Florida Keys Lure Fish Year-Round and Offer Exceptional Angling Experience
FLORIDA KEYS — Heralded as among the world’s premier saltwater sportfishing destinations, the Florida Keys & Key West offer sensational year-round fishing opportunities. Ideal geographical location, beautiful weather and flourishing fisheries combine for exceptional fishing.
Warm, nutrient-rich waters from the Caribbean Basin pour into the Straits of Florida, combining with water flowing out of the shallow-water nurseries of the Everglades and Florida Bay to create a profuse food chain. That in turn sustains massive amounts of bait fish, which attract abundant stocks of game fish to the Keys.
The proximity of the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and Florida Bay provide anglers the opportunity to fish more than one body of water within the same day and capitalize on the variety of fisheries.
It is not uncommon for captains out of Key West to fish the Gulf of Mexico in the morning and the Atlantic Ocean in the afternoon. Further up the island chain, anglers can fish for sailfish and dolphin offshore during the day and bonefish or tarpon inshore during the late afternoon and early evening.
Uniquely situated between the Atlantic and the Gulf, the Keys benefit from ocean breezes that keep temperatures moderate year-round. Key West’s average daytime high is 81.9 degrees Fahrenheit, with similar readings throughout the islands. The short-sleeve weather and clear blue skies of winter, and the brief summer showers, permit anglers to fish on a daily basis.
Conservation efforts designed to enhance fish stocks have been in the forefront of Florida Keys sport fishing for decades. Catch-and-release fishing, followed by size and bag limits, and bans on gill nets and fish traps in state waters enable stocks to stabilize and grow.
Pelagic (migratory ocean fish), flats and reef species are plentiful throughout the Keys, and world records attest to healthy and productive fisheries.
According to the International Game Fish Association in Dania Beach, Fla., the Keys are home to more sport-fishing records than any other destination in the world. In recent years, the waters surrounding the Keys have produced an annual average of nearly 15 percent of all IGFA saltwater world records.
Sailfish and dolphin (the fish, not the mammal) are two of the most popular offshore species pursued in the Keys. Winter is prime sailfish season while dolphin is the focus of the summer months.
Flats fishing, or hunting in shallow water, focuses on the “big three” — tarpon, bonefish and permit. The top season for tarpon is April through July, and permit and bonefish are most active spring through fall, although many flats species can be targeted year-round.
Anglers seeking to wrestle monster denizens up from Keys reefs and deep-water structures continue to report excellent catches. Primary targets are snapper and grouper, which are available year-round.
Abundant and healthy fish stocks, as well as world-class fishing captains and guides, are among the advantages of fishing in the Keys. Offshore, inshore, backcountry and flats charters are available throughout the island chain with skippers who know how to catch fish regardless of the conditions.
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