May 24, 2024

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Stock Island fishing: the Complete Guide

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Stock Island is a true angling gem. As part of the mighty Florida Keys, how could it not be?! It’s nestled just to the east of Key West and to the west of Boca Chica Key. And, even though it’s relatively small, the island is home to a dazzling array of fish species. Fishing in Stock Island is something every Florida Keys angler needs to experience at least once in their life.

Whatever kind of fishing adventure you have in mind, you can find it here. Some fishing enthusiasts hit the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean, while others hunt for Tarpon in the flats. Stock Island fishing can be whatever you want it to be – laid-back or full of adrenaline.

In this guide, we’ll cover everything that makes this spot so special, from the most interesting species to spots, techniques, and more. So without further ado…

Top Stock Island Fish Species

With easy access to the Gulf of Mexico and beyond, Stock Island’s fishing menu features a lot of Florida’s top names. Lobster, Spotted Seatrout, King Mackerel… the list of your potential catches is as diverse as it gets. Let’s talk about the top picks in the area:


A view across the water towards a fishing boat near the Florida Keys, with people fishing over the side and a Tarpon leaping out of the water into the air a few yards away from the boat
Photo courtesy of Salt Creek Fishing Charters

Tarpon fishing in Stock Island is as good as it gets. The “Silver Kings” hardly need an introduction. They’re widely known for their strength, endurance, and acrobatic leaps. Local Tarpon can reach up to 200 pounds, displaying their might in the most dramatic fights. Combine their size with silvery beauty, and you’ll understand why Tarpon fishing is a must-try for everyone.

Thanks to the area’s tropical climate, Silver Kings are year-round residents in the area, fulfilling anglers’ IGFA Inshore Grand Slam dreams. However, the prime time to target them is during their spring migration, when they swarm the brackish waters in large numbers.


A teenage boy stands on a fishing charter, holding a large Snapper, caught near Stock Island on a clear day, with turquoise waters and blue skies with white clouds behind him
Photo courtesy of Reel Easy Charters

Snapper fishing in Stock Island also promises a thrilling adventure. From Mutton Snapper, recognized for their meat, to Yellowtail Snapper, and beyond, each species of the family is sure to test your angling skills. The local Mutton Snapper record of almost 30 pounds is a testament to the excitement that lies in wait.

Beyond Mutton and Yellowtail, Stock Island is also home to Mangrove, Lane, Red, and Cubera Snapper. These feisty fish are a joy to catch, always delivering plenty of action for anglers. Almost all Snappers are available all year round, although the warmer months are especially rewarding. This is when the fish move into shallower waters to spawn. Of course, there are certain restrictions and closed seasons for Snapper fishing. But more on that later.


An angler with curly hair, wearing a baseball cap and sitting as he holds a Grouper caught while fishing in Stock Island on a sunny day
Photo courtesy of Reel A Salt

When it comes to Grouper fishing, Stock Island is the place to be. The allure lies in the diversity of the species, their impressive game qualities, and, of course, the delicious meat. Similar to Snappers, there are several Groupers you can catch, with Black and Red as the absolute local superstars. 

In addition to those, you can also hunt for the gigantic Goliath, the elegant Snowy, the hard-pulling Gag, and the rare Scamp Grouper. Each of these guys is a story waiting to be experienced. Don’t take our word for it, though – head out and check it out yourself!

While some of these Groupers are typically caught in deeper water, you can find them pretty much anywhere. The fishing grounds range from the shoreline to patch reefs, wrecks, and bridges.

Mahi Mahi

A woman in a bikini and a man wearing a fishing a cap and neck bluff hold a large Mahi Mahi aboard an offshore sportfishing boat on a sunny day, with blue waters and skies behind them
Photo courtesy of Drop Off Sportfishing

Clearly, Stock Island fishing is all about hard-fighting fish. Mahi Mahi – or Dolphin Fish – are known for their strikingly vibrant colors which, combined with high-speed pursuits and impressive sizes, offer a memorable visual spectacle. As soon as you see one of these gorgeous fish leaping out of the water trying to throw the hook, you’ll be hooked on fishing for them yourself.

Spring is perhaps the prime time for Stock Island Mahi Mahi fishing. During summer, Dolphins are much less concentrated near the shoreline, so anglers venture farther offshore to find them. In fact, this also opens up the opportunity to hook into other exciting species like Wahoo.


A small boy steadies himself on the side of a fishing boat, as he attempts to reel in a Shark, visible in the clear waters, while a man helps him on a sunny day in the Florida Keys
Photo courtesy of Key West Fishing Connection

Stock Island is a fantastic destination for those who are up for a challenge. The warm waters and abundant food sources make this spot ideal for some of the most iconic predators – Sharks. Depending on the season, you can encounter Lemon, Blacktip, Bull, Bonnethead, Hammerhead, and Nurse Sharks, to name a few.

