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.