Printer icon

Tips On Finding The Best
Key West Fishing Guides

The famous Florida Keys backcountry is where Key West fishing guides are most at home. This is also one of the most popular angler destinations for fun flats fishing trips.

They know the best flat fishing techniques, and they know the clear flats and channels like the back of their hands.

They're equally familiar with the vast assortment of fighting Key West fish.

They'll guide you out into territory where IGFA records are routinely broken. A place where men bend to the whim of the mighty tarpon and the wily bonefish.

This is where man tests his skill and endurance and where bragging rights are duly earned. This is why people live to fish Key West Florida.

Fishing Key West is more than a dream of devoted anglers and novices, it's an exciting mix of soothing calm, and heart pounding action. It's where you can routinely expect the unexpected and where qualified fishing guides excel.

Whether it's your first time or your one hundredth time fishing Key West FL, you'll be surprised by the vast assortment of wildlife. The air and the trees are filled with numerous species of birds. The shallow, crystal clear water teems with dolphin, manatee and an abundant variety of feisty Key West fish.

Tarpon Fishing Key West

Key West Tarpon Fishing
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, Dale M. McDonald Collection

Choosing The Best Key West Fishing Guide

Florida Keys flats fishing is one of the best ways to spend time out on the water, relaxing and catching a wide spectrum of fish. However for many anglers, the idea of Key West flats fishing seems to offer that extra little edge or enticement.

Of course even the best laid plans can spell disaster when it comes to fishing trips if you're not careful. Especially when it comes to fishing, if you're unfamiliar with the water, and the species of fish to be targeted, you'll usually end up with a less than satisfactory day unless you go out with one of the better qualified Key West fishing guides.

To be the best of the fishing guides in Key West or the rest of the Florida Keys, you must have the essentials. This means having the right equipment and the right Key West flats boat.

Key West fishing boats need to be comfortable enough to accommodate gear and passengers. The Key West flats boat needs to be fast so you can get where you're going, and hurry back if weather threatens. Being the best also means you need to have an intricate understanding of the water, the tide, the Key West FL weather, the channels, and the fish.

Key West fishing trips can easily be ruined by hiring the wrong Key West flats fishing guides. If the Keys fishing guide lacks the necessary experience or has improper or poorly functioning equipment, your odds of catching Key West fish decrease, and your time on the water is less enjoyable. That's why finding the Key West flats fishing charter company with the necessary credentials is vital.

As in life, there are no guarantees when it comes to Key West fishing trips. Fishing after all is called fishing not catching, and for good reason. Fish are finicky, Key West FL weather can be tricky, and sometimes no matter what you do, you'll catch nothing more than a whiff. However, you can expect your odds to get worse if you hire a Key West flats fishing guide who isn't a true pro.

Aerial of Key West Flats

Aerial of Key West Flats
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, Dale M. McDondald Collection

A day spent on the clear shallow flats fly fishing Key West is meant to be fun. If you're out on the water with a Keys fishing guide who knows where to go, and how to present the lure, fly or bait to the targeted Key West fish, it will be the ultimate experience.

It also takes effort and time to be the best of the best and learn the right flats fishing techniques. Years of fishing the backcountry translates into knowing the secret hot spots where fish like to congregate. It's carrying the right bait, flies, and lures, and understanding how Key West fish move and feed.

Plus in the Florida Keys backcountry, Key West fishing guides should be highly adept at using both fly and light tackle. They need to know which side of the islands to fish depending on the way the wind blows, so you're in calmer water and able to easily pole around and sight fish.

Not only can a true pro help an angler cast and properly present the bait or lure to ensure a bite, they need other credentials. A good sense of humor, a liberal amount of patience, and the ability to place their client's welfare above all else, is imperative for a quality Key West fishing vacation.

The better Key West fishing guides know they have to get you where you want to go quickly. They're boat should be specifically designed to easily handle the shallow waters of the Florida Keys flats.

