Key West Fishing Report

/Key West Fishing Report/

February Fishing Report

The weather always plays a factor in fishing anywhere you go in the world. People come here on vacation hoping for the best weather possible but sometimes it just doesn’t end up being so. My advice – fish your conditions.

No one is going to tell on you if you are a hard core fly angler and you pick up a spinning rod because the wind is blowing 30 mph. In fact, you might just like it!

The Cuda Bowl tournament a few weeks ago was such harsh winds the first day that we cancelled fishing to ensure the safety of our anglers and guides. Still there were a few who went out just to fish and I know at least one of them put down the fly rod and picked up a spinning rod just to get the thrill of hooking a barracuda.

I think there is a fever out there this month for Barracuda. Ask anyone who has been out there fishing for barracuda, it’s addictive. The fish will explode on a fly or tube lure and are not afraid to follow it all the way to the boat!

Here are some details on a meeting you can attend if you are in the Lower or Upper Keys on February 22nd regarding the protection of Barracuda:

This is a chance to further improve barracuda regulations. The new regs, which went into effect on Nov. 1, 2015, apply in state and federal waters off Collier, Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Martin counties only, and include:

– Recreational and commercial daily bag limit of two fish per person and
– Recreational and commercial daily vessel limit of six fish per vessel.

Unfortunately, a slot size was turned down by commissioners. We AT LKGA believe a slot size is still important to the overall barracuda stock and urge members to show up in support of cuda at these upcoming meetings.

Monday, Feb. 22- Key West
Harvey Governmental Center
1200 Truman Ave.
6:00-8:00 p.m.

Wednesday, Feb. 24-Islamorada
Founders Park Community Center
87000 Overseas Hwy.
6:00-8:00 p.m.

Keep an eye out for the weather to get better and low and behold the permit and tarpon will be coming back to play in larger numbers. Due to some life events for some of my returning anglers I do have a few openings during the spring and early summer for tarpon fishing. Email me if you are interested!


2018-04-09T18:39:41+00:00 February 16th, 2016|

Cuda Bowl 2016

Cuda Bowl 2016

Many thanks to all the great people who came out to fish in the 2016 Cuda Bowl. We started this tournament six years ago to bring awareness to the species of barracuda and to give our guides some business in the slower part of the season. This year was our largest event yet! We had 61 anglers on 38 boats participate in the event. Unfortunately this was the first year that Mother Nature didn’t cooperate. We had to cancel fishing on the first day of the tournament due to extremely high winds. The second day of the event there were a lot of fish caught and we were very happy with the outcome since it was a one day event at this point.

So congratulations to everyone for getting out there are giving it their all for the Cuda Bowl. We have made a difference in helping to show that barracuda is a perfect gamefish and should be protected.

Grand Champion Spin Division

Chad Brown from Traverse City, MI

137.75 inches

Guided by Derek DeYoung of Old Mission Peninsula, MI


Grand Champion Fly Division

Nathanial Linville of Key West, FL

122.25 inches

Guided by Capt. John Benvenuto of Key West


Top Lady Angler

Heidi Andrews of Jackson, WY

99 Inches

Guided by Capt. Chris Trosset of Key West


1st Runner Up – Spin Division

Ted Margo of Fort Worth, TX

132.5 inches

Guided by Capt. John O’Hearn of Big Pine Key, FL


1st Runner Up – Fly Division

Will Beggs of Hayesville, NC

61 inches

Guided by Capt. Zach Stells of Big Pine Key, FL


Runner-Up Spin Division

John Schwab of Marathon Key, FL

130 inches

Guided by Capt. Dustin Huff of Marathon Key, FL


Runner-Up Fly Division

David Kohledge of Key West, FL


Guided by Brandon Cyr of Key West, FL


Largest Barracuda – Spin Division

Ted Margo of Ft. Worth, TX

51.5 inches

Guided by John O’Hearn of Big Pine Key, FL


Largest Barracuda – Fly Division

Nathanial Linville of Key West, FL

45.25 inches

Guided by Capt. John Benvenuto of Key West, FL


Most Barracuda Releases

Lance Gleason of Missoula, MT

Guided by Capt Jared Cyr of Key West


First Runner Up Lady Angler

Lacey Kelly of Chiefland, FL

84 inches

Guided by Capt. Jared Cyr of Key West, FL


Runner Up Lady Angler

Lynn Bell of Cudjoe Key
47 inches

Guided by Capt. Rob Kramarz

The tournament is in memory of Ben Gravett who had fished in the Cuda Bowl since its inception in 2011. Ben passed away in 2014 and we have named this event in his honor. He would love it if we all still had as much fun!

