Starting in the north near Soldier Key, the Great Florida Reef runs in an arc some 170 miles to just south of Key West, with rings on both the Atlantic and Gulf sides. The only living reef in all of North America, the Florida Reef offers a bounty of both sport and table fish, and it’s all right in Captain Pepe’s backyard.
The Ins and Outs of Key West Reef Fishing
You’ll have a lot of options fishing the reefs with Captain Pepe, especially when the waters cool and force a larger number of fish species to migrate into the south. Beginning sometime in November, the fish population near the reefs really begins to take off, which allows for some the most high-volume fishing in the world.
The primary reef line lies about six miles south of Key West, with a deeper secondary line or bar located less than a mile beyond it. Although there are literally dozens of spectacular fish species available in the reef waters, yellowtail snapper, mutton snapper, and grouper are a few of Captain Pepe’s favorites. If you fish the part of the reef on the Atlantic side, you might also run across jacks, African pompano, mackerel, as well as Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, tuna, and sailfish.
When the wind is blowing in from the south, Captain Pepe likes to take parties to the reefs on the Gulf side of the Keys. Just like on the Atlantic side, the Gulf reefs provide opportunities for all-day action if you’re with someone who knows the best spots. Depending on when you fish the Gulf side reefs, you’re likely to encounter everything from cobia, king mackerel, permit, and gag grouper to red grouper, mangrove snapper, hogfish, and sharks.
Fishing the Patch Reefs in Key West
In between Key West and the primary reef line, there are dozens of patch reefs that Captain Pepe likes to fish when the South Florida weather gets windy. The patch reefs offer calmer water on these windy days and the end result is a fantastic fishing experience for anglers at every skill level. Patch reef waters offer enough thrilling action to satisfy even the most experienced angler, especially during winter when the cold fronts approach.
The variety of great sport and table fish you’ll encounter on the patch reefs is absolutely incredible, with a practically endless list of highly sought after species hungry and ready to strike. Venture out into the Key West patch reefs and you’ll run across mackerel, yellowtail snapper, grouper, and mutton just to name a few. These species congregate near the patch reefs during milder winter weather too, so you’re guaranteed a huge haul no matter what the temperature is.
You won’t have to troll around much to land these beauties. You just have to know what fish are biting where on a particular day, which won’t be a problem on one of Pepe’s charters. You’ll usually be fishing in fairly shallow waters when you’re angling near the patch reefs, with most of it done at depths between 15-35 feet. That means when the water’s clear, you’ll be able to spot the darker patch reefs easily and drop a line to see what’s down there.
Typically you will be freelining small boats for snapper and then using heavier tackle to fish the bottom for grouper.
As far as bait goes, you’ll want to use live bait and either cut bait or live shrimp for the deeper swimmers. With the chum line paying such a big role, you’ll need to make sure the current keeps moving. But if it does slow down, you can choose between moving your boat to a place where the current’s faster or changing to tackle that’s heavy enough to reach the bottom.
Key West Reef Fishing for Guaranteed Action
As you can probably see, you’re guaranteed to have your hands full all day long when you fish the reefs in Key West. All you really need to do is show up and have a great guide. After that, the fishing practically takes care of itself. And we’ve really only scratched the surface of the incredible thrills you’ll experience fishing any of the Key West reefs. Contact us today and book early if you want the very best of reef fishing charters in Key West.
Type of Charters
Fish of Key West
Refund / Cancellation Policy
- A full refund of the 20% deposit will be returned if the guide cancels the trip for any reason.
- If the client cancels the trip 30 days in advance, a full refund of the deposit will be returned.
- If the client cancels the trip in under 30 days of the departure date or does not show up for the scheduled trip, the deposit will not be returned.