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#9345507 - 09/25/13 11:16 AM Key West Florida Fishing Report
TarponFly Offline
TFF Celebrity

Registered: 04/28/05
Posts: 8315
Loc: Dallas, TX
Scooters rule the island. $45 a day. tons of parking everywhere for the scooters and I highly recommend them. You are stuck on the island is the only thing.

Taxi cost $14-$15 per one way trip to where ever you want to go.

Who knows how much a car rental is. Parking is a B if your in a car

About 2 weeks ago I hit Key West for a week. The first day I went out with ShowtimeFishing guide Alex. Caught Yellow Tails, Bonito, and Barracuda on the fly rod. The fish below peeled all my fly line off, and, all my backing off before I knew it, within seconds. I now own a 7 piece, 4 piece fly rod after that one.

The next day I walked out to the beach and hit the end of the rock jetties and picked up Mangrove Snappers every cast but they were small guys.

After the trip with the guide I hit the 2 fly shops on the island and asked them, " where can I find some Bone Fish, Tarpon, Permit, or anything to keep me busy while on the island." Every single one of them said there are no fish to be caught by a fly rod from the banks of Key West. They said you have to have a boat or head East to the other Keys. I looked at a map and decided that's what I am going to do then. I quickly realized that option is not a good option seeing as, we rented scooters for the week that top out at 35 mph. The HWY that connects the islands is 55 mph. So I was stuck on an island. So I pouted all day thinking im out of luck on fishing anymore and would have to hire a guide everyday to get my fix.

As you walk from restaurants to shops along the island, there are fish freaking everywhere. Every slip on the island is full of charter boats. 100's and 100's of them. So when they come back in from a trip, the fish know. The canals and slips are full of Tarpon, Snapper, Tropical Fish, Jacks...etc. They are just waiting for the guide boats to throw the waist over board and turns into a frenzy of gorging fish. And im not talking about small fish, lol. At one restaurant called Conch something, they have a Tarpon feeding at 4 pm. 40-200 lb tarpon swimming around there all day. It was killing me to see this majestic fish within touching distance and there was nothing I could do but watch them. Your not allowed to fish in the shopping areas for some reason! lol.......

Now what I am going to do, is, take all the scouting & recon out of picture for whomever decides to go there. Its a 2 mile island and I put 86 miles on my scooter. So I literally went everywhere on the island that was not private property.

So that night, I decided to go and see if I could find any lights shinning in the water near the beach and the sides of the roads. 11 pm at night the second night I was there, I loaded up my back up fly rod and headed out on the scooter to see what I could find. I noticed a pier in the distance and it had light on it! So, I hopped on the scooter and took me a whole 2 mins to get there. I walked out and started to stare in the water looking for targets. I got half way out there and I see a 5 ft shadow cruising the wall of the pier. It was a Tarpon! Made a cast and it quickly shot out into the deeper darker water. Walked about 10 more feet and saw another one. I shot the fly way out in front of the fish, about 30 feet in its cruising lane. This all happened within 10 mins of me getting there. 10 seconds later the arrives to where my shrimp fly landed and I gave the fly a small strip. BAM, the Tarpon hit it harder than I have ever been hit on a fly and shot str8 up in the air 4-5 feet, shaking its head and threw the fly right at me, and hit me in the chest. I still have a small welt from that one. I was using 20 lb fluorocarbon, so it had frayed my line up bad. I tied on another leader and walked another couple feet and then I saw 10-15 Tarpon cruising the lights, to 50 lbs or so. For the next 2-3 hours, I missed a dozen fish and only jumped 4 more Tarpon. On the 4th Tarpon, he broke my leader and took my only shrimp fly. They wanted nothing to with streamers or clousers, just that one shrimp fly I got from the fly shop. So I gave up and went back to the resort and took a nap. Got up at noon and went to the fly shop and grabbed 4 more flies, and cruised around the island eating stuff. The best seafood place is called the RAW BAR. Cheaper than all the others, but man the food is greatness. The Caesar salad was amazing, boiled beer shrimp, raw oysters, fresh catch of the days, poboys, and everything else I ate there was perfect. We ate at all the top places and this was by far the best for the money.