Each species offers its own unique thrill and excitement. Younger anglers can hunt the more manageable Blacktips and Bonnetheads. Meanwhile, more experienced sport fishermen can challenge their strength and endurance against powerful Hammerheads, Bulls, and Tigers.

Shark fishing in Stock Island is all about conservation. The majority of anglers practice catch-and-release without harming the species. Pro tip: opt for a nighttime trip and hunt for Sharks under the cover of darkness for even more excitement!


Two anglers in white shirts and baseball caps, hold a large Sailfish aboard a fishing charter in the Florida Keys, with the water behind them on a day with sunny intervals
Photo courtesy of Corsair 2 Sportfishing Key West

Last but not least, it’s time to mention one of the ocean’s most desirable game fish. Sailfish fishing in Stock Island is fantastic in all but the warmest months. The sight of a Sail, with its majestic fins and bursts of speed, is incredibly exciting. 

Local captains employ a variety of techniques to land these Billfish species, from trolling with live bait and lures to kite fishing. Catching Sailfish is considered the pinnacle of sportfishing, and Stock Island is no exception. In fact, if you go far enough off the coast, you can also find Blue Marlin and even some Swordfish for a Billfish Grand Slam!

How to Go Fishing in Stock Island

Regardless of your preference or experience level, fishing in Stock Island is about trying a little bit of everything. From bottom fishing to trolling, each fishing method has its own charm and challenge. Let’s go through the most popular techniques in more detail:

Stock Island Bottom Fishing

An angler fishing off the side of a boat in Stock Island, with a Shark on his line near the top of the water on a sunny day
Photo courtesy of Easy Does It

Bottom fishing in Stock Island isn’t as simple as just dropping your baited line near the ocean floor and waiting for the bite. The effectiveness often lies in understanding the habits and habitats of your targeted species, along with knowing where to position your bait.

A typical bottom fishing trip takes place around reef structures and wrecks, where Snappers and Groupers tend to congregate. Of course, there are other bottom dwellers you can catch in addition to these two species. All you need to do is book a trip with an experienced guide and get ready for a unique sense of anticipation! 

Stock Island Shore and Fly Fishing

A man standing just over knee-high in the clear, sandy waters of the Florida Keys, presenting a Bonefish to the camera in one hand and holding a fly fishing rod in the other on a clear day
Photo courtesy of Flying Fish Charters – 17′

Fly fishing in Stock Island allows you to immerse yourself in the tranquil flats, finding yourself alone with your rod. This intricate technique that allows you to tempt such impressive species as Tarpon, is as much about the hunt as the catch itself.

If you’d rather keep your feet on the ground, the tropical flats, piers, jetties, and bridges around Stock Island offer good shore fishing. You can cast a line into the bountiful waters to hook anything from Snapper to Grouper, Jacks, and even Sharks. Of course, as with fly fishing, it’s essential to understand local tide patterns and fish behavior. 

Stock Island Deep Sea Fishing

Just a few miles off Stock Island, you’ll hit the deep sea. Here, the bluewater holds a large array of trophies, such as Mahi Mahi, Sailfish, Marlin, and Goliath Grouper. While the challenges are greater, the rewards are equally impressive.

When deep sea fishing in Stock Island, you’ll be mainly trolling or bottom fishing. This technique involves a lot of preparation and the use of heavier tackle. Plus, anglers get to enjoy the view of Florida’s beautiful seascape!

Stock Island Trolling

Six trolling lines set up to fish from the back of a charter out of Stock Island, FL, on a clear day, with the wake of the boat and some white clouds visible in an otherwise blue sky and blue waters
Photo courtesy of Key West Sea Fishing

If you want to target pelagic species like Mahi Mahi, Sailfish, and Wahoo, trolling is the most popular method. The technique involves trailing a baited line or lure (or multiple) behind a slow-moving boat. It’s as simple as that. The bait mimics the movement of your targeted species’ prey, attracting large predators. 

Trolling in Stock Island allows you to cover a larger area, which, in turn, increases your chances of locating fish. Plus, this technique is versatile. You can adjust the speed, bait, and depth, so feel free to experiment! 

Stock Island Spearfishing

If you’re after something different, consider booking a real underwater adventure. Stock Island is a good place for spearos of all kinds that can’t wait to dive into the ocean and hunt fish with a spear or gun. Note that in order to be a real underwater hunter, you need to respect the ocean and its inhabitants.

Spearfishing in Stock Island requires swimming, diving, and angling skills at the same time. The reward is worth it, though. Common targets here include Lobster and some types of Snappers and Groupers.

