Fishing in the Florida Keys is a little like tropical sunbathing – there’s never a real off-season. If you arrive in time for a cold front, you can expect the sailfish to bite. During the long days of summer, you can prowl the waters for dolphin. But even if you show up on Islamorada in the dead of autumn, you’re unlikely to leave with an empty hook. No matter when you plan to arrive, these five fishing tips will help you get started.
How to Attract Game Fish
Free-line pilchards or cigar minnows on light tackle to attract choice game fish. You can make bait at Alligator Light, where these small fish dwell in the surrounding patch reef, about 25 feet under the water.
Check out the 409 Hump. Here, the Hump – a submerged pinnacle climbing up to 409 feet – pushes water and bait toward the surface, followed closely by choice predator fish, including dolphin, blackfin tuna, billfish and bottomfish. You’ll find the 409 Hump at 24 35.853′ N/80 35.459′ W, near both Islamorada and Marathon Keys.
Mahi Mahi, Not Flipper
Be on the lookout for dolphin. From your boat’s tower, it should be easy to spot them. Even in the off-season, dolphin fish are an excellent offshore fishing target. Have your man in the tower call out targets and cast off accordingly.
Check out the Bay
For shark fishing, check out Florida Bay. Out where the bay meets the Gulf of Mexico – from Man O’ War Key to the Twin Keys – you’ll find choice offshore fishing. Gather some barracuda to use as shark bait; they’re easy enough to catch on an incoming tide. You can also use any of the fish you caught previously – including dolphin and blackfin carcasses. To set up a chum line, string the bait on a short loop cable clipped to a trap float. The best time for shark fishing is in the morning. In no time at all, you should start to see some action from blacktips and lemon sharks.
Make the most of the Keys’ clear green waters. On a good day, you’ll enjoy excellent visibility, making it possible to spot dolphin from afar or narrow in on the perfect shark. As you chum for sharks, you’ll likely see a few candidates circling your bait. When you’re fishing in the Florida Keys, you can use the water’s pristine clarity to hone in on the biggest prize, and drop the bait accordingly. Still, you should keep in mind that most sharks will circle you very deliberately – often for quite a long time – before they finally sink their teeth into your hook.
Swing by Mangrove
Regardless of the target species or season, when visiting the Florida Keys make sure you stop by Mangrove Marina. Located at Mile Marker 91.7, on the Bayside, we also offer much more than the usual marina amenities – which include dry racks, wet slips, a boat ramp, fuel facilities, and a laundry room. We deliver a taste of paradise: our mangrove-encircled location is a world apart from the tourist-heavy hustle and bustle of city life. Here, at Mangrove Marina, you can really get away from it all.