Florida Keys fishing variety - One of the great things about a Florida Keys fishing trip is that you have so many choices! There are days we begin with one species in mind, but then change because there is a hot bite on another. Why are there so many species from which to choose? It’s the coral reef. “The reef” as we call it, provides habitat, structure and food and is the main reason for our great fishing. On the ocean-side of U.S. 1, the reef parallels the island chain roughly four miles from the beach line from Ocean Reef on the northeast end, to well beyond Key West in a westerly direction. Along the reef edge the depth drops drops quickly from 30 feet to 100 feet or more.
Offshore Fishing - Offshore trips vary depending on the time of year. In the fall and winter months between November and March, the primary target species include sailfish, mahi, kingfish, wahoo and tuna. The hottest bite for sailfish is from Thanksgiving through mid January. On a typical day we stop on a patch reef to chum and catch live bait, once the live-well is full, we move out to the reef line in 100 to 150 feet of water slow troll the liveys, canvasing different depths.
In the spring and summer months of April through September we will take advantage of the mahi migration as they travel north and east along the Keys following the gulfstream current. The hottest mahi bite happens in May and June, but we actually do catch them all year long. Mahi are exciting to catch and make delicious table fare. If you are interested in entering one of the Keys mahi tournaments below, please let me know well in advance.
Another great fishery in the summer is blackfin tuna – Check out my article on catching blackfins
Reef and Wreck Fishing - Unlike Offshore trips, reef fishing involves anchoring over structure and chumming. This is great if you like a lot of steady action, but don’t necessarily need to catch a huge fish – although many times we do! You will catch a variety of snapper including yellowtail, mangrove, mutton, lane and more. Plus you will catch grouper mackerel, cobia, sharks, bonito and many other species.
Rates: Half Day $500 / Full Day $800
Booking Policy:A deposit of $150 is required to reserve your trip. If you decide to cancel within seven (7) days of your fishing day, your deposit will not be refunded. If you cancel more than 7 days of your scheduled trip, you will be refunded in full. If the weather is prohibitive, you will be refunded in full.
Florida Keys Dolphin Tournaments 2013
May 3-5: Marathon Offshore Bull and Cow Dolphin Tournament. Marathon. A $10,000 first prize awaits the angler with the largest bull and cow combined, as well as prizes awarded to anglers catching the largest dolphin, wahoo, tuna and tripletail, grouper and snapper. Call 305-289-0199 or visit www.marathonoffshoretournament.com.
May 3-5: Nick Sheahan Dolphin Rodeo. Islamorada. Honoring the memory of Nick Sheahan, a Florida Keys student, this event benefits a namesake community scholarship fund that has distributed more than $30,000 to date. The tournament is hosted at Tavernier Creek Marina, with cash prizes and $25,000 to the angler with the dolphin that beats the state record. Call 305-393-3709, visit www.nicksheahan.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 10-11: Mother’s Day Dolphin Tournament. Marathon. Several cash prizes are awarded to anglers in this one-day tournament. Top cash prize for the heaviest fish is $5,000, with others presented to second- through fifth-place finishers. The event benefits Habitat for Humanity of the Middle Keys. Call 305-743-9828 or visit www.habitatmiddlekeys.org/dolphin-tournament.php.
May 13-17: Faro Blanco Invitational Tarpon Tournament. Marathon. This angling challenge with a 27-year history of fish tales and foolery helps fund the Ronald McDonald Summer Camp program for disabled youngsters. Captains are drawn during the kick-off event, and anglers fish with a different captain on each of three fishing days. Call 609-645-1840, ext. 115, or visit www.faroblancotarpon.com.
May 16-19: Coconuts Dolphin Tournament. Key Largo. A “truckload” of cash and prizes topping $50,000 attracts anglers to one of South Florida’s largest-drawing tournaments. The angler who lands a fish exceeding 63.9 pounds, the current state record, wins a two-year lease on a 2013 Honda Ridgeline RT pickup truck valued at more than $10,000. Call 561-512-4455 or email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 19-22: Outback Golden Fly Invitational Tarpon Tournament. Islamorada. Special flies, accurate casts and a bit of luck are the recipe for winning this prestigious challenge, using only a tournament-furnished tippet not greater than 20-pound test. Eligible tarpon must measure at least 48 inches in length to earn release points, and weigh at least 70 pounds for weight points. Email email@example.com.