The Key West flats boat should also be built for speed, and if the water's good, you could be casting for permit or bonefish at the beautiful Marquesas Atoll in 45 minutes. Likewise, if you want to head north to Big Pine Key and stalk redfish and tarpon, you're usually about 45 minutes away from leaving dock.

This ability to quickly maneuver through the waters to the best fishing spots within easy distance of Key West, is one of the important criteria that should be factored in when choosing a Key West fishing guide.

Having a boat that is capable of moving on the shallow water and getting you quickly where you want to go also translates into better value and more productive fishing for you.

The Where And How Of
Flats Fishing Key West And Lower Keys

Key West fishing guides know that in the backcountry, quietly poling around sight fishing is the best of the flats fishing techniques. The ability to spot and target your fish amplifies the excitement. It also makes it's more challenging because even though you can easily see the fish, the Key West fish can just as easily spot you.

Understanding fish behavior is more than a science, it's an art. This is why experienced Key West fishing guides make the difference. They know that fish in the shallows are exceptionally wary and are easily spooked. Skilled Key West charter captains have the knowledge that makes the difference between hooking and reeling in that prize, or watching it swim away.

Florida Keys Fishing Guide Flats Fishing

Fun Flats Fishing Trip With Key West Fishing Guide
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, Jerry F. Simons Collection

One of the benefits of planning a fishing trip with a Key West fishing guide is the diversity in places you can go Florida Keys fishing. They can take you out on the flats and channels that run all the way up and down the Gulf from the mainland up to the Marquesas Keys - the only Atoll in the Northern Hemisphere.

You'll skim over the Florida Keys flats where the skinny water is only a few inches deep, and you'll catch fish in the rivers and creeks. You'll also find jack crevalle, shark, cobia, and barracuda congregating in the 6 - 8 foot deep basins.

Plus experienced Florida Keys fishing guides can make it possible for you to experience the thrill of a 6 pound bonefish ripping off 200 yards of your line. They can also show you how to catch a permit that will bulldog you for 20 tense and exhausting minutes.

A good Key West fishing guide also can take you tarpon fishing, out to where the tarpon come down the edges, rolling and poking their heads out of the water to breathe. Known as the silver king, this ancient fish is a prize fighter you'll want to catch on every one of your Key West flats fishing trips.

Tarpon are known for their aerial acrobatics and when combined with the way they'll pull off your line you'll experience a pure, raw adrenalin rush. Plus with luck, and 25 minutes of heavy pressure, you may finally land one of these brutes. If you rest, then expect an hour or more of hard battle before eventually reeling in one of these all time big fighters.

When fishing Florida Keys, oddly enough barracuda are one of the most underrated sport fish. This species is a true hard fighter that's worth targeting for the sheer pleasure of the fight.

If you're flats fishing and it's cold, it's common to see barracuda come out onto the flats in large numbers. Once hooked, these fighters will leap and jump in their desperate attempt to get free. Once a barracuda is hooked you can expect 3 or 4 pulse pounding hard runs before you successfully bringing them, and their razor sharp teeth to the boat.

Key West fishing guides also know that for many of their clients, one of the biggest thrills of being out on the water means Key West shark fishing.

Not only do shark jump, but black tips will spin, and in the flats of the Florida Keys backcountry you can expect to bring in plenty of black tip, lemon and bull. Ironically, the aggressive bull shark is the one most leery about accepting the live bait, but once hooked they're monsters at the other end.

Good Key West fishing guides also know that the fish you're targeting, eat by sight. They should know what type of lure, fly or bait to use, and be able to show you how to place the lure where it doesn't spook the fish.

This is productive fishing at it's best, and you benefit from their years of dedicated experience which has taught them the best flats fishing techniques.

› Key West Fishing Guides


Do you have anything to add? We look forward to feedback on what you've just read so leave me a comment in the box below.


Local Weather Zip Codes

Key Largo - 33037
Marathon - 33050
Key West - 33040

Fantasy Fest Pirate Costumes