Ben Gravett Team Trophy

Jamie Gravett of Warrenton, VA

Steve Brown of Warrenton, VA

Guided by Capt. Pat Bracher of Cudjoe Key, FL


2016-02-10T02:14:29+00:00 February 10th, 2016|

Fall Fishing in the Lower Keys

Today marks the first day of fall. Here in the Keys summer has been hanging around. The heat of summer will stick around for a while longer I imagine. The nights are starting to cool off which is a sign there is relief on the horizon.

September has already been a tremendous month for permit and bonefish. It’s so nice to see the population of bonefish so healthy.

The beginning of September we had the Redbone S.L.A.M. tournament and the Redbone SuperFly. These events are a tremendous fundraising event for Cystic Fibrosis. I had the pleasure of fishing Cal Collier, Jr. again in the Super Fly. We started out the day getting our tarpon and were on the way to a bonefish spot when BAM! one of the blades of my prop fell off. And for those of you wondering – no, I didn’t hit anything. So while a friend and fellow guide, Capt. Rob Kramarz, went well beyond the call of duty to get another prop and schlep it out to me on the flats, we managed to pole over to a few flats and get our bonefish.

After being broken down for about three hours we got going again and stopped at one more spot early afternoon to get the final piece of the puzzle – a permit.

When we returned to the dock we found that Nathaniel Linville had also caught a slam but he had landed his last fish later that afternoon.

We were so ecstatic to actually win the SuperFly after our breakdown that we decided to spend the next two days of the Redbone S.L.A.M. tournament searching for the target species but also enjoying the Keys waters and doing a little snorkeling and lobstering along the way.

The weeks to follow have been calm, steamy hot and really great for fishing. As we head into the official fall months we will see the air cool down and in some cases the fish will be a lot more active.

The offshore waters have been heating up and coming into October and November the blackfin tuna will move in plus there will be mahi-mahi, wahoo and sailfish. The bait supply is already very good which always helps.

I do have a little time open in early October due to a cancellation. If you are thinking of coming down for some shallow water fishing the fall is a perfect time!

2015-09-23T13:12:41+00:00 September 23rd, 2015|

Palolo Worms, Tarpon and Wind

There is a certain formula to landing your tarpon fishing days on one of the nights of the fabled Palolo Worm Hatch. Some guys try to plan it but the fact is even if you don’t hit the mother load on one of those evenings, the tarpon will still be willing to eat the worm even if it’s not while you sit at Bahia Honda Bridge on an outgoing tide, on a full or new moon at sunset.

Tarpon start acting strange sometimes a week before the worms emerge from the hard coral rock. They might even just about disappear on the flats. It’s usually a tell tale sign that the “hatch” is going to happen.  It’s frustrating to say the least when you run around all day looking for a meatball of fish only to find tarpon here and there scattered along the ocean flats. Of course there are other places to find them but those big ocean fish are what attracts fly anglers to the Keys this time of year and keeps them coming back year after year.

IMG_4749The worm hatch will create a frenzy of tarpon in areas on the oceanside and around Key West Harbor. Sometimes if there are too many worms, your fly can be forgotten. The key is to get it right on their nose and use a long sweeping strip or striper strip so emulate the movement of the Palolo Worm.

Tarpon will swim differently too. They almost wiggle on the surface and you will see them not just roll but stay up longer pursuing a worm as it darts along the surface.

