Key West Fishing Report

/Key West Fishing Report/

2021 Fall Fishing Report

Thank goodness that fishing is among the best activities you can do during a global pandemic! I’m thankful to be able to fish a regular season this year and hopefully things will start to get back to the new normal shall we say.

We have had our share of bad weather. We have had a few named storms breeze by us. I can say I’m very thankful for a little rain and wind compared to 4 years ago post-Irma.

Last weekend we finished up the Redbone S.L.A.M. tournament here in Key West. The fishing was not easy but we managed to pull it off and William Collier took 3rd place in the fly division. The bonefish and smaller tarpon are abundant and have been most of the summer.

Just recently there have been some monster permit showing up here. It’s just that time of year and so glad to see some big ones out there.

Our weather seems to be hit or miss this week. Some random storms rolling through making visibility difficult. Of course last week it was flat calm and the water was crystal clear.

As we head into fall we can expect the bonefish and permit to be active. It may slow down once we get our first good cold front to roll through. But none-the-less its a great place to be social distancing. We have plenty of places to dine outside and plenty of outdoor activities in addition to fishing the flats.

2021-09-16T18:00:05+00:00 September 16th, 2021|

Lower Keys Fishing Summer 2020

We have already had a very interesting year to say the least. I cannot express enough how supportive my clients have been during this time. The Keys were closed for a few months time and although it has kept the number of COVID-19 cases down, it has hindered our tourism business tremendously. I have to say that we are lucky to live here. The waters are more beautiful now and the water is so clear. I have never been a big fan of the cruise industry, now it is much more apparent the damage they do to our marine ecosystem. Since we don’t have any ships coming to port, the water has remained so clean and clear.

Our fishing has been good lately. Tarpon have been swimming but with the passing of the moon the fish have slowed down or disappeared for a bit. Probably looking for those palolo worms. They will be back, it happens every year.

Meanwhile the permit are back on the flats in full force. We’ve seen many schooled up and feeding on crabs. It’s remarkable to see them all together and with their heads poking out of the water now and again to slurp up a crab.

Bonefishing has been the most consistent. During my time off I was able to go find some new spots (some where you’d never think there would be fish) and it has been so fun to see bonefish come back so strong.

In the months ahead I see us having a great summer of fishing here in the Keys.



2020-06-15T12:07:13+00:00 June 15th, 2020|

Tarpon Season 2018

While the wind blows a little stronger today the week looks like it is going to shape up nicely. The tarpon have been moving this past week and the water is only going to get warmer come mid-week.  Along with tarpon season getting into full swing, the barracuda are still snapping in the shallows both oceanside and along the Gulf edge. There are some big boys around and very eager to eat a tube lure or a cuda fly.

The spring holds a lot of opportunities for great fishing in the Lower Keys overall. We just need clear skies and a little lighter winds to make the day out on the water. Inshore we welcome the permit back to the flats after their spawning season offshore. Although the permit don’t completely leave the flats there are fewer of them in late March and in April. Bonefishing will only get better as the water heats up. And of course the tarpon are available on the flats and in our deeper basins and of course in Key West Harbor.

The offshore waters have great potential right now. Mahi-Mahi, wahoo, sailfish and snapper are at the top of the list. There’s a chance for blackfin tuna, bonito and kingfish too! May 1st will mark the opening of grouper season again.

If you are interested in booking a trip we have some availability on our 24 foot bay boat and some openings on the flats this spring.

2018-04-16T18:42:05+00:00 April 16th, 2018|

Summer Fishing

The Keys are a destination year-round for great fishing. The summer months are no exception. It’s been a hot one and August is the peak of heat here. But that also means we get some calm mornings that are perfect for tarpon fishing. Some of the bigger tarpon have moved on in their migration but there will still be some on the ocean side and some resident tarpon around Key West Harbor and around the bridges.

Early morning and early evening fishing can be the best. Even the fish take a break in the heat of the day. This week I took a break from the flats and took the show into deeper water for some snapper, grouper and cero mackerel. It’s a nice way to mix things up and also put some food on the table.

August 6th is the start of Florida Spiny Lobster Season. The season lasts from August 6th until March 31st. A fishing license and lobster stamp are required in order to harvest lobster. The maximum per person, per day is 6 lobsters. They must be harvested by snorkeling or diving and need to be measured with a gauge. More info on lobstering can be found here:

We have some availability this month and into the fall. Fall is a great time for permit and bonefish on the flats. The offshore waters start to liven up a lot with more bait equals more species of fish.