The above fly is what I was going into battle with. $7 fly. I will be tying up a lot of those before I go back.

That night I decided to go look for an easier place to land a fish. I left the Resort and turned left and drove for a whopping 2 mins till I hit a bend with street lights shinning in the water. The light went over the sea wall and casted a shadow, and I could see 20 or so baby Tarpon to 20 lbs smashing shrimp left and right 3 ft from the wall. Every night I hit this spot, I would hook a Tarpon on the first cast. These guys would hang out here till 730 am and then all the fish went out to deeper water where I couldn't access them.

Every fish here looked like the one above. I couldn't get them over the seawall due to no gloves and they were to strong when they would shake so I didn't want to break my fingers. Make sure u bring pliers to remove the hook and a flash light head lamp so you can see what you are doing. This spot is the easiest spot to fly fish and target the little guys. You really need good vision to see the fish in the shadows. 3 ft cast in front of their path is all that is needed for the babies.

Now, the next spot is impossible to catch them from the bank using a fly rod. So here at the bridge, you have to use 25 lb braid and 30 lb shock leader with a white fluke on a jig head.

At the bridge, the tide has to be running from south to north for them to show up. Otherwise you are wasting your time at this spot. If the water is going the opposite way, catch some grunts or pin fish. Cut them in half and chunk them out. snapper and sharks are thick here with beautiful reef fish swimming under the rocks you are standing on. While I was tring to catch bait, I would catch a fish that I have in my Reef Tank at home. Irritating seeing as to how I would spend $80-100 for that fish and I just caught it on some small pieces of free cut bait I just had caught. Anyways, at this bridge there are 10-80 lb fish smashing shrimp within casting distance of a spinning rod.

On the sharks, mostly Lemons and Nurse, they would come right up to the bank next to the bridge, looking for the cut bait I would toss in that was not need anymore. Very easy to catch. After the 1st 4 sharks, I was done with them. Not worth the hassle.

3-4 lb mangrove snapper here as well. They are closer to the pylons.

Just cast and slowly retrieve the fluke. Just reel it in slowly, no need to make it move. The snapper here smash it. When you hook into a tarpon, it just a hit, then when you rear into it on the hook set, all hell breaks' loose and the battle is on. I jumped 87 Tarpon on the this trip and only landed 26. Or 26 that I got to unhook or at least touch. There is no way your landing one without a big net. The rocks, seawall, and pier are just to high up to safely do it without breaking your fingers off.

Seeing a 6 foot Silver King ( AKA Tarpon) jump out of the water is freaking greatness!

I tried the GoPro thing at night, thinking maybe one would jump and I could see it on film, but all you can hear is a jump jump splash, and then a curse word. Just to dark.

The last night I started at 1130 pm and stayed out till 8 am. I went to the seawall spot and hooked on the first cast. Somehow my face time was working on my IPhone so I dialed my buddy Mike and he got to see the fish peeling line off the reel and could hear it jumping and thrashing around! Fun stuff.


#9345578 - 09/25/13 11:40 AM Re: Key West Florida Fishing Report [Re: TarponFly]
TarponFly Offline
TFF Celebrity

Registered: 04/28/05
Posts: 8315
Loc: Dallas, TX

Where the Purple pin is: That's the bridge you fish at night. and You will stand right on the corner and cast to the middle of the bridge like below:

The water has to be moving South to North. Otherwise, no fish.

Below is where the bridge is.

Seawall Spot:

The 2 spots above are on the South East Corner of the island near the airport. You walk from that very spot along the seawall till you get to the rocks and turn around and walk back to the end of the mangrove island and repeat till you see a target. They are only 3-4 ft off the wall. It is a 3-4 ft drop off you you have to hang off the side to unhook the fish.

White Street Pier:

Above pin mark is where the 50 lbers hold. Most of the other pin marks on the pier are just 20-30 lbers but lots of them! This is the hardest area to hook fish as they can see you very well.

