For a video by Sportfishing Magazine about Islamorada, click here.
For a video about fishing at and around Anglers Reef, click here .
Unless you fish on a charter, Florida law requires a fishing license – get the info here. There are open and closed seasons and minimum sizes for the many varieties of fish you can catch. You can also get a fishing license online at the above site – and have proof of it instantly that you can print out.
There is also a small paperback book, Sport Fish of Florida, that is a great source of basic info if you are new to Keys fishing (and even if you’ve been here before). It groups fish by type and species and devotes one page per species with a paragraph each on Where, How, Lures/Baits, Food Quality, etc. Might be available at Smugglers, definitely at Worldwide Sportsman.
If you don’t bring your own fishing tackle with you, you can pick up a basic medium spinning rod/reel combo at either Kmart in Key Largo (in the Publix shopping center) or at World Wide Sportsman (a BassPro shop) a few miles south. (We leave a couple basic light rods and reels for you, but unfortunately we can’t guarantee the condition that prior guests may have left them in.)
The kids can catch a dinner of mangrove snapper right in the boat lagoon – but these fish are finicky! They look a little like a light-colored freshwater bass — the legal minimum is 12”. Use any light rod/reel with a small #2-4 hook (I like small circle hooks) either bare or with a splitshot, or use a small plain jig. Your bait has to get to the bottom, and small pieces (not whole ones – you’ll just have them stolen!) of live/fresh shrimp are best, although pieces of frozen shrimp and squid work also. (Live shrimp are about $4/doz and can usually be purchased at Smugglers just north of the bridge – about ¼ mile away. For the lagoon, cut them into ½” pieces.)
At various times of the year, the boat lagoon can also have small jack crevalles, barracuda, lady fish, porgy, small grouper, redfish, needlefish, leather jacks, small sharks, and “lookdowns” (ie moonfish). Except for the grouper and snappers, these often like a moving bait, with something shiny and some “meat” like a strip of squid or fish on the spoon, or a small piece of shrimp.
BUT DON’T expect to catch something like this in the Anglers boat lagoon, as this guest did in early August of 2014. It is extremely odd to see yellowfin tuna inshore in south Florida and even stranger that one would swim this far inshore, including coming a mile through the flats via our channel into the boat lagoon! In Islamorada, you never know!
Bring your boat or rent one from the many nearby marinas to fish the “patch reefs” just a mile or two offshore for a variety of snappers, grouper, porgy, as well as cero mackerel and cobia — or go 4-5 miles out to the “big reef” for sailfish, mahi mahi, more snappers and grouper, king mackerel, and more.
The Gulf can offer schools of Spanish mackerel, plus cobia, snappers and tripletail, to name just a few. The Everglades “back country” is an experience in and of itself with amazing scenery plus fishing for tarpon, trout, snook, redfish, permit and bonefish, among others.
You can also bring a kayak or rent one (most places deliver and pick up) and launch it at the south beach (the one right in front of our home). Fish the famed Islamorada flats right out front or the nearby mangroves, for bonefish, permit, barracuda, mangrove snappers, snook and more. If you rent a kayak, ask for one with a rod holder and an anchor.
What you’ll catch depends on the season, but there are always lots of options and you’ll often hook into something you hadn’t planned on!
There are many around but here are my two “go-to” captains:
For Gulf/backcountry/patch reefs:
– Capt. Freddie Ferreira 305-304-6788 www.CaptainFreddie.com
Take a Back Country or Patch Reef fishing trip with Captain Freddie for a great day of fishing and learning! An ex-school teacher and principal, he is great with kids and will also pick you up at Anglers and drop you back. Runs a new 22’ Pathfinder. I’ve fished with Capt Freddie several times and caught a variety of fish. This guy loves what he does! Per a guest who caught a 130lb tarpon with him:
“Great guy, works hard to put you on fish. Runs one of the larger backcountry boats and can take up to 4 people. I would highly recommend him for an enjoyable day of fishing. Will also focus on what you want to catch: Tarpon, Snook, Sharks….. We only went after Tarpon.”
As a favor to Anglers 140 guests, Freddie can also make reservations for you for an incredible gourmet meal at the exclusive Islamorada Fishing Club, where many of the top fisherman in the WORLD hang out! You will have a memorable and unique dining experience at this exclusive fishing club that is not open to the general public. We’ve been there numerous times and it is our favorite for an excellent dining experience – great food and service, and no waiting or crowds!
For Bluewater and deep wrecks:
– Capt. Jim Mulcahy, www.FinsFeathersCharters.com Tel: 305-453-0088.
Jim runs a 34 foot SeaVee with all the electronics and can easily fish 4-5 people. I was out several times with him and we caught sailfish, mahi-mahi, jacks, grouper, barracuda, king mackerel, tuna, etc. If conditions allow, he likes to kite fish with two kites (3 baits per kite) plus a deep drop line, so you have 7 baits in the water at all times! Capt Jim also supplies live bait for his trips and for other boats – usually goggle eyes, which are the best (they sell at most bait dealers for about $5 each)!
His boats are in Key Largo and now in Islamorada – but try to book with Capt Jim in Key Largo (I haven’t tried the Islamorada boat) — worth the 20 minute drive! Like most captains, he also fillets what you catch and bags it for you (Never a bone!) Good guy. Highly recommended!
These are 40-60’ boats that take 10-30 anglers out to the inshore reefs for yellowtail snapper and bottom fishing. They are “walk-on” but it is good to call ahead or get there early and “reserve” a spot
– Robbies (a few miles south on the gulf side) has 3 hr trips. Recent cost was $45 for adults and Children are $24.50. They also offer many other fishing options. Check them out here.
– Bud ‘N’ Mary’s (a few miles south on the ocean side) has near full-day trips for $70 and they offer other fishing options as well. Check them out here.
For what it’s worth, I prefer to charter, rent a boat or kayak fish. If you have 3-4 fisherman, compared to a party boat the cost of a 1/2 day charter or a rental boat for the day is well worth it in my opinion.
We are not divers, but check out the Chamber’s Vistors Guide for more information.
If you go yourself, nearby are several well-known wrecks and shoals for great diving within a few miles offshore. Plus there are many dive shops and boats — see the Chamber of Commerce listings. Several of our neighbors scuba dive and spear fish and I have seen them bring back some huge grouper and snappers.