2018-04-09T18:39:40+00:00 August 3rd, 2017|

Finally catching a break, and some tarpon

Tarpon on the oceanThe last few weeks have really been the extreme in wind and weather. From mid-March the winds have been harsh in all honesty. After another few days last week of sitting-around-because-it’s-raining-again we finally caught a break!

April is historically known to be the beginning of the tarpon migration. At least that’s how it’s written in many of the magazines or books out there. Fact is there can be tarpon here all year long and if the temperatures are right they can start sliding through late January to February.

But let’s talk about the past few days – great tarpon movement and some great fish landed. I certainly love it when a plan comes together. I really look forward to this time of the year. A lot of my anglers are not just clients but have become friends that I look forward to seeing and fishing with.

The fish are going to be laid up in the basins and move on the ocean and along the Gulf edge. Early morning they can be difficult to see for the untrained eye. I always tell people to look for purple. That seems to describe their coloring especially in deeper water or where there is darker bottom.

Bonefishing has not been all that bad either. Look for the bones to be abundant throughout the next few months into the fall. They are a great species and sometimes the most forgiving for the novice fly-rodder.

Offshore I’ve heard the yellowtail bite is really good. Although I don’t head offshore much this time of year I can certainly refer a few great guides to do the deep sea fishing.

Follow me on Instagram @captjustinrea

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2018-04-09T18:39:40+00:00 April 27th, 2017|

February Fishing Report 2017

Large Keys Barracuda

February Fishing in Key West

February started off very positive in the fishing realm. The weather was beautiful this year for our annual Cuda Bowl Fishing Tournament. The tournament was Feb. 2-4 and was based out of Hurricane Hole Marina.  During the two day event there were a record 418 barracuda caught and released. The largest being 53.5 inches caught by Tom del Bosque of Boca Raton, FL.

My angler John Chinuntdet of Moorseville, NC won First Runner-Up in the fly division with a total of 202.5 inches. The full results of the event can be seen at

After the tournament was over the weather just kept on being nice. Seasonal highs in the high 70s and light winds. With my anglers we ventured all up and down the Keys flats and even ventured out past the reef on the calmer days for some tuna and snapper.

Just last week the calmest weather rolled in and low and behold there were some big tarpon showing themselves in the backcountry. Tarpon, bonefish and permit were all happy and willing to eat a fly even! The large barracuda pictured in this article was caught on the flats and is one of the largest I’ve seen yet this year. This guy was a slob!

We had a little bit of a front come through last evening but the sun is already shining again. If we stay in the mild weather pattern we can expect the fishing to just get even better. This is one of the best times of the year to target permit on the flats. They head offshore soon to spawn and there won’t be as many on the flats for a while.

Coming up in March is the March Merkin Permit Tournament. This even is scheduled for March 13-16 in Key West. I’ve fished this event every year except the first and it’s a great event with great folks who share a passion for permit.

2018-04-09T18:39:40+00:00 February 16th, 2017|

October Fishing in the Keys

We were fortunate to get literally no weather from Hurricane Matthew here in the Lower Keys. Fortunately the storm spared a lot of our friends in the Bahamas and up the east coast.  As almost always right before a cold front or a change in pressure the fishing can really turn on. And that it did! My anglers last week were fortunate to get in some good fishing for tarpon, bones and permit.

October is a spectacular month for shallow water fishing in the Keys. In particular the permit fishing can be really, really good. There are a lot more larger permit on the flats again and they will stick around for a while now, pending any harsh cold fronts that roll through.

The winds in October can range from very calm to blustery. This coming week the forecast is calling for wind but the fortunate thing about windy conditions and permit is that we are able to get a lot closer to the fish without them noticing we are there. The noise of the waves masks the noise of our skiff.

And although fly fishing in the wind is something a lot of people are not used to, I cannot stress enough how important it is to practice your cast a bit before you get here to do the real deal. Getting the fly out there in two false casts is ideal. Sometimes the fish will not give us much time to move around and sometimes just the movement of a cast can scare them off. This month the fish seem to be on the hunt more for food and feed actively, puffing mud is their dead giveaway.

The tarpon fishing will not be ask active and juvenile fish will be in selective places. October is the greatest opportunity for bonefish and permit this fall, take advantage of it if you can.