Worm Flies are very simple to tie and I suggest rigging up the fly on the leader before you get out there. Do a dozen if you have time. Whether you just want a few jumps out of the fish or want to land him (which I don’t really suggest during the hatch because you are missing all the fun) you will loose a few flies. The fly can have blue or chartreuse thread and a simple strip of red rabbit or even a clump of marabou. You may want to keep the tail longer and trim it once you get out there and see what size the worms are.

This past week through the Memorial Day weekend has been a challenge for fly fishing. The wind kicked up on Saturday and it’s been more of a permit fishing kind of day ever since. Wind and Palolo Worms don’t get along because of the chop on the water the worms would probably travel more subsurface. If you want to get away from all the boat traffic go on the hunt for permit on the Gulf edge. This time of year it is a welcomed relief from the intensity of tarpon fishing on the ocean and holding your position on the flat to wait for a shot.

2018-04-09T18:39:41+00:00 May 27th, 2015|

The Tides of May

May has overall been a better month that I expected. The tarpon population is abundant all up and down the Keys. For the most part the fish are willing to eat a fly if it is presented correctly. This past week we went from wind good enough to kite board in to calm clear water and plenty of fish.

Presenting a fly to a tarpon takes more precision than you might think. These gentle silver giants see well but they are focused and usually will not turn too much out of their way to look at anything. The fly has to get there on the first try if you can and it has to come within a few inches of their nose to even matter.

Some essentials for tarpon fly fishing that will help make the most of your trip to the Keys.

  1. Learn to double haul. If you are not sure if you are doing it right, look it up on YouTube. Here’s a great one from our friend Peter at Orvis…
  2. Practice Accuracy. Once you have learned the double haul effectively and can put out a 40 to 60 ft cast with some accuracy, practice the accuracy part. If you are in a grassy area use a frisbee or something about that size and practice casting to it. Change your position to get the most of any scenario that you might encounter on the water.
  3. Practice in the Wind. Don’t always practice when it’s a nice calm day. Practice in the wind too. I’d suggest using the full line, leader and a fly with the hook cut off. In the Keys and most other tropical destinations the wind can come from all directions and some days it can be a stiff wind even for an expert fly caster.
  4. Get the fly out there quickly. Some anglers can take 4 to 6 false casts before getting enough line out to get the fly to the fish. In saltwater the tide is moving, the boat is moving and the fish are moving so those extra false casts just might cost you a great shot on a great fish. Try getting it to your optimum distance (with accuracy) with two or less false casts.
  5. Use a Practice Rod. If you don’t have the time to practice outside, practice the motions while you are indoors. There are some great practice fly rods out there to help you improve your stroke.

Tarpon are amazing fish and this is the time to be here for them. Once you do find some and can pick a fish to make your cast to, listen to your guide’s instructions. Strip short, strip long and strip strike (no trout striking allowed!).

The tarpon area really here year round but the big boys are here generally April though June. There may be some stragglers in July, August and September.

Good luck out there!



2018-04-09T18:39:41+00:00 May 12th, 2015|

Tarpon Time in the Lower Keys

April was a very good month for tarpon fishing this year. One of the best I’ve seen in years. The weather cooperated, the fish cooperated so everyone is happy. Tarpon could be found on the ocean or Gulf and in backcountry basins. Sometimes patience is needed to find the right fish to eat a fly. Generally they swim high in the water column and are slower swimmers.

A windy start to the month of May has kept a lot of boats off the water but those who did make it out found out the tarpon don’t mind the wind. Although it’s tough for most fly anglers to cast in a heavy wind, the chop on the water helps mask the sound of the boat and enables us to get closer to the fish.

Hopefully this wind will calm down soon. May is the time for tarpon and inevitably the Palolo worm hatch will happen at some point this month. The tide and moon have to be right and generally not a very windy day for it to happen.

2018-04-09T18:39:41+00:00 May 4th, 2015|

Cuda Bowl Results

The Cuda Bowl celebrated it’s 5th anniversary the last three days in January of this year. A tournament born for the reason to create awareness of how much fun the barracuda can be when targeted (and released) in shallow water. There explosive takes of both spin and fly are like nothing you have ever seen. Nearly every person who fishes the Cuda Bowl has fun and catches fish. It can be anyone’s tournament right from the start – novice to expert.

