May 26, 2024

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Fly Fishing Key West – An Angler’s guide

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Are you looking for a unique, not-your-typical, fishing adventure? Or are you an experienced fly fisherman looking for a great location to hook into some nice fish? If you answered yes to either of those questions, then you need to consider fly fishing in Key West!

Photo courtesy of Flying Fish Charters – 17′

Fly fishing in Key West is a good idea for a couple of reasons. For one, the area boasts stunning scenery with miles of crystal-clear waters. As you travel along the flats and slowly troll by the grassy and sandy bottoms, you’ll also come across plenty of species. The diverse ecosystem in Key West and many game fish occupying the surrounding waters are simply unmissable.

Key West is also a hotspot for fly fishermen, not just because of its beautiful waters, plentiful habitats, and diverse marine life, but because it’s also a tropical getaway destination. There are many hotels, vacation rentals, restaurants, and bars, as well as plenty of activities.

An aerial view of Key West, with a cruise ship docked in the foreground of the image, the town on the right, and numerous islands dotted in the crystal clear waters all the way to the horizon

Excursions take the form of snorkeling and sightseeing charters, while there are also plenty of shops to stroll by, and there’s even an aquarium in town. The aquarium gives light to the many species that inhabit the waters of Key West, including ones you’ll want to go fly fishing for.

With that being said, Key West is a fly angler’s paradise. Whether you’re traveling alone or with the family, you are sure to have a wonderful time on and around the island. And while you’re here, you are sure to catch a variety of cool marine life! Now let’s take a closer look at that marine life.

Key West Fly Fishing Targets

You’re probably wondering what species you can target when fly fishing in Key West. Well, the answer to that question is simple – plenty!

Two female anglers up to their waists in the crystal clear waters of the Florida Keys, holding a large Tarpon, partially submerged in the water on a clear day
Photo courtesy of Outgoing Angling

The most popular species fly targets here are Tarpon, Bonefish, and Permit. These make up the “Inshore Grand Slam” but landing them is far from easy! Ranking in joint second place are Snook, Redfish, and Trout.

Of course, there are plenty of other species that inhabit the waters of Key West, like Jack Crevalle and Barracuda, all the way up to offshore Billfish. However, most fly anglers concentrate on the inshore waters for the species we mentioned above.

How to Go Fly Fishing in Key West

If you’re looking for a more laid-back, hands-off type of fly fishing trip, get yourself a guide to show you the ropes. You won’t have to worry about finding the spots or locating fish as they’re already experts at that. Some charter captains also provide the gear for you, so there’s less for you to carry around. If that sounds like your thing, let FishingBooker introduce you to some awesome fly fishing guides in Key West.

A rearview image of an angler fly fishing in the Florida Keys on a day with sunny intervals
Photo courtesy of Flying Fish Charters

But if you like to do your own exploring, that’s great! If you have your own boat, there are numerous marinas and ramps to launch from in Key West. Just keep in mind that these areas can often get pretty crowded, especially during the summer. It is a good idea to get there early in the morning – when they first open – to avoid larger crowds.

If you don’t have your own boat but prefer to do your fishing by yourself, that’s not an issue either! There are many options for boat rentals on the island and you can find one that suits perfectly for your flying fishing adventure. For experienced fly fishermen, kayak and canoe rentals are dotted all over the city as well, but it’s much harder to fly fish on a small craft.

The flats will probably be your best friend when fly fishing in Key West. When cruising around on the water, look for those regions where the color varies. The areas where you’ll see that mix of white, blue, and purple/greenish will provide you with the best chances.

The best method for fly fishing in Key West is to use a platform and sight fish – a cooler works too! You can use a push pole or a quiet trolling motor to maneuver around the flats and locate some cool species. Pull on the line to bend the rod, use your back-and-forth motion to build up the tension and allow for reaching a good distance, and cast your line in the direction of nearby fish.

Key West Fly Fishing Gear

Fly fishing is a form of fishing that uses heavier backing, braided lines, and a leader that allows for far casting of small, featherweight artificial lures. The entire setup usually varies depending on what species you are targeting. In Key West, you can find large Tarpon, well weighing over 100 pounds, so you’ll need a setup that can go up against them. Other species may not need nearly as big of a setup, so we’ll talk about two common setups.

An anfler in a blue shirt, wading up to his waist in the Florida Keys on a grey day, and holding up a Permit as he looks on in shock, with his fly fishing rod resting on his shoulders
Photo courtesy of Feelin’ Fishy Charters

A large setup most anglers will use when fly fishing in Key West consists of an 11 wt rod, a 7/0 reel, 20 lb Dacron, and 8 wt line. An example of a smaller setup is an 8 wt rod, 4/0 reel, 8 lb taper, and 4 wt lines.

You can choose whether you want to use dry or wet flies but pay attention to the action around. Are the fish sitting along the bottom? Use a wet fly. Are they coming up to the surface to eat? Use a dry fly. That will let you know which fly will be better to use.