May 24-26: Florida Keys Dolphin Championship. Florida Keys. This new Keyswide dolphin challenge is to pay out $15,000 to the grand champion. The first angler with the largest dolphin over 55 pounds can win a 24-foot bay boat. Weigh-ins are to be scheduled in each of the five regions of the Keys. Call 305-395-3474 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 25: Yamaha Dolphin Masters Invitational. Key West. In this challenge headquartered at Key West’s Historic Seaport, more than $13,000 goes to the angler scoring the highest total combined weight of three dolphin catches. Many additional prizes await other top anglers and there is no limit on the number of participating boats. Call 305-304-7674 or email email@example.com.
May 31 – June 2: Islamorada Dolphin Tournament. Islamorada. Hosted by the Islamorada Charterboat Association, this annual event is headquartered at Whale Harbor Marina with $10,000 in prize money. Competition is open to all anglers and there is no limit on the number of anglers that can participate. Call 305-852-2102 or 305-522-4868, visit www.islamoradacharterboatassociation.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
June 2-7: Don Hawley Invitational Tarpon Tournament. Islamorada. The world’s top fly-rod anglers endure a five-day test of will and muscle, fishing Keys waters using fly tackle and either a 12- or 16-pound tippet. Named for the late fly fisherman and conservationist Don Hawley, the tournament benefits the Guides Trust Foundation, assisting professional fishing guides and supporting backcountry fishery conservation programs. Visit www.GuidesTrustFoundation.org or email HawleyTournament@aol.com.
June 5-6: IFC Captains Cup Dolphin Tournament. Islamorada. Just three fish are all that’s needed to capture the $25,000 winner-take-all grand prize, but the aggregate weight of the three dorado must be the highest in the tournament. Contact the Islamorada Fishing Club at 305-664-4735, visit www.theislamoradafishingclub.com or email email@example.com.
June 7-8: Ladies Dolphin Tournament of the Florida Keys. Tavernier. The newly remodeled Florida Keys Elks Lodge located in Tavernier is to present this event. Ladies’ teams compete for the highest aggregate weight of three dorado to determine the winning team. Prizes also are to be awarded for the largest fish. Proceeds from the event benefit local Elks charities. Call 305-522-4868 or visit www.floridakeyselks1872.com.
June 7-9: Big Pine & Lower Keys Dolphin Tournament. Big Pine Key. More than $40,000 in cash and prizes includes a guaranteed $10,000 to the angler in the open division who catches the heaviest dolphin. In the youth division, anglers age 15 and under can win rods, reels and trophies. Prizes also are presented for the heaviest wahoo and tuna. Call 305-872-2411 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
June 14-16: Island Grill Charity Dolphin Tournament. Islamorada. This family event benefits Baptist Hospital’s Children’s Cancer Center. Awards include a $5,000 grand prize for the best three dolphin caught and other prizes. Call 305-852-2102 or 305-664-8400, or email KeysIslandGrill@bellsouth.net.
June 17-21: 50th Annual Gold Cup Tarpon Tournament. Islamorada. This prestigious tournament, whose founders include baseball great and avid fly-fisherman Ted Williams, pits 25 fly-rod anglers against the tenacious silver king for four full days of fishing. Experienced tournament anglers and novices are welcome to compete. Tournament proceeds benefit children’s charities in the Keys. Visit www.goldcuptt.com or email email@example.com.
June 21-22: Poor Girls Dolphin Tournament. Islamorada. This regional charity competition offers trophies for first-, second- and third-place teams, grand champion and runner-up grand champion anglers, and the largest dolphin, kingfish and tuna. Call 305-393-6174 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
June 21-23: Key West Gator Club Dolphin Derby. Key West. A grand prize of $5,000 cash is to be awarded the boat team with the largest aggregate weight in dolphin during the derby’s two fishing days, with teams allowed to enter one qualifying fish each day. Individual anglers can compete for trophies, prizes and cash totaling more than $20,000 in divisions for male, female and junior participants. Call 305-304-1348 or email email@example.com.
June 29-30: Dolphin & Blackfin Tuna Fun Fishing Tournament. Marathon. Top prizes of $700, $350 and $200 await individual adult anglers who catch the tournament’s three heaviest dolphin, with additional cash awards for the heaviest blackfin tuna and wahoo. Headquartered at Burdine’s Waterfront, the challenge is open to adult and junior anglers. Call 305-743-5317 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
July 7: IFC Junior Dolphin Tournament. Islamorada. Just like the “big boys,” junior anglers up to age 18 can compete in this event, where the highest combined weight of three fish determines the winning team. Trophies also are awarded in various age groups for the largest fish. Call 305-664-4735, visit www.theislamoradafishingclub.com or email email@example.com.