I had to go to Kmart to gear up on spinning gear. I bought two rods for $30 each. While fighting the fish the handles bend out of whack, making it very hard to turn them. I will bring better rods and reels with me next time. I figured I would ONLY fly fish but the bridge made me buy them. Seeing and hearing 50+ Tarpon smashing shrimp was enough to put down the fly rod. Bit the pier and seawall spots are very fun on the fly. The shrimp fly is an absolute must. Smaller the better. I guarantee you if you go to those spots and the tide is right, You will have a blast. I couldn't imaging what would have happened if I Free Lined live shrimp........................... The Mother in Law is trying to find a nice house to buy down there so it looks like I will be there a couple times a year soon!

This trip was the slow season. I couldn't imaging what it would be like when the Tarpon move through on their migration.....

The locations I gave yall, that can make it down there are to a "T" I didn't keep any secrets to myself. There is however a military bas that has 100 lb tarpon swimming everywhere along the sea wall. Its legal to fish there, but they were doing Navy Seal training the whole time I was there at night. So they didn't like me being there one night so I didn't go back. Fun fun stuff. I hope you have an understanding spouce with you cause the best fishing times were between 11 pm and 6 am. Obviously my wife didn't care to much! No stopping me anyways!

#9346288 - 09/25/13 03:16 PM Re: Key West Florida Fishing Report [Re: TarponFly]
David Welcher Offline
Extreme Angler

Registered: 06/02/10
Posts: 1642
Loc: Weatherford
Went there super bowl weekend this year and stayed at the Key Lime Resort and had a freaking blast. Tarpon at the backdoor! And i fell in love with Konch Chowder! Wife went and swam with the Dolphins, I could definately live there!

#9349030 - 09/26/13 01:16 PM Re: Key West Florida Fishing Report [Re: TarponFly]
Mo Offline
TFF Guru

Registered: 10/08/01
Posts: 12029
Loc: Lake Palestine/Cherokee co

you really lived up to your screen name.

I have been there many times, never took any equipment and
fished on my own. Will have to try it next time.

good info



#9349399 - 09/26/13 03:14 PM Re: Key West Florida Fishing Report [Re: TarponFly]
Meadowlark Offline
Extreme Angler

Registered: 11/04/04
Posts: 2978
Loc: East Texas
Outstanding of the best I've ever seen on this forum.

I love Key West. It is a unique place.

Did you fail to mention the free range chickens? Gotta love those chickens.

#9350681 - 09/26/13 10:10 PM Re: Key West Florida Fishing Report [Re: TarponFly]
Mateo Clemente Offline

Registered: 03/28/12
Posts: 258
Loc: Fort Worth
Thanks for this report. I will be printing those sat pics out. I love key west.

#9350971 - 09/27/13 05:59 AM Re: Key West Florida Fishing Report [Re: TarponFly]
RexW Online   content
Extreme Angler

Registered: 09/24/02
Posts: 2972
Loc: Sherman, TX
Very nice! thumb

#9351462 - 09/27/13 09:46 AM Re: Key West Florida Fishing Report [Re: TarponFly]
TarponFly Offline
TFF Celebrity

Registered: 04/28/05
Posts: 8315
Loc: Dallas, TX

Forgot the Mangrove Snapper spot. Walk to the middle of the bridge where the pin is. Hop over the guard rail and sit down on the top of the support beam. Water has to be moving from north to south on this. I was Carolina rigging with a 1/4-1/2 oz egg weight fishing it on the bottom. I used finger mullet cut in half. The heads worked best due to the grunts and pin fish couldn't ripp it off the hook. Just cast under the bridge or let the water drag it under the bridge where ever you thing a pylon is. I grew up in Ft Myers, Florida. These snapper are the biggest I have ever caught in shallow water. If you have a place to cook fish at, you can fill the bucket within a half an hour. Big nurse sharks here too. I never tried live shrimp due to I was on a scooter, but I never had a prob catching the snapper while waiting for the tide to turn for the tarpon. I had a cop peek over and ask if the fish were biting. - I thought I was going to get a citation for being there. He wanted to know how long I was going to be there so he could come back and catch dinner! Lol. Aparently, its a local hotspot for snapper. If the tide is the "Tarpon Tide " south to north, you can still catch a few out from the bridge while sitting there, but all the dink fish tear ur baits up. If it gets dark and the Tarpon Tide is not there, you will see and hear tarpon smacking the water just out from the hotel pier. It will piss you off cause u can't get to them.