Also, use flies that capture the attention of fish but don’t spook them too much. As the diet of most saltwater fish consists of whitebait, mullet, crabs, etc., find lures that mimic these and have similar colors. Some colors like purple, orange, and glittering neutrals also have been known to gain their attention.

Top Fly Fishing Spots in Key West

As already mentioned, the best locations that most fly fishermen flock to in Key West are the flats. The flats hold home to many species, small and large, and even contain large schools at times. These areas aren’t too deep, so they are perfect for trolling around and using a push pole. The sandy bottoms are mixed in with the grass beds, where many creatures are hiding within. As the waters are usually always very clear in Key West, you’ll probably be able to easily spot some fish roaming around.

An aerial view looking towards a fortress built on a key in the Dry Tortugas National Park in the distance, with a sandy strip leading up to it, splitting turquoise waters on a sunny day

There are also stretches of small islands and mangroves around Key West that have hungry fish close by. These shallow waters may also have some schools of bait hanging around, which will bring in the predators. Plus, if you get too hot and want to take a break, you can anchor up to the island, take a walk on the beach, and go for a dip to cool off. It doesn’t get better than that!

And, if you’re heading out on foot, there are a couple of areas where you can fish along the shorelines. I’m talking beaches, some marinas, docks or ramps, as well as some points and jetties. You’ll find some critters like to hang near where the people are in the hope of getting some leftovers! Be careful though, these locations may be crowded with boaters or swimmers at times.

Finally, while the next spot isn’t exactly in town, you’ll leave from Key West to get there. I’m talking about the Dry Tortugas National Park. A good amount offshore, this is a tropical oasis. Once there, you’ll be met with even prettier waters and scenery, and you can find plenty of hungry sea life around.

What conditions are best for fly fishing in Key West?

Fly fishing is best done in calm conditions. With the long distance needed to cast your lengthy line, topped with the extra light lures, you’ll want to make sure there isn’t any wind getting in the way. Find a warm, sunny day and you are sure to meet some great opportunities.

A closeup of an angler sitting on a fishing boat in the Florida Keys, holding a Redfish in front of him, with his fly fishing rod leaning on his shoulders on a sunny day with the waters behind him
Photo courtesy of Feelin’ Fishy Charters

Summertime is usually the best time to go fly fishing in Key West. Thi sis when the most popular species are heavily active. However, because Key West has a warm and inviting climate, a lot of organisms tend to hang around all year. Therefore, you’ll have the chance of hooking up to varying species year-round. However, if you have a particular species in mind, you should check out their seasonality.

But you’re not guaranteed a catch just by turning up in summer. Let’s talk about the time of day. It’s not a deal-breaker factor in fly fishing in Key West, but it does have its advantages. Mornings and evenings are usually the best times to find the most action. Meanwhile, nights can also be very productive.

Key West Fly Fishing Regulations

Before I let you go, I need to mention some regulations. It’s important to know what certifications you’ll need and what rules are in place when fishing in an area. This is especially true if you’re heading out for the first time.

An infographic featuring the state flag of Florida along with text that says "Key West Fly Fishing Regulations: What You Need to Know" against a dark blue background

In the state of Florida, you’ll need a fishing license if participating in fishing. However, if you’re younger than 16 or older than 65, you’re off the hook. The same goes for any angler fishing with a registered saltwater charter! You can find some areas for freshwater fishing in Key West, which will require a freshwater fishing license, but, let’s face it, you’re probably here for the saltwater critters!

You can secure your saltwater fishing license online or by phone, or by visiting any tax offices or select big-name sporting stores. Even if you aren’t planning on keeping anything, you’ll still need a permit.

When it comes to keeping your catch or what gear you are allowed to use, it really depends on the species. There’s such a large variety of fish out there and specific rules when it comes to harvesting. There may be varying open and closed seasons, minimum and maximum lengths, limits to amounts harvested per day, and limits that may apply to anglers or vessels altogether.

Some species may have no limits, or some may not be allowed to be harvested at all. And for some species, there are special permits you will need to purchase additionally. The best way to be sure you stay within regulations is to check the FWC’s website and look at each species’ harvesting rules.

Fly Fishing in Key West: Thrilling Action in Paradise

A view from behind of an angler fly fishing in Key West, leaning over the side of a boat, while a Tarpon leaps out of the water in the distance having been caught on a sunny day
Photo courtesy of Fish Finder Adventures

So, there we have it – another guide focusing on one of the most beautiful locations in the US. Key West truly is a sight to see, especially if you’re on the water. You’re sure to have a memorable day while you drift amongst the pristine waters and hang out with some cool critters while fly fishing in Key West. And you may even take home some dinner or catch your next personal best here! What are you waiting for? Get booking!

Have you ever been fly fishing in Key West? What did you target? Let us know all about your experience in the comments below!

The post How to Go Fly Fishing in Key West: An Angler’s Guide  appeared first on FishingBooker Blog.

By: Caitlyn Gatrell
Title: How to Go Fly Fishing in Key West: An Angler’s Guide 
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Published Date: Sun, 13 Aug 2023 09:30:52 +0000

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