introduce their kids to the art of fishing, or a seasoned pro who wants to meet new people, you’ve got your answer. Explore the Keys’ iconic fishing grounds without breaking the bank and share your experience with anglers from all over the world!

Have you ever tried party boat fishing in the Florida Keys? What did you catch? Let us know in the comments below!

The post Florida Keys Party Boat Fishing: A Complete Guide appeared first on FishingBooker Blog.

By: Lisa
Title: Florida Keys Party Boat Fishing: A Complete Guide
Sourced From: fishingbooker.com/blog/party-boat-fishing-florida-keys/
Published Date: Sun, 26 Jun 2022 10:35:00 +0000

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