The Key West Flats, located within the massive Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, is home to a large variety of fish species. Anglers from all over the world travel to Key West and the Flats just for the opportunity to try landing some of our treasured sport fish. The pictures and descriptions below are a sampling of the fish species available to our charter customers who fish the Flats.
The largest prize of the Flats, Tarpon are challenging to hook and harder to land. They love to thrash and jump out of the water, making hooking one an unforgettable experience.
Tarpon typically range in size anywhere from 25 to 80 lbs but can grow up to 200 lbs. Tarpon living in the Florida Keys are a protected species requiring the angler release the fish once pictures are taken. Presentation methods include lures and live bait. Whether you choose fly or spin casting, the experience of landing a Tarpon is one you'll remember the rest of your life.
A very rewarding yet challenging fish to catch, Permit can be spotted tailing in the shallows or just cruising a flat. Permit are a great fighting and visually beautiful fish.
Permit in the Key West Flats are normally between 10 and 20 lbs in size. One of the Keys Grand Slam species (Tarpon, Permit, and Bonefish), Permit can be found in the Keys year round although Spring and Fall tend to provide the best opportunities to land one. Using a live crab or fly, an accurate cast is needed to place the bait in just the right spot to trick the Permit to eat.
Caught with lures or flys, landing a Bonefish is a treat for any angler.
The average Bonefish is between 4 to 6 lbs in size. Bonefish are one of the most sought-after species in the Keys often referred to as the Grey Ghost, Silver Streak, or Phantom of the Flats. Fly fishing for Bonefish, known as Bonefishing, is considered an art. These fish can be hard to spot in the water as their coloring provides perfect camouflage in the Flats environment. Bonefish are a protected species so only catch and release is permitted.
Barracudas are a flats favorite. Aggressive, high speed, visual bites will leave your heart pumping with excitement,
Barracuda range in size between 5 to 20 lbs but are known to reach up to 50 lbs and over 5 feet in length. They can be found in the Flats year round. Larger Barracuda come to the shallows in the winter months seeking the warmth of the shallower water and abundance of prey. They are known to attack prey in short bursts of speed up to 27 mph. Barracuda can be caught using either fly or spin casting techniques. They are a prize catch for any sport fishing enthusiast.
There are a wide variety of sharks that call the Key West Flats home. We typically catch black tip, lemon, and spinner with occasional sightings of bulls and hammerheads.
Sharks caught in the Key West Flats can range in size anywhere from 3 to 10 ft. When caught on light tackle, sharks put up a long lasting fight that can tire the best of anglers. The top dog in the Key West food chain, aka the Tax Man, few fishing experiences are as rewarding as landing a Shark.
Pound for pound one of the hardest fighting fish in the backcountry.
Jacks typically range in size between 5 and 20 lbs. The Jack Crevalle is a revered gamefish that can be caught using either fly or spin casting techniques. It's beautiful colors and notorious fight make it one of the most satisfying fish to land.
Snapper are a great eating fish and fun to catch on light tackle.
The size of Snapper caught in the Flats is usually between 5 to 15 lbs. A variety of Snapper species can be found in the Key West Flats including Mutton, Mangrove, and Yellowtail. Methods for catching Snapper include fly or spin casting with lures or live bait.
Some of the other more notable species we catch in the Key West Flats include a variety of Grouper (Black, Red, and Gag), Cobia, Sea Trout, Pompano, Mackerel, and Snook, just to mention a few.
Although Key West fishing is excellent all year round, certain times of the year present better opportunities to target specific species than other times of the year. This table is meant only as a general guideline to show the typical seasonal patterns of each species in the Key West Flats.