This year I had a couple of great anglers in the boat. We fished spin the first day and did okay – lost a few big cudas but so did some of the other boats. The second day my angler John Chinuntdet  of Mooresville, NC make three consecutive casts with a fly rod and caught each barracuda. He racked up a total of 110.25 inches and it was enough to win us a Runner-Up award in the fly division. Thank you John and Rich for a fun couple of days.

The tournament was dedicated to the late Ben Gravett who has fished in the Cuda Bowl since the beginning. He was a great guy and loved to fish down here in the Keys with his sons. We have a perpetual trophy that will have a home in The Angling Company and will be a team trophy awarded each year for the two angler team with the most inches reported for their six fish each.

Here are the final results:

Grand Champion Spin Division
Steven Brown of Warrenton, VA had a total of 268 inches recorded for the two day event. Brown’s largest fish was 53 inches and also helped him to win the title for Largest Barracuda on spin tackle. Brown was guided by Capt. Pat Bracher of Overtime Charters in Cudjoe Key.

Grand Champion Fly Division

Nathaniel Linville of Key West, owner of The Angling Company, took the fly division again this year with 187 inches recorded for the two day tournament. Linville was fishing with Capt. John Benvenuto of Key West.

First Runner-Up Spin Division

Matt Gravett of Warrenton, VA took second place in the Spin Division with 250.74 inches recorded. Gravett was fishing with Capt. Bob Paulson of Sugarloaf Key.

First Runner-Up Fly Division

Jim Knowles of Round Hill, VA took second place in the Fly Division. Knowles recorded 132.75 inches of barracuda caught on a fly rod. He was guided by Capt. Peter Heydon of Key West.

Second Runner Up Spin Division

Jon Penning of Middleboro, MA took third place in the Spin Division and only by 1/2 inch over Bear Davidson of Catlett, VA. Penning recorded a total number of 249.75 inches of barracuda. Penning was guided by Capt. Bob Beighley of Double Haul Charters in Cudjoe Key.

Second Runner-Up Fly Division

John Chinuntdet of Mooresville, NC took third place in the Fly Division fishing with Capt. Justin Rea. Chinuntdet recorded 110.25 inches of barracuda all on the second day of fishing.

Top Lady Angler

Lacey Kelly of Ft. Myers, FL was our top lady angler. Kelly recorded 242 inches of barracuda and maintained the lead over our other women anglers for the duration of the two day event. Kelly was fishing with Capt. Jared Cyr of Key West.

First Runner-Up Lady Angler

Lynn Bell of Summerland Key was a very close second with 230.25 reported inches of barracuda. Bell was fishing with Capt. Rob Kramarz of Chaos Theory Charters.

Largest Barracuda – Fly Division

Ted Margo of Ft. Worth, TX not only had the largest recorded fly caught barracuda of the 2015 Cuda Bowl, but the largest on fly in the history of the tournament. His largest was 47 inches.  Margo noted that the two barracuda he caught on fly during the second day were his first ever. Margo was fishing with Capt. Drew Delashmit of Cudjoe Key, FL.

Largest Barracuda – Spin Division

Steven Brown – 53 inches

Ben Gravett Memorial Team Trophy

Steven Brown and Jamie Gravett of Warrenton, VA fishing with Capt. Pat Bracher.

The Perpetual Team Trophy was donated by the Gravett Family in memory of their Dad, Ben Gravett. The Gravett family has been fishing the Cuda Bowl since it’s inception in 2011. The trophy will be on display at The Angling Company.

2018-04-09T18:39:42+00:00 February 6th, 2015|

Fish the conditions in January

There’s a lot to be said about coming to the Keys to get out of the cold weather up north and your expectations of catching your target species. It’s still winter here no matter the latitude. So with that said let’s give a run down of what might be available for flats and deep sea fishing this January in Key West.


