SAFC Pro Staff - Dan March 2nd, 2016
You’ll probably never find a place that’s quite like the Florida Keys. The island chain found off the end of Florida is home to some of the best fishing you’ll ever experience as well as more bucket list dive sites than you even knew existed. It’s the kind of place that stays with you from the moment you first get there and keeps you coming back for more, year after year.
The Florida Keys are something different to everybody. For anglers, they’re a fisherman’s paradise; for those looking to have a good time, they’re a fantastic nightlife; for the literary types, it’s a place to follow Hemmingway’s footsteps. Whatever you’re looking to get from the Florida Keys, chances are you’re going to get the experience you’re looking for and then some. The Keys are a coral island chain that runs south from the tip of Florida, covering a distance of approximately 130 miles and nearly every mile holds something amazing worth checking out—including the highway itself. Some of the bridges found along this route are breathtaking. The seven mile bridge was one of the longest bridges in the world when it was built and remains something that everyone should see at least once in their lives.
Tourism is the driving industry in the Florida Keys and the area sees close to 4 million visitors every year, with at least half spending one or more nights. With that many people passing through the area during any given year, there’s definitely no lack of options when it comes to places to stay. Options range from campgrounds to resorts, seaside motels and everything in between. Be sure to book ahead, though, occupancy rates can reach 80% or higher, and you don’t want to be left out in the cold when you’re looking for a place to stay.
When it comes to fishing, there’s absolutely no shortage of options in the Florida Keys. You can go offshore fishing for billfish such as sailfish or marlin, you can chase after mahi mahi or wahoo, you can reef and wreck fish for cobia, snapper and grouper, you can even test your might against sharks. You even have the option of venturing into the backcountry to target tarpon, bonefish and snook—anytime the words “backcountry” and “fishing” are paired together it usually means the experience of a lifetime, no matter where you are. If you get there during the right time of year, you also have a shot at diving or snorkeling for spiny lobster and, if you’ve never had the fortunate to catch and cook your own lobster feast, you’re really missing out on something wonderful.
Every angler must have a valid fishing license in order to fish down in the Florida Keys – from a private vessel or from shore. However, if you’re fishing from a charter boat, then you’re covered by the license of that boat and don’t need to worry about purchasing one on your own. There are certain species that require a special permit, such as lobster and, if you’re fishing in federal waters, billfish like marlin and sailfish, so be sure to familiarize yourself with the regulations before you get on the water. On a charter, the captain and crew will know the ins and outs of the regulations, but it never hurts to take a look through them yourself to make sure that the species you’re hoping to target is something you can actually go after. You can find the regulations for state waters here and if you’re heading out on to the Gulf of Mexico, be sure to review the regulations for Gulf Waters, as well. They can be found here.
If you’re booking a charter, most provide things like licenses, bait, gear and ice, along with the expertise needed to get you into fish. You bring a lunch, drinks and an idea of what to catch. Odds are, you’re not going to be disappointed. Fishing in the Florida Keys is a satisfying experience and you’re sure to catch at least one beautiful fish. It helps if you have some kind of a plan in mind when booking your charter since, “I dunno, fish?” isn’t going to help them create your ideal experience.
Set aside some time to just explore while you’re there. The Florida Keys are steeped in history and have attracted a lot of unique characters throughout the years. Getting off the beaten path a little can result in a lot of great finds, be it restaurants, views or experiences and they’re all sure to be things you’ll never forget.
Have you been fishing in the Florida Keys before? Tell us about your experience in the comments section below and help anglers just like you have the time of their lives.
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