May 24, 2024

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Key West Marlin Fisherman’s Guide

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Ah, Key West – a tropical escape filled with historic buildings, restaurants and bars, plenty of things to do, and beautiful sunsets. Everyone who comes here can’t help but fall in love with the place. As you walk down Duval Street, you’re met with smiling faces, rhythmic music, delicious smells, and… what’s that? People cheering by the marina? That’s just a party coming back from Marlin fishing in Key West!

Photo courtesy of Chelsea Charters – 48′ Willis Craft

If you’ve been in their shoes, then you know why they boast with joy. And if you haven’t, well, take a look at this article to find out what it’s all about.

I’ll introduce you to the Key West Marlin fishing scene. You’ll find out how to go about catching this bucket-list fish. I’ll also let you in on the top seasons and spots, along with regulations and more. So without further ado…

There are three main reasons why anglers flock to come Marlin fishing in Key West. The climate. The water’s depths. And the area’s marine diversity.

We’ll start with the climate. Key West is warm pretty much all year long, and its water temperatures reflect that. Marlin love warmer waters, and Key West can provide that for them. Since it’s so close to the equator, it stays hot year-round, meaning it doesn’t really have a true winter. With that, there’s no reason for the Marlin to leave, as they don’t ever have to escape the cold!

A view of a calm canal with boats docked either side of the water in Key West on a clear day

Second, Key West has access to deep waters, giving these beasts plenty of room to roam around. You can find both White and Blue Marlin in Key West, with Blue Marlin being the largest. Blue Marlin can reach up to 16 feet and can weigh well over 1,000 pounds. Needless to say, these fish need some room! White Marlin are on the smaller side but are still pretty big. Both can swim very fast, going over 50 miles per hour. Deeper waters will give them more room to swim freely.

To add, the marine diversity in Key West is well alive and thriving. There are countless species here, from tiny little crustaceans to these big Marlin and other predators. With that, it means plenty of food sources to keep bringing these guys around. Marlin will find plenty of their favorite snacks in Key West, which brings in more numbers of them.

Because of the above, Marlin continuously hang around the waters of Key West, attracting anglers from across the world. Anglers that aren’t afraid to face tough conditions and numerous hours on the water in the hot sun – all to get a chance at hooking into one of saltwater’s toughest species.

Key West Marlin Fishing Rules and Regulations

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

First things first, you’ll need a saltwater fishing license to participate in Marlin fishing in Florida. Starting at $17, you can easily get a year-long license online, by phone, or in person at tax offices or some big stores. However, if you’re heading out with a licensed saltwater charter, they’ll have your permit covered.

When it comes to seasonality, Marlin in Florida are able to be harvested year-round, as there are no closed periods. You are only allowed to harvest one per day though. And this applies per person, not per vessel.

You’ll also need to make sure your Marlin is above the minimum size limit. White Marlin must be at least 66 inches, while Blue Marlin must be 99 inches or bigger. If you’re fishing in federal waters, you’ll need an HMS Angling Permit while Marlin fishing in Key West. Once leaving the shore of Key West, you have about 9 miles out until you reach federal waters, so make sure you have a permit if you plan on going further.

How to Go Marlin Fishing in Key West

If you’ve got your own boat, then there are plenty of options for you. We’ll get into techniques, spots, and seasonality later on to help you maximize your chances. However, if you’re not sure about heading out on your own, I suggest booking a specialized Marlin fishing charter in Key West.

Two anglers look at each other as they struggle to hold a large Marlin aboard a fishing charter out of Key West, with a fishing rod and reel in the foreground and a woman in the background on a sunny day
Photo courtesy of Fishy Business Charters

Experienced guides travel almost daily out to the deep Key West waters and know all the tips, tricks, and techniques when it comes to Marlin fishing. They can get you on the water, take you to all the hotspots, supply the bait, and even all the gear you’ll. They make it easy so you don’t have to worry about having a Marlin fishing trip in Key West.

If you’re interested in finding the right guide for you, take a look at FishingBooker. You can select your ideal date, group size, type of fishing, and much more. They’ll hook you up with a captain (pun intended) and you’ll know you’re in safe hands!

Best Marlin Fishing Gear in Key West

There’s nothing more frustrating than engaging in a multiple-hour fight just for the fish to break off right when it gets close to the boat. Or perhaps you hook into a monster, and you only have a few seconds with it before your line snaps. Or, even worse, your rod breaks! When you fight big, strong fish, you need reliable, tough gear.

