Key Largo and Key West are both popular vacation destinations in the Florida Keys. Both islands offer beautiful scenery, tropical climates, exciting attractions, and — you guessed it — excellent fishing. Whether you book a charter or find your own fishing spot offshore, you can catch countless fish species off both islands.
According to the experts, Key Largo is best known for wreck fishing, while Key West is best known for flats fishing, but both provide an array of fishing opportunities. If you’re planning a trip to the Florida Keys, you might be wondering which island is the better fishing spot overall. Here’s a breakdown of Key Largo vs. Key West fishing.
Key Largo Fishing: Types of Fish and Best Time to Fish
Key Largo, the “Diving Capital of the World,” is a great location for wreck fishing. The island features a ton of shipwrecks, which are notorious for providing refuge to marine life. Many fish, including large amberjack, grouper, snapper, and hogfish, swim around these parts.
When visiting the area, you can book a charter with experienced captains who know the best fishing spots. This is an especially popular option in Key Largo, are much of the waters are protected and do not allow fishing. These sanctuary zones keep the reefs protected and other marine species and habitats. Thankfully, charters will ensure you’re fishing in the right locations.
Depending on the fish species you’d like to target, different months and seasons are better than others. Specifically in Key Largo, if you’re fishing for sailfish, tarpon, spotted seatrout, mahi mahi, or cobia, you’ll find the most success between April and September. If you’re fishing for amberjack, grouper, and king mackerel, you’re bound to catch more fish from November through March.
Key West Fishing: Types of Fish and Best Time to Fish
Key West makes for incredible flats fishing, as it is surrounded by areas of shallow water that feature fish like bonefish, permit, tarpon, snook, lemon shark, and yellowtail snapper. In many areas across Key West, you can also alternate between sight fishing and fly fishing.
Additionally, if you choose to book a charter, you can even venture into Cuban waters for various types of fish. Local guides and captains can show you the most prosperous fishing spots in Key West.
Whether you choose flats fishing, offshore fishing, backcountry fishing, deep sea fishing, reef fishing, or even wreck fishing, you’re bound to come across various species. In particular, deep sea fishing might award you marlin, sailfish, dolphin, tuna, kingfish, and wahoo. On the other hand, flats fishing will help you hook anglers and trophy fish. The Key West bays are home to Sea Trout, Pompano, and Jacks, while the backcountry features tarpon, cobia, snapper, and grouper. You might even come across barracuda and sharks on your fishing adventures.
Depending on the species of fish you want to catch or the type of fishing you’re planning, you will have more success during certain months/seasons than others. Specifically, if you’re reef fishing, you’ll find luck year-round; deep-sea fishing is best during the spring through the summer, especially if you’re fishing for mahi mahi.
If you’re fishing specifically for grouper, yellowtail, or marlin, plan a trip between May and September. For sailfish, tuna, cobia, mackerel, and jacks, try September through June. Additionally, kingfish are best caught through the winter between January and March, while barracuda are known to bite year-round.
Which Florida Key Has the Best Fishing: Key Largo or Key West?
Most people agree that Key West is the better fishing spot of the two due to its many fishing locations, annual fishing championships, and tournaments. On the other hand, Key Largo has more protected water areas that prohibit fishing, making it a little less accessible.
Some of the best fishing spots in Key West include:
- Edward B. Knight Pier
- Oyster Bars near Key West
- Smathers Beach
- Joe’s Tug Wreck
- Fort Zachary Taylor State Park
- Cayman Salvage Master
- Shark Channel Bridge
- Gibbs Reef
- Cayo Agua
- The Wall
- Western Sambo Reef
- Adolphus Busch Sr Wreck
- The Vandenberg Wreck
- Flats around Key West
- Elbow Reef
- Flats near Marquesas Keys
- Offshore Ledges near Marquesas Keys
- Dry Tortugas
- Backcountry Mangroves
The best fishing spots in Key Largo include:
- Everglades National Park
- Jewfish Creek
- Long Sound
- Bibb Sunken Ship
- John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
- Rowell’s Waterfront Park
- Florida Bay
Additionally, for a more professional fishing experience with an experienced captain/guide, consider booking a charter when you visit Key West or Key Largo. No matter which island you choose, you’re bound to make a splash with your fishing ventures.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Bertl123/Shutterstock.com
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