It is always cooler out on the water than it is on land. That is a wonderful thing in Key West because summer on the island brings excellent opportunities to beat the heat while experiencing some legendary Key West fishing. June and July mean great Offshore Fishing as light steady winds set in from the southeast and create perfect conditions out on the open waters of the Gulf and Atlantic. Big schools of Mah-Mahi cruise the weedlines, a few Sailfish are still around on the reef edge, and some lucky anglers connect with Blue or White Marlin at this time of year.
A big Key West offshore Mahi-Mahi, or Dolphin Fish.
June and July are also the months when nearly every species of reef- and wreck-dwelling fish spawn. Dropping bait or jigs for Permit is a hot ticket as big fish gather to spawn near the deep and shallow wrecks out in the Gulf. The Permit spawn offers chances at these hard-fighting sportfish for anglers who may not have the patience it takes to pursue the elusive and skittish Permit across the shallow water Flats. When you are in the right place at the right time, dropping live bait with light tackle will result in numerous hook-ups and memorable fights with one of the most prized fish in Key West waters.
Summertime Key West Permit fishing.
Mutton Snapper are well-known for providing both fast fishing action and good eating when they spawn under the May and June full moons. Mutton Snapper are beautiful melon-colored fish that taste delicious and can grow up to 30 pounds. During their spawn, they can be caught in large numbers by fishing at night with live bait such as ballyhoo, herring, minnows, or pinfish. The Mangrove Snapper is another summer favorite among the Snappers. They are a good-eating fish that spawn on the reef June through August and are a lot of fun to catch on light tackle. Large Mangrove Snapper can be found on the hard coral reef, usually in about 50 feet of water or so. Big schools of smaller fish hang around mangrove islands where the shallow water drops off into deeper back-cuts beneath the edges of the islands. The Mangrove Snapper is a great kid’s fish because they are easy to find and catch in large numbers.
A nice mess of Mangrove Snapper.
For the serious summer fisherman, the search for the Key’s Big Three is a prime objective. If you dream of reeling in a Tarpon, a Permit, and a Bonefish all in one day of Key West fishing, now is the time to do it. Tarpon fishing has been great this spring, and the big Silverkings are still around in Key West harbor and some of the back country channels and basins. Get an experienced guide and head out in the early morning with crabs, artificial soft baits, or saltwater flies.
As the day goes on, run over onto the Flats to search for shots at Permit, which can often be spotted with their tails waving above the water’s surface as they feed. Your guide will move the boat silently toward the fish, then it is up to you to drop a live crab or a crab-imitating fly just the right distance in front of the feeding fish. This combination of stealthy hunting and fishing is so addictive that many fishermen dedicate nearly all of their time (and money) to chasing Permit across the Florida Backcountry waters.
Fly-fishing on the Key West Flats.
Bonefish are another Flats sight-fishing challenge. They are relatively small as Key West game fish go – up to 19 pounds and 35 inches long, but the skill needed to stalk and hook these fish and the power of their reel-stripping first run make the Bonefish legendary as one of the premier sport fish of the Caribbean. Called “Grey Ghosts”, Bonefish blend into the white sand Flats and turtle grass meadows so well that an experienced and skilled eye is needed to spot the fish. Guides look for ripples of water or clouds of mud raised by feeding fish. Bonefish can be caught on live shrimp, and they are famed among saltwater fly fishermen who try for hookups with crab- and shrimp-imitating wet fly patterns.
Whether you are after the Big Three, a big fish dinner, or simply some big family fun, summer is the perfect time to try out some awesome Key West Fishing. Let Cool Key West or Fish Key West help you get set up for a day on the water that you will never forget.