A common Marlin fishing setup consists of a conventional reel, usually a size up to 130, paired with a sit-down or stand-up heavy-action rod. A line of at least 80 braid, synced with a minimum of 300 lb fluorocarbon leader, is a good start. When it comes to hooks, you’ll want to use at least a 10/0 but if the surrounding fish are pretty big, you can always go up.

Experienced Marlin anglers also recommended using swivels, such as snap swivels or barrel swivels. Depending on which one you use, you may have a very long leader – a length over 20 feet – or a shorter one, such as 8 feet.

Another thing to note, a good amount of offshore fishermen suggest using a Dacron line additionally. Because of its strength and durability, it can put up against the pressure, tension, and strength of these high-energy fish.

What bait is best for Marlin fishing in Key West?

A number of trolling lines off the back of a fishing boat from Key West, trying to entice the bite of a Marlin in the clear waters on a sunny day, with the wale of the boat visible in the water
Photo courtesy of Key West Sea Fishing

The most popular method of Marlin fishing in Key West is trolling an artificial lure. Commonly used lures contain plastic heads with flowy skirts, allowing for plenty of movement in the water. Typically, they have eyes to resemble a bait fish, and some shimmer with glitter. You can probably find just about any color when it comes to these lures. The hook is hidden within the skirt to try and create a realistic-looking bait. You’ll typically troll these slowly or use them for jigging. Some lures can be trolled quicker to cover more ground while driving through an area.

Examples of live species that are known to entice Marlin are bonito, ballyhoo, flying fish, mackerel, mullet, and more. You can try out dead or cut bait too. With real bait, slow trolling will be the best technique.

When to Go Marlin Fishing in Key West

A marlin leaping out of the calm waters of the Florida Keys on a grey day, with the water and sky almost the same color
Photo courtesy of Cowboy Charters – Irish Cowboy

As mentioned earlier, Marlin reside in Key West year-round. Therefore, you have chances at hooking one throughout the year. However, your best bet will be during the summer and fall months. In summer, the water temperatures really heat up, providing comfortable conditions for Marlin. But in the fall, usually from October to November, the Gulf Stream moves inshore which also keeps them around the area.

When it comes to Marlin fishing in Key West, the early light of the morning and setting sun in the evening are the best times to get out there. Marlin, especially Blue Marlin, will be most active during these times, chasing schools of bait. They’ll breach through the surface, soar through the air, and slice up bait in an attempt to fill their bellies.

In addition to the time of day, tide is also influential for Marlin fishing in Key West. Plan your trip around any incoming or outgoing tides with strong currents. A strong outgoing tide will be the best choice, as bait will be pushed offshore towards these hungry Marlin. The strong currents will also stir up nutrients on the sandy bottoms, bringing in more eager species, further attracting Marlin.

Where to Go Marlin Fishing in Key West

An offshore sportfishing boat, complete with a flybridge and outriggers gently makes its way back towards Key West at sunset, with no other boat around it on the open waters of the Florida Keys
Photo courtesy of Drop Off Sportfishing

If you’re planning on going Marlin fishing in Key West, you’ll need to go offshore. These fish will rarely ever make an appearance inshore, so you’ll have to travel a bit to find them. Sometimes they may not be too far out, and other times you’ll have to go miles out to locate some.

Once you reach deeper waters – usually at least 250 feet deep – you have better chances at locating Marlin. If near deeper reefs or structures, it’s worth having a look here. Some Marlin hang around these areas to find more food sources. In addition, they tend to eat at the surface, so keep an eye out for any surface activity in deep, open waters.

There is actually a specific area out of Key West that many anglers and charter boats travel to for Marlin fishing. Known as “The Wall,” this deep drop-off 19 miles off the coast of Key West can reach depths of 2,000 feet. Many species fill this drop-off section, and Marlin is one of them.

Marlin Fishing in Key West: A Year-Round Thrill

A view from a dock in Key west towards a plush yacht at sunset, with lights from the yacht turning the waters green, with clouds visible in the sky and palm trees on the right of the image

So, there it is – the complete guide to Marlin fishing in Key West. If you’re like me, you’re probably itching to get out there to try it for yourself. It’s a lifelong, memorable experience for everyone who gets to come face to face with the strength and beauty of these beasts. So, what are you waiting for? Start planning your next trip to go Marlin fishing in Key West! You won’t regret it.

Have you ever been Marlin fishing in Key West? How big was your catch? Any tips and tricks to share? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

The post Key West Marlin Fishing: An Angler’s Guide  appeared first on FishingBooker Blog.

By: Caitlyn Gatrell
Title: Key West Marlin Fishing: An Angler’s Guide 
Sourced From: fishingbooker.com/blog/key-west-marlin-fishing/
Published Date: Sun, 03 Sep 2023 11:10:01 +0000

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