The blue-water species found swimming near Key West offer incredible thrills and non-stop action for anglers of all ages and levels of experience. Blue-water fishing usually refers to targeting the many game fish that can be found in the clear waters from reef edges to the deeper depths much further out. Although there is an incredible number of species to be found in these beautiful waters, some of the most sought-after blue-water fish are the mahi-mahi, the sailfish, and the wahoo.


Mahi-Mahi, or the dolphin fish, are among the most amazing game fish in Key West. Found in many tropical regions around the world, mahi-mahi is most abundant in the Key West area from April through September, though it’s during the summer months they really start congregating here in great numbers. And don’t worry– the mahi-mahi is a fish and not a mammal and is unrelated to the highly intelligent dolphin the term usually refers to.

The dolphin fish’s appearance is among the most striking you’ll find in the waters near Key West. Males are marked by a protruding, squarish forehead, while females tend to be smaller in size and display a more rounded head. Dolphin fish range in length from 3-5 feet and typically weight between 30-50 pounds. The colors displayed by the mahi-mahi are truly dazzling– a goldish green on the sides and a bright blue along the back that combine to make the mahi-mahi a gorgeous fish both in and out of the water.

In addition to putting up a great fight once they’re hooked, the mahi-mahi also makes for delicious table fare, which is another reason they’re targeted in Key West so often.

Fishing for Mahi-Mahi in Key West

Although blind trolling in fairly deep waters always gives you a fighting chance at snaring a dolphin fish, experienced Key West fishing guides often use telltale flocks of birds to locate larger schools of them. Following birds that are associated with schools of Mahi-Mahi is one of the fastest ways to locate and land them during the summer month.

Locating large schools of Mahi-Mahi is key to landing them in great numbers, so it’s best to use an experienced guide like Captain Pepe to put you onto them. Once you’ve found a spot where they’ve gathered, you can catch adult dolphin fish with live bait, dead bait, or high-quality lures, though they’re especially fond of crab, squid, and flying fish.

Leaving cut bait or chum in the water is a great way to keep Mahi-Mahi swimming close to your boat and landing several of them in a short amount of time. Fortunately for both sport fishermen and seafood lovers, mahi-mahi are abundant in the waters of Key West and there’s little chance of depleting their supply. New stricter size regulations on these fish will also ensure they will be around every spring.


Gorgeous in and out of the water and impressively acrobatic, the sailfish is one of those species that immediately springs to mind when people think about deep-sea fishing in Key West. The sailfish has a beautiful appearance and is easy to distinguish from other species. Their name comes from their sail-like dorsal fin and they usually display a dark blue color on top that changes to either a darker blue or brown along the sides before brightening to a bright silver underbelly. This distinctive dorsal fin stays down when a sailfish is in the water, but lights up and spread majestically once they’re hooked and fighting you tooth and nail to get free of your line.

Considered to be one of the fastest swimmers in the area, sailfish are known to surpass speeds of over 60 miles an hour. Their size is just as impressive as their appearance and can vary greatly, with a length that typically ranges from 5-8 feet and an average weight well over 40 pounds. Taken together, the size, speed, and tenacity of the sailfish make them a highly coveted prize wherever they’re found.

Fishing for Sailfish in Key West

Sailfish are most abundant in Key West during the winter months. They’re easiest to find and land from November through April, with the highest concentration of them typically available during January and February. You’ll most likely need an experienced guide to target sailfish effectively, but there isn’t a more exciting game fish in the world once you’ve gotten on to them.

Sailfish will go after a wide variety of live bait fish, with blue runners and ballyhoo being the baits of choice. Although sailfish can be sometimes be caught while trolling near reef edges, most people target them drifting live bait.

Sailfish is a catch and release fish.