Florida Keys USA
Being adjacent to the Florida Reef, the keys offer some of the best flats fishing in the world. Target Bonefish, Permit, and Tarpon almost all year round but from April through October, you are always in the game for a Grand Slam. The Florida reef is the third largest reef in the world second to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and the Belezian Barrier Reef. Bonefish in the upper keys and in the lesser fished areas like the Marquesas and the Dry Tortugas can run rather large. It is not uncommon to get several shots a day a double digit Bonefish. These are not the dumb hungry fish of the Bahamas, they are savvy, somewhat spooky and demand a good cast & presentation. Larger flies can be used 2-1/0 depending on the pattern. There are also Snook, Redfish, Barracuda, several different species of shark if you’re planning to stay inshore. Some of the guides actually target nurse and lemon shark which offer and exciting strip set and they put up a great fight. If your interested in Big Game, within about 15 miles of land, you can try your luck at Atlantic Sailfish, Blue & White Marlin, Mahi-Mahi False Albacore and Tuna. Blackfin Tuna are almost always in season in the Florida Keys. One of the ways they are fishes for here is following the shrimp boats and casting into the furious surface activity behind the boats that create huge chum slicks that the fish follow. There are also bonito here which resemble blackfins but are not as valued. The Sailfish come through in the winter and early spring, Marlin is best in the Summertime which is also economical if you are traveling because it’s the “off season” for Florida but the fishing is quite great from late June through September. The best time to target Sailfish is in the fall and winter which also is a good time for false albacore, blackfin tuna & resident tarpon on the beaches. There are several shrimp runs and a very predictable one in January in the upper keys which usually produces some great tarpon fishing.
Geography The Florida Keys are a coral island chain in the southeast United States off the coast of Southeast Florida. The Keys were originally inhabited by Native Americans of the Calusa and Tequesta tribes. They were later found and charted by Ponce De Leon in 1513. De León named the islands Los Martires (The Martyrs) as they looked like suffering men from a distance. Clearly, people wern’t suffering in the Florida Keys. “Key” is from the Spanish Cayo, meaning small island. They begin at the southeastern tip of the Florida about 15 miles (24 km) south of Miami & extend south-southwest to Key West, the last inhabited Key. They extend further west to the inhabited islands of the Marquesas, and the Key West National Wildlife Refuge including and the Dry Tortugas National Park. The islands lie along the Florida straights which divide the Atlantic Ocean to the east from the Gulf of Mexico to the west, and defining one edge of Florida Bay. The Florida straights are also considered the origin of the gulf stream. The closest point, the southern tip of Key West is just 90 miles (140 km) from Cuba. The Florida Keys are between about 23.5 and 25.5 degrees North latitude, in the subtropics. The climate of the Keys, however, is defined as a tropical zone. More than 95 percent of the land area lies in Monroe County but a small portion extends northeast into Miami-Dade County, such as Totten and the northern keys of Biscayne Bay. The total land area is 137.3 square miles (356 km2). Monroe County consists of a section on the mainland which is almost entirely in Everglades National Park, (see Flamingo) and the islands of the Flordia Keys from Key Largo to the Dry Tortugas. Geology The Florida Keys are the exposed portions of an ancient coral reef. The northernmost island arising from the ancient reef formation is Elliott Key, in Biscayne National Park. All of southern Florida was covered by a shallow sea. Several parallel lines of reef formed along the edge of the submerged Florida plateau, stretching south and then west from the present Miami area to what is now the Dry Tortugas. Just offshore of the Florida Keys along the edge of the Florida Straits is the Florida Reef. The Florida Reef extends 270 km from Fowey Rock just east of Soldier Key to just south of the Marquesas Keys. It is the third largest barrier system in the world, second to Australia’s great barrier reef and the Belize Barrier Reef in Central America.
Flyfishbonehead is fly fishing in saltwater – introducing a world of travel and fishing to fly anglers worldwide – we got your bonefish flies, permit flies, tarpon flies & all your saltwater fly tying videos
NAMES OF THE FLORIDA KEYS
Upper Keys (These are not true keys)
Keys in Biscayne National Park (accessible by boat only)
Soldier Key Ragged Keys Boca Chita Key Sands Key
True Florida Keys (meaning exposed ancient coral reefs)
Elliot Key Adams Key Reid Key Rubicon Keys Totten Key Old Rhodes Key Key Largo Plantation Key Windley Key Upper Matecumbe Key Lignumvitae Key Lower Matecumbe Key Middle keys Craig Key Fiesta Key Long Key (Rattlesnake Key) Conch Key Duck Key Grassy Key Crawl Key Long Point Key Fat Deer Key Key Vaca Boot Key Knight’s Key Pigeon Key Lower keys Little Duck Key Missouri Key Ohio Key Bahia Honda Key Spanish Harbor Keys West Summerland Key No Name Key Big Pine Key Ramrod Key Summerland Key Knockemdown Key Cudjoe Key Sugarloaf Key Park Key Lower Sugarloaf Key Saddlebunch Key Shark Key Geiger Key Big Coppitt Key East Rockland Key Rockland Key Boca Chica Key Key Haven (Raccoon Key) Stock Island Key West Sigsbee Park Fleming Key Sunset Key Wisteria Island the Marquesas Keys the Dry Tortugas
|Species & Tactics|
Albula vulpes is one of about 15 different species of bonefish found in the world, but is the most prolific in the Caribbean and surrounding Atlantic. The information here can be applied to nearly every species.
The members of the Albulidae family of fishes, or Bonfish, as they are more commonly known, are one of, if not the most sought after species on the flats with a fly rod. The silver torpedo shaped fish with variably colored vertical stripes ranges in size from 2-19 pounds, with the average fish caught being between 3 and 16 pounds (depending on location).
Migrating Tarpon...This is what we dream about. A school of Tarpon 20-30 strong each weighing about 130 lbs. swimming across the flats. It's a fly anglers dream! These are the large adults that have been in deeper waters reproducing and are traveling in search of warmer waters and a new source of food. They're hungry, aggressive and will destroy your rod and reel in no time if you let them
SEARCH TARPON FLIES IN OUR SHOP
There are many other words often associated with fly fishing for Permit but they will be excluded to keep profanities off the site. To quote a professional fly fisherman in the Miami area who's name and expletives are intentionally left out "after all these years, I'm done with that fish". He literally quit fishing for Permit after over 7 years of frustration but he really didn't. He caught his first Permit on a fly in July 2012.
Quitters never win and winners never quit. One of the flyfishbonehead staff members fished for 3 years and spent over $10,000 before landing his first Permit on a fly. Many ask how this can be if there are so many photos and instruction on how to fly fish for Permit. Actually many Permit are caught on live crabs with a spin rod and a much of the published information is just speculation, propagated rumor and scuttlebutt. There is some good information out there and fisherman that have significant success, but much information is hear-say and rumor.
Unlike most other species that fly angler's target, Redfish are really not that well known. If you talk to an angler that targets Redfish regularly and with success, they might say it's the best species to fly fish for. That debate will rage on for ages, it's preference really, but Redfish definitely have a lot going for them and are certainly gaining popularity among salt water fly fisherman. Redfish are also known as a channel or spot-tail bass, Red