One of the most fun gamefish on the flats. Don’t knock it until you try it. Barracuda push up onto the flats to warm up in the shallows and they put on quite a show trying to catch up to a tube lure. Tube lures come in various colors like yellow, pink and chartreuse. Have a little bit of a weight inside the tube lure so you can really launch it. The pre-made ones come with wire leader. Fire it off past the cuda and reel slower until he sees it and then reel as fast as you can.  My wife and I run a barracuda tournament called the Cuda Bowl that is annually the Friday and Saturday prior to Super Bowl Sunday.


Jacks are very aggressive fish and fun for just about anyone to catch on spin or fly. They will often follow a large shark or ray trying to scavenge anything they stir up or leave behind. Inshore the Jacks travel the flats and can get upwards of 20- pounds. Fish for them from a wreck and you might be done for the day after fighting one of these big boys.


Ever since the MadFin Shark Series came out shark fishing is all the rage in Key West. There’s no doubt it’s a lot of fun to bring in these big sharks and sight fish to them in shallow water. We have bull sharks, hammerhead sharks, lemon sharks and blacktip sharks to top the charts. A shark will eat a buck tail jig, a live bait, or a dead bait. It depends on the situation and how hungry he is. Bottom line, sharks are a lot of funs so don’t pass up a chance to fish for them with spin or fly tackle.


Yes, there are permit here in the winter months. In fact, some of the best permit fishing I’ve seen in recent years has been in late January and the latter part of February. There are some big ones around and they are willing to eat in the right situation. Fly anglers become obsessed with permit fishing and to get on them you need to be here late Feb and March or mid-June through the fall months.

The offshore bite consists of so much it’s hard to pinpoint a few fish we target. Now that it’s after January 1st, grouper season is closed until May 1st. This has been a much needed regulation and has given the grouper population a tremendous boost it needed.

Blackfin Tuna

One of my favorites to fish for and to eat. With anything offshore the live bait makes the situation a whole lot better. If you can get a well full of pilchards and start throwing them over a deep structure you can sometimes make the water boil with excitement. Bonito and blackfin tuna are generally mixed together and in a lot of cases there are sharks near by waiting to take their half of your tuna.


Personal favorite as well and excellent eating. I’ve only caught a few personally but I have to say it holds up to it’s legacy of being one of the fastest fish in the ocean.


This pelagic fish spends a lot of time moving around the same waters as blacken tuna, wahoo and bonito. They will eat live pilchards and also ballyhoo.

Yellowtail Snapper

We may spend some time fishing for snapper along the reef edge or on a patch reef. Mutton snapper are also here year round and one of the hardest fighting snapper you will find in our waters.

Fishing your conditions will take you in the shallow bays and flats when it’s windy and rough to the offshore waters beyond the reef when it’s more calm. Being on the water every day I can say I really love to not get beat up and have fun catching some fish.

Rely on your guide to tell you what would be your best option for wintertime fishing in Key West.

2018-04-09T18:39:42+00:00 January 10th, 2015|

Permit Article in Anglers Journal

Check out Anglers Journal Fall 2014 edition. There is a great article on permit fishing. Chris Dombrowski sums up permit fishing in this great article that combines my love/hate relationship with permit and some interviews with other people who have fished with me for permit.

Buy the issue on Amazon

It is also available at West Marine and in Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson Airport


2018-04-09T18:39:42+00:00 November 10th, 2014|

Flats Action has been Good!

Permit fishing in the Fall in Key West

Christian with a nice fall permit caught while wading.

Fall Holds Some Calm Days

The past week has been a good one for shallow water fishing and wading in the mornings and evenings especially. I had a great angler this week and despite the skies being not so clear, it was calm which made seeing tailing fish and push through shallow water easy.

Tides have been right for wading but it is not always that perfect. The fall months tend to have the best tides to wade here. Permit and bonefish will be the target species through the end of October. There are some tarpon still around, mostly smaller ones with a few good sized mixed in.

We have some availability this coming week due to a cancellation so if you have time come on down for some fishing!

2018-04-09T18:39:42+00:00 October 4th, 2014|