2016-12-18T16:46:07+00:00 October 1st, 2016|

Tarpon Time in the Keys

One of the most sought after fish in our Florida Keys waters is the ‘Silver King’… the tarpon. Although it looks like a prehistoric beast, this bucket mouth oversized pilchard is a fish worth a lot of dough. Every single one we fish to, that follows the fly or leaps through the air means something to someone. I’ve watched guys come back year after year just to get the fly in front of one of these beasts and I must admit, to see their pectoral fins flair out right before they charge the fly is what makes it all worth while.

This tarpon run has started out kind of on the slow side. For once May was not a total wash – meaning rain and wind and days that are unfishable. May was pretty darn nice, but for a while there I had to wonder where the heck the tarpon were and when were they going to show themselves.

I’ve fished here professionally since 2002 and even in my time I’ve seen a lot of changes in our fishery. It’s a good thing we have great people at Bonefish Tarpon Trust and our own Lower Keys Guides Association that assist in preserving our fishery. It’s a great one and so many people visit us this time of year just for the tug of a tarpon on fly.

IMG_4027The past couple of weeks have changed my outlook on the tarpon bite. It’s made a complete turn-around lately and we’ve gone through one Palolo worm hatch and are about to be on the cusp of another. The Palolo worm is a red-ish earthworm looking creature that hatches from the coral rock, pops to the surface of the water and makes a b-line for the reef. For some reason these worms are a delicacy for tarpon and other aquatic fish and birds too!

To fish the worm hatch you’ve gotta have some accuracy throwing the fly and have the strip down in order to mimic the worm. I’ve seen it where there are so many worms it’s very difficult to get a bite. Other times there are just enough worms that you can get a bite and all you want to do is break him off just to fish to the next fish. It’s sometimes crazy and chaotic and before you know it the sun has set and it’s all over.

We do fish the worm during the day on occasion when the tarpon are just not wanting to eat anything else. Most locations where you will find the worm hatch going on are on the oceanside flats where there is hard bottom. Not to say it doesn’t happen in the backcountry, but you have to know where to go and how to get back once it gets dark.

June is shaping up to be a good month. We’ve just had some rough weather days that were part of a tropical system but it looks like at least the winds will die off and we will be able to see those early morning rolling fish we all dream about.

2018-04-09T18:39:41+00:00 June 9th, 2016|

April Key West Fishing Report

The weather and the fishing gave us a break this week on the flats. Some calmer and warmer water brought in a push of tarpon. A welcome sight this time of year as the tarpon should begin their annual migration. Things are so different as opposed to say ten years ago but with a little effort poling the boat and finding the pods of tarpon we had a few great days with tarpon, bonefish and even a nice permit (which was caught on a tarpon fly – go figure).

This weekend is the Southernmost Air Show at NAS Key West so we’ve had the Blue Angels flying overhead for a few days now offering some additional entertainment. The Blue Angels haven’t been down to the Keys in several years so it’s great to have them here.

This is the start of one of the best times of the year here in the Keys.  The winds start to calm and shift to the southerly direction warming up the waters. Big tarpon flood the backcountry basins and start to move along the Gulf edge and eventually the oceanside flats.

There are still some permit swimming but they do head offshore to the patch reefs to spawn so there may not be as many around until late May or June.

The bonefishing has been surprisingly good this week. It’s so nice to see a good population of them around the shallows.

Stay tuned for more action this week as the tarpon run just gets going.

For availability please email me or call 305-360-3122.

2016-04-03T23:55:33+00:00 April 3rd, 2016|

Permit Daze

The end of February marks one of the peak times of the year to target permit on the flats.  As history has it permit go offshore to spawn the April but each year it seems to be earlier.  The last week in February can be a tough weather time with small windows of opportunity for epic permit fishing. As we roll into the first half of March it’s time to concentrate on permit fishing as we lead up to the March Merkin Permit Tournament March 14-17.  The best conditions I would wish for would be a breeze 10-15, good tide and clear skies. Permit will chow down and plump up before their sabbatical in the offshore waters.

Fly fishing for permit is exceptional. The fish are feeding hard and puffing mud. They travel in smaller schools or by themselves and there are some BIG permit in our waters in February and March so be on the look out for Permitzilla.

But, if there are a few warm days where the wind is very calm it could be the perfect time for some early season tarpon fishing. April through June is the main migration time but falling outside that time either earlier or later in the season is also good. The crowds are lighter come the end of June too, leaving less pressure for our fishery.

If you are looking for some days this spring I have a few openings – a few days in May just became available and some in the later part of June.

Stay tuned for more in our next report on permit season.

2016-02-24T16:28:31+00:00 February 24th, 2016|