Stock Island Charter Fishing

Stock Island charter fishing is the ultimate way to experience the area, whichever technique you have in mind. You can stalk the flats for Tarpon and Bonefish, drop lines over reefs for Snapper and Grouper, dive underwater for spearfishing, or head offshore to fight Sailfish. There’s always a charter boat with an experienced crew and a knowledgeable captain waiting to make your angling dreams come true.

Fishing in Stock Island with a local guide is a great option for anglers of all levels. All you really need is to book a trip with the right crew, sit back, and relax. All the gear, tackle, equipment, and licenses will be taken care of to make sure you have a successful trip!

Top Stock Island Fishing Spots

A view across the blue water towards a bridge connecting Stock Island, FL, with the rest of the Florida Keys on a sunny day, with traffic visible on the bridge and a few clouds above

Now that you have an idea of what to catch and how to go about it, it’s time to talk about the where part. The good news is, Stock Island boasts some spectacular fishing spots. Plus, Key West is just a 10-minute drive away! Here’s a list of spots for you to consider:

  • Cow Key Channel. This location is favored by many Snapper anglers, especially for its nighttime fishing opportunities. The calm waters of the channel reflect the starlight, while the depth, current, and structure attract a healthy population of Snappers.
  • The Boca Chica Channel. The channel’s unique structure and currents make it an ideal spot for some mixed-bag fishing. The list of potential catches includes anything from Snapper and Grouper to Sharks.
  • Key West Harbor. This famous deepwater channel is perfect for hooking large species like Tarpon, Snapper, and Grouper. Given its strategic location, the Key West Harbor allows you to fish for large game species without having to go too far out.
  • Geiger Key. Located just a few miles northeast of Stock Island, Geiger Key is perfect for both inshore and offshore fishing. You can hunt for Bonefish, Tarpon, and Permit on the flats, or head to reefs and wrecks for Kingfish, Snapper, and Grouper.
  • Sand Key Light. This historical lighthouse is known for its coral reefs and abundant Snapper, Grouper, and Yellowtail populations, along with Kingfish and Mahi Mahi. Plus, the views are absolutely fantastic!
  • The Lakes: Fly fishing and inshore light tackle enthusiasts can target Tarpon, Snapper, Jack Crevalle in various lakes in the area, including Garrison Bright in Key West.
  • The Wall. This is a legendary bluewater spot that sits just over 20 miles south of Stock Island. Here, the depths reach up to 2,000 feet, offering Marlin, Swordfish, Tuna, and Mahi Mahi fishing opportunities at the cost of just one boat ride.
  • Dry Tortugas. This offshore spot requires you to book a multi-day trip, although it’s definitely worth it. Anglers throughout the Keys call this location an “all-in-one” fishery, with potential targets including Sailfish, Dolphin, Bonefish, Groupers, and Snappers.

Stock Island Fishing Seasons and Regulations

There’s never a bad time to go fishing in Stock Island, with each season bringing about unique opportunities. For instance, spring sees the arrival of Tarpon, while summer is all about Mahi Mahi and Marlin. Fall and winter are ideal for Snapper and Grouper. In short, even a slow day in Stock Island is an active day anywhere else.

As a part of the Florida Keys, the island has access to both Gulf and Atlantic waters. It’s categorized by the FWC as Atlantic however, meaning you’ll need to check the relevant open and closed seasons for certain species, along with size and bag limits. Special rules apply to species like Hogfish, Red Snapper, Gag Grouper, Lobster, and Permit, to name a few. You can consult with your guide or check the current rules and regulations online.

When it comes to a fishing license, your captain will cover all the necessary permits for everyone on board. However, if you’re fishing alone, make sure to obtain a valid Florida fishing license ahead of time.

Stock Island Fishing FAQs

Stock Island: Unlock the Florida Keys

A view across the blue water out of Stock Island, FL, at sunset, with the sun setting over some distant land and a few clouds creating an impressive image

Stock Island is all about the deep connection between angler, sea, and the catch. Here, every cast matters. Anglers from all over the country come to Stock Island and Key West to seek the adrenaline rush of reeling in a massive Tarpon, the joy of catching a mixed bag of Snappers, or the excitement of wrestling a Sailfish. So, grab your rod, book a charter, and embrace the wonderful opportunities that await you in the world of Stock Island fishing!

Have you ever been fishing in Stock Island? What’s your favorite target? Let us know in the comments below!

The post Stock Island Fishing: The Complete Guide appeared first on FishingBooker Blog.

By: Lisa
Title: Stock Island Fishing: The Complete Guide
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Published Date: Mon, 10 Jul 2023 12:59:08 +0000

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