WHERE TO FISH: Let’s go to the Florida Keys!

If you’re in the continental United States for the most part we are all in the same boat except for some lucky key areas, meaning it’s still early Spring, our weather patterns have not settled in and fishing as a whole is questionable from day to day as we anticipate warmer months. Which leaves us scouting the map for a location to feed our fishing habit.

For this piece on Where to Fish we head to the Florida Keys. 

The Florida Keys are far from a kept secret and likely land on the top of many serious anglers’ “bucket list” destinations, deservingly so! Many shows including our own Local Knowledge have well documented what the Keys have to offerIf you haven’t experienced the keys firsthand then you’re in for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I very consciously chose the Florida Keys for my inaugural Where to Fish because I truly believe it NEEDS to be on every West Coast angler’s must-hit list.

Primarily because of the endless options. I’ve been lucky enough to fish down there a half dozen times or so. Not a single trip has been even remotely similar and every time I leave wanting more. Feeling as though I have barely scratched the surface. It doesn’t matter what type of fishing (or world-class diving) you’re into, the Keys have it, as overplayed as that may sound, it’s a place like no other.

If chasing offshore pelagics is your cup of tea, the Keys will be to quench your appetite while you pitch bait tailing sailfish, trolling for wahoo, watch high flying kingfish blow your baits out of the water, and if that’s not enough there’s always full speed light tackle assault on blackfin tuna & mahi mahi (dorado) to get your heart pumping.

Looking to target the bottom? It’s hard to argue there’s a better destination for it or at least one with more diversity. Snapper and grouper on the reefs & wrecks are a must. Venture to deeper water for queen snapper, pomfret, tilefish, and other amazing eaters. Also, for those who prefer to roll baitless, it is a jigging fanatics paradise. Just ask one of our favorite contributors Benny Ortiz who’s a frequent visitor to test out his slow-pitch arsenal in these waters.

The Keys inshore and backwater scene is where the difference in their fishery vs. our home Southern California Bight fishery becomes undeniably evident. Tarpon fishing between the bridge pilings is a wild scene for us left coasters who aren’t accustomed to such big gamefish coming into protected bays, in just a few feet of water. Bonefish and permit on the flats are atop my personal fishing bucket list and a claim to fame in itself. The backwater fishery of the Florida Keys is a completely brand new fishing adventure that will blow your mind. This accessibility to a coastal fishery in protected water is so unique to us. It makes for a completely different experience than we’re used to on the water, something I can’t recommend enough.

Last but certainly not least, the Keys lay claim as the birthplace of modern daytime deep drop fishing for the gladiator of the sea, Swordfish. There’s a reason that daytime swordfishing was mastered here, underwater structures lining up with the famous Gulfstream currents make this a purple fish-rich environment. If your bucketlist is to bag a sword they have both the volume and size of fish to make it a top destination. Plus some of the best of the best in the broadbill game, like Nick Stanzyk, call these waters home.

So, with all the options, where do you start? 

I would say slide Key West into the top slot. You can fly into Key West via popular airline hubs (think ATL, HOU, etc.) or my recommendation, fly into Miami and rent a car. Driving down the iconic Highway 1, alongside the old Bahia Honda Bridge, gives you a better feel for how deeply rooted fishing is in the culture is well worth the easy 3-hour journey. Whatever you do, make sure to stop in on the Square Grouper on Cudjoe Key (also an Islamorada location). Key West offers a bevy of Airbnb options or nice hotels. But during your time on land, make sure to hop on a bike to get the local feel for the Key West lifestyle.

As far as fishing charters go, Captain Rush is the real deal. He’s a born and raised Keys native and despite the Local Knowledge TV fame, one of the hardest working captains you will meet. Make sure to connect with Rutchy at https://www.odysseafishing.com/ and heckle him if you do jump on with him.

Another Key’s native and multi-generational fisherman is Chris Trosset at http://reelflykeywest.com/, son of Key’s legend Robert “RT” Trosset. Being born fully immersed in his backyard fishery since day 1 gives guides like Chris a deep understanding of how spots fish in certain conditions. Always have multiple options on tap for clients.

Working back up the Keys, Marathon is home to one of the larger household names in the sportfishing community – Two Conchs Charters https://www.twoconchs.com/. With a fleet of boats and experienced captains, Two Conchs has just about any of your desired fishing experiences covered. Unique offerings from the Two Conchs crew include their Fish Camp and Kids Fish Camps. Pairing multiple on-water fishing days with practical seminars. 

Another favorite spot and is an easy day-tripping distance from South Florida is Islamorada. Although, here is best enjoyed at a slower pace over a couple of days. Islamorada is an angler’s paradise that boasts some incredibly fishy home bases. Bud N Mary’s marina is a staple in the community and home to aforementioned sword great Nick Stanzyk at https://daytimeswordfish.com/ as well as other well-rounded charter captains. Just up and across the street are the Bass Pro Shops and full amenity World Wide Sportsmen marina. Home to yet another fishy fleet of charters including the brother team Ryan and Scott Wenzel of 4Reel Fishing https://4reel-charters.com/.  

The bottom line is if fishing is your forte you can’t go wrong anywhere in the Keys. No matter your modality, there’s an opportunity for every angler. And bring the family too as there’s so much to do especially those visiting Key West. Bump it to the top of the bucket list and thank us later!

Jordan Jennings grew up boating and fishing the lakes of his home state of Michigan. Cutting his teeth on the bass, salmon, perch, and pike of local inland lakes. His passion grew into saltwater fishing on the Gulf of Mexico when visiting family in Florida. He was lucky enough to come from a family ...