Now that is a lot of fish
The Florida Keys easily boasts that it is the king of salt water fishing. More salt water records have been set in The Keys than any other destination in the world, by a wide margin.
The greatest attraction is the plethora of options fisherman have in The Keys. With over 500 species, it is unlikely you will ever catch them all.
When choosing a trip or charter you first must decide if you want to head far off shore into the Atlantic where the water drops off to almost 2,000 feet. This is the world of marlin, sailfish, tuna, grouper, sharks and more. On the other extreme flats and backwater excursions can be in water as shallow as 1 foot. A great guide can help you catch bonefish, tarpon, permit, snook, trout and others.
Light tackle boats can go almost anywhere and catch almost anything. These boats are faster and smaller but lack the conveniences of bathrooms, shade and even some air conditioning. You’ll have to balance these choices and trade-offs for yourself and your fishing party.
Hold on, there are even more options. Party boats are an economical choice where you share a larger boat with many others. They do not go as far out and you will have less help from your crew but common catches include snapper, grouper and dolphin (mahi mahi). No fishing license required.
But wait there is more! Wreck fishing and reef fishing are specialized targets. Don’t have the budget for a boat? You can fish from shore or off of one of 14 bridges between Mile Marker 73 and Mile Marker 11. See the list below.
How do you choose a crew and boat? The simple answer is ask lots of questions. Even if you like a boat and crew keep asking questions of other boats before you choose. This is easier if you go to one of the many Charter Boat Rows such as Whale Harbor in Islamorada or Garrison Bight in Key West. Some good questions and things to consider include:
- How much for 1/2 or Full day? Prices will generally be within $50 of each other. Don’t forget to budget for a 20% tip.
- How long to get to the fishing grounds? If you negotiate a low price, often crews will make up the difference by not going as far out onto prime fishing waters or going slow to conserve fuel.
- What have you been catching this week? There is no way to verify this of course but by asking numerous boats you will get a sense of what is being brought in by the charter fleet.
- Ask to walk onto the boat. Check out the head (bathroom) if installed. Is it clean enough for people in your party? Will you be comfortable on this vessel for 6 hours or more?
- Check the weather. There are many websites that can give you a sense of sea state, rain, wind and temperature. Are you a salty soul who can handle a rough ride or do you get sea sick by the dock?
Some important links:
Regulations for the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary http://floridakeys.noaa.gov/
Fishing Regulations http://www.myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/regulations/
Regulations for Recreational Harvest and Lobster Information for Monroe County
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