#9351550 - 09/27/13 10:11 AM Re: Key West Florida Fishing Report [Re: TarponFly]
That Possum Offline

Registered: 07/08/13
Posts: 359
Hey man thanks for the report! Like I said in my other post I'll be there for my honeymoon in Feb. We are both bringing our flyrods...I throw an 8wt and my girl throws a 6 in saltwater. As long as she can pick up some of those mangrove snapper, she's happy. I'd like to get after some permit or tarpon but I'm happy with anything that'll give me the time of day!

Thanks again for the pointers and the Earth images. They'll come in handy.

#9351552 - 09/27/13 10:12 AM Re: Key West Florida Fishing Report [Re: TarponFly]
rrhyne56 Offline

Registered: 02/16/01
Posts: 13218
Loc: McKinney TX USA
Probably one of the best fishing reports that has come down the pike in some while, probably ever.

Thanks Carey!
"have fun with this stuff"
in memory of Big Dale
RRhyne56, Flyfishing warden

#9351583 - 09/27/13 10:26 AM Re: Key West Florida Fishing Report [Re: TarponFly]
RexW Online   content
Extreme Angler

Registered: 09/24/02
Posts: 2972
Loc: Sherman, TX
Originally Posted By: TarponFly
I had a cop peek over and ask if the fish were biting. - I thought I was going to get a citation for being there. He wanted to know how long I was going to be there so he could come back and catch dinner!

That is a great story! police

#9361895 - 10/01/13 10:34 AM Re: Key West Florida Fishing Report [Re: rrhyne56]
Pro Angler

Registered: 01/19/04
Posts: 581
Loc: Little Elm
That mango pic makes me hungry.

#9400488 - 10/15/13 12:44 PM Re: Key West Florida Fishing Report [Re: TarponFly]
keebranch Offline
Extreme Angler

Registered: 04/01/07
Posts: 1338
Loc: Arlington, TX
years ago I went fishing for Mangroves with my dad- thosde were good times and tasty eating. Thanks for the tour...

Lightliner & creek fisherman

#9401619 - 10/15/13 05:34 PM Re: Key West Florida Fishing Report [Re: keebranch]
lconn4 Online   content
TFF Celebrity

Registered: 12/02/12
Posts: 6353
Loc: Cherokee County
Great pics and story. Lived in south florida for 25 years, one full year in Key West. In 2000, when I lived there, it was against the law to fish on Key West island from land after 10 p.m. Don't know if that is still the law but would check. As I often fished late into the night after getting off work, my favorite spot off the island was on the Key West side of Boca Chica Bridge. Its only three or four miles from Key West. The best fishing started after dark when the bridge lights had been on awhile to attract the bait. Literally hundreds of tarpon would hang just off the bridge shadow line along the quarter mile fishing bridge that ran parallel to the car traffic bridge. You could always catch bait with sabiki rigs or throw a castnet for finger mullet. Whopper mangroves, tarpon, and the biggest snook I've ever seen. It would be hard but not impossible to use a fly rod as traffic is at your back but I can't tell you how many times I've made the three hour drive from Miami to fish that spot over the years. Park on north side, fish on the south side along fishing bridge. Best fishing was along the first 60 yards from embankment. Check it out the next time your there. I was there two years ago and fishing was still great.

Caught on live finger mullet by a co worker that I took there. His first saltwater catch ever. That place is special.

A couple of lifelong fishing buds from Texas came down last time and we made the long drive from Miami just to fish that bridge at night. It didn't disappoint with the tarpon fishing as good as ever.

A good rule of angling philosphy is not to interfere with another fisherman's ways of being happy, unless you want to be hated.

Zane Grey, Tales of Fishes, 1919

#9414388 - 10/20/13 09:26 AM Re: Key West Florida Fishing Report [Re: TarponFly]
TarponFly Offline
TFF Celebrity

Registered: 04/28/05
Posts: 8315
Loc: Dallas, TX
That's a big snook. Never saw one bigger than 2 ft when I was there. Snook season opened the second day I was there. But not many around yet.

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