Escape the coldest winter on record with a fishing trip to Key West, Florida! It doesn’t get any warmer than this in the continental US and the fishing is world class.
Anglers come from all over the country year round to fish the Southernmost Waters – as if they are following in the wake of legendary sportsman, Ernest Hemingway, who first put Key West on the charts for its off shore sport fishing opportunities. While Hemingway targeted the big billfish in the deep waters of the Gulfstream, today’s anglers have broadened their targets beyond still popular marlin and sailfish – dinner is also on the menu: dolphin (mahi mahi), snapper and grouper top the list of species caught for the table. Dolphin is found offshore and snapper and grouper are often caught on the shallower waters of the coral reefs and wrecks. Tuna is another popular offshore target like the one below caught recently aboard the Windy Day!
Many anglers come for the fight, though, and you can’t match the big fish for the big fight – or can you? Key West anglers and captains developed a style of angling called ‘light tackle’ fishing, which uses a smaller rod and lighter weight test line to even up the match between fish and angler. This style of fishing makes any bite a fight!
The channels and flats of Key West’s backcountry also offers a distinct style of anglers: flats fishing. A guide and 1 or 1 anglers, at the most, quietly slip along the shallows and ridges, looking for the tell “tail” signs of permit, tarpon and bonefish. Shark and barracuda are also popular flats targets! As they say, “whatever’s biting!” But the ‘trophy’ hunter wants a Grand Slam: a Grey Ghost of a bonefish, a Silver King tarpon and the Bulldog of the Backcountry, the permit.
Charter Boat Row offers all styles of anglers for visitors to Key West who want to try their hand at angling. There are more than 35 charter captains and guides – from offshore, deep sea charters; flats guides, light tackle captains and party boats. “Party” boats take larger groups of anglers out to fish the reef and are perfect for a budget conscious angler or family fishing. Check out the “mess” of snapper caught recently on the Gulfstream:
And, of course, Key West isn’t only about fishing. While famous for fishing and other water sports, the Southernmost watering holes are equally world-renowned, starting with Hemingway’s favorite bar, Sloppy Joe’s, a must visit bar on any Duval Crawl. Other Duval Street bars, such as Irish Kevin’s and Margaritaville offer live music most nights, and be sure to sneak off the main drag and check out the Green Parrot on Southard and Whitehead. On weekends, you’ll find the best music east of New Orleans.
Key West also offers a wide array of fine and casual dining experiences and most restaurants will cook your catch for you if you bring them cleaned filets (the mate on your charter will do that for you, don’t worry!)
Even if you don’t plan to go fishing, you’ll want to wander down to the docks of Charter Boat Row and just see what they’re pulling in – you’re also likely to see tarpon at the docks and maybe even a manatee. No doubt you will see those ungainly pelicans hanging around, looking silly and hoping for a handout.