Florida Keys Reef / Wreck Fishing

Florida Keys Reef Fishing
Mutton Snapper Caught while Reef fishing Key West with Dream Catcher Charters.

Florida Keys reef fishing is on the only living coral reef in the northern hemisphere. It spans over 330 miles and is home to over 6,000 species of marine life, among which a plethora of fish species live. These include species such as snapper, grouper, amberjacks, yellow jacks, permit, kingfish, Spanish and cero mackerel, sharks, and barracudas. All of the fish found on the reef can provide a fun fight for any angler, but some make great table fare as well. Some of our favorite food fish that can be caught reef fishing include yellowtail snapper, mutton snapper, red grouper and black grouper.

IF you want to see what’s happening on the reef.
Check Out The Florida Keys Reef Fishing Report

Where Are The Reefs

Florida Keys Reef Fishing Kingfish
Kingfish caught Key West reef fishing.

It is only five to ten miles offshore is where the reef starts. Making the run out to the fishing grounds minimal. Only about twenty to thirty minutes depending on the speed of the vessel, the weather conditions, and the area of the reef you head out to. The depth of the water at the reef ranges from 5 to 150 feet, but the average depth is closer to twenty to thirty feet deep. 

Beyond the reefs are numerous wrecks to fish. Waters are deeper, around 125 – 300 feet, so fishing methods will differ a bit from fishing the reef. And of the run times to the fishing grounds can increase by quite a bit as well. Fishing for tasty groupers and snapper species, as well as large jacks, tunas and some other deep water species.

For those that get seasick, all is not lost! Fishing the patch reefs inshore can be a hoot with barracudas, mangrove snappers, sharks, small groupers, and other species to entertain anglers with action. These waters are only a few feet deep and within sight of land so waters are calm.  Being a breeding ground for fish, we primarily practice catch and release in the backcountry waters, although keeping a fish for dinner is typically possible.

Yellowtail snapper
Yellowtail snapper caught on a Florida Keys fishing charter.

Many different fishing techniques can be used fishing reefs and wrecks, and a combination of different baits can be used to attract the fish. This is all dependent on the area fished, the weather conditions for the day, water clarity, depth, current, targeted species, and of course captain preference. While some do prefer to anchor on a spot and chum the waters, many more people are starting to enjoy drifting over areas and casting for a much more active fishing experience. Live bait such as pinfish, ballyhoo, goggle eyes, or artificial baits can all be very attractive to the fish. Fly fishing can also be an option, although this is a very specified type fo charter that only some captains offer. 

Reef Fishing Charters

Charters for reef, wreck, and combination reef and wreck fishing are offered in 4, 6 and 8 hour options. There is just a captain on these trips, and he or she works hard to not only maneuver the boat but to teach clients fishing techniques, deal with all of the gear, help with landing the fish, and then cleaning the catch at the end of the day. 

Determining the best boat option for you will depend on the experience you are looking for, boat amenities that you would like, the number of people in your group, and your budget.

Boats can accommodate anywhere from one to six passengers, depending on the boat size and trip type. Each type of boat has its own price point and amenities. Some boats have shade and a head (marine bathroom) while others do not. Rates start at $450 and top out around $1,600 with specialty trips such as those heading to the Dry Tortugas running a bit higher. Check out our rates page for specifics.

Anything from 24’ bay boats up to 36’ center console boats can be used for fishing the reef. On windy days, going to the reef will not be an option on the bay boats; however, the bay boats will be your best option for fishing the patch reefs in the backcountry as they are shallow drafted and can reach those areas easily in just about any weather conditions. 

Wreck fishing is best done on the larger center console boats because of the distance and boat capabilities.

Florida Keys reef fishing charters include licenses, fishing gear, bait, ice, and bottled waters. The fish you catch is yours to keep, but make sure to cover this with your individual captain before shoving off. Keep in mind that the captains know the local fishing regulations, so he or she will know what is able to be kept and what needs to be thrown back; check out of fishing seasons page for more details. And always to remember to tip your captain at the end of the charter.

There are many variables in regards to this type of reef fishing, so the best thing to do when reserving a charter in the Florida Keys or Key West is to call our office at 888-362-3474 to discuss what you are looking for so that our knowledgeable staff can match you up on the right trip for you. We can even provide you with recipes to cook your catch or a list of local restaurants that offer a hook and cook options to prepare your catch for you. 

More Resources For Florida Keys Reef Fishing

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