UPDATE TO MY FIRST ARTICLE, AS I’VE FINALLY KEYED INTO CATCHING FISHING AROUND THE BRIDGES OF THE FLORIDA KEYS!
On my latest trip to the Florida Keys, I wasn’t afforded a lot of time to fish while I was working. I was able to sneak in a few hours after my flight arrived and one late evening after work. I took the lessons from my first trip and put them to work the first day. It resulted in some small fish and even some that I have never seen before. The one thing I was missing was weight to get down and stay down in the currents.
My last night in the Keys I checked out the bridge going from Key West to Fleming Key. You do need a government ID to access this bridge. However, you can use the same technique at the many Key bridges along the way.
One thing I wish I would have changed was heavier and more durable line. The line I was testing out was extremely strong, but it was not very abrasion resistant. So I lost all my lures and all but one fish!
The thing I learned on the final night was getting down deep out in the main current out in front of the bridge. I used 2oz jigs with Z-MAN Diezel Minnowz and metal blade baits. I hooked up with quite a few fish and broke most off. I was able to land this nice Mangrove Snapper that evening. On a final note, the only saving grace, I brought my new Ardent C-Forcereel. The C-Force has plenty of drag to fight some pretty big saltwater fish!
On my first day in the Keys and after a long drive, I settled into my hotel and checked out the bar, and the bartender just happened to be a local fisherman as well. Steve was great with the info and told me a few places to check out and what bait to take. The reassuring part was the fact that the areas I had already discovered online and the baits to use, well those were already recommended earlier in the day.
The next day after work I set out to check the first few spots on Key West! I started out on White Street Fishing Pier. I spoke with a few locals that were fishing with squid of course and decided to break out the travel rods. On the pier, the popular technique, was the squid for smaller fish near the pier, then cast the smaller fish farther out for something better. I chose to ignore this and throw lures and jigs all to watch a few fish strike and follow my baits.
I moved on to fish a few more spots working towards the airport. Heading towards the airport the spots I chose were; the corner of Bertha St & S Roosevelt Blvd, the third rock jetty on Smathers Beach (all were recommended), and the corner near the airport where S Roosevelt heads north just past the Best Western. It was at this corner I had my first strike from a small barracuda. I also spoke with a local, who again recommended squid, hum…shocker!
My final day, I took the some of the advice and bought bait, well not squid but shrimp from a pretty cool tackle shop and bar. Key West Bait and Tackle is a pretty cool little hangout, not only to get bait but talk with some locals as well. I got the shrimp and headed to Fort Zachary Taylor and fished the rock jetty next to the beach.
I set up on the rocks and decided to try my lures again just in case. Well just in case nothing decided to strike. I tied on a small jig with the shrimp and proceeded to feed the local population of very small fish with my shrimp. Those little….kept stealing my shrimp…… I decided to pull out the Berkley Gulp shrimp that I brought with me and put a very small piece on. If you leave the jig in place just barely moving it with the Gulp, you will catch smaller fish near the rocks by the shore. I did catch a small bait fish and threw it out on my bigger rod and proceeded to try to catch more bait.
I did manage one decent fish to the shore but I have no clue what it was. It did put up a good fight, which most saltwater fish seem to do.
Within minutes, I had something pulling line off my reel. Something so BIG, it literally took all my line….:( I spooled back up, but could hook any smaller fish with the power bait so I put on a couple of shrimp and chucked it back out in the deeper water. Again, within minutes the line began to scream until……wait for it…….snap. No more line….. At this point, I didn’t have any heavy sinker left and just used the rest of the shrimp to find the local population living amongst the rocks. In the end, I had a good time and got some well-needed sun. Just wished I would have listed better. Maybe next time in Key West!
Recommendations for shore fishing the Keys and Key West.
The best bait to use to avoid the bait stealer is squid and Berkley Gulp. Any shiny for barracuda! Small jigs with bait to catch more bait. Then send the smaller bait or the bait you bought farther out to deep water to catch something else. I’m very confident that this info will bring you luck in the Keys, that I on my next trip I promise to follow my own advice and use this info and let everyone know how it works.
I was lucky enough to be able to travel to Key West for a work trip and a last minute one at that. So with Key West travel and booking things late, all meant I had to drive from Miami to Key West. It is a 3 plus hour drive depending on traffic, so why not take advantage of the trip to check out the shore fishing on the way down and opportunities to fish from the shore. Now, I’m not going after any trophy fish or highly targeted species, just looking for something to catch after work for some entertainment. Some people might get caught up in the Key West nightlife and the happenings on Duval St. However, I chose to spend my extra time scouting the local fishing scene.
So I should frame this post as what not to do because obviously you will find out I didn’t take the advice of multiple people I talked to. I least I can say I tried something different. Shore fishing the Florida Keys is really simple and try to listen to the advice, that I chose to ignore and you will find success fishing the Keys!
I started the drive down with at stop at the Islamorada World Wide Sportsman or more fondly know as Bass Pro. I was lacking a heavy duty travel rod and the local Bass Pro in Baltimore did not have what I wanted. There I picked up a new Tsunami travel boat rod, and what I great investment that was (review to come!) While there I also took the time to check out the area. This is a great stop to find motivation to fish the shallows of the Keys. The docks surrounding the Bass Pro are covered in HUGE 5-6ft Tarpon, which is lazily cruising around knowing that they are being left alone! That site alone had me all amped up to go fishing.
As I got back to the drive to Key West I made a few stops at various bridges and keys to check things out and see what the locals were catching. It seemed most people were having luck with various grouper, snapper, and barracuda near all the bridges. On the drive down the most notable bridges that seemed to be producing and popular with the locals; Indian Key @ Indian Key Channel, Lower Matecumbe Key @ Channel Two, the bridge between Long Key and Duck Key. If you want to throw a fly a decent place I scoped out was at Bahia Honda State Park. The front side of the island around the beaches and near the bridge, with the right wind, looked so promising for a fly rod. However, the wind was not cooperating with me that day so I moved on. The ranger at the park did tell me when the wind is right, so is the fishing! This is where I ended my day and headed to the hotel as the sun was setting.
Recommendations for shore fishing the Keys.
Honestly, if you can find a bridge or a spot on the side of the road to fish, you are going to catch “something”! The reoccurring fishing theme for the various bridges was fresh bait, shrimp or squid. I high recommend two rods. One set up with a small jig head and bait it with squid to catch smaller fish. Then throw out the smaller fish on circle hooks to catch something bigger!!! The best bait to use to avoid the bait stealer is squid and Berkley Gulp. Any shiny baits or lures for barracuda! Small jigs with bait to catch more bait. Then send the smaller bait or the bait you bought farther out to deep water to catch something else. I’m very confident that this info will bring you luck in the Keys, that I on my next trip I promise to follow my own advice and use this info and let everyone know how it works.
While this is a not a complete list of places, it is a start to discover shore fishing the Florida Keys!
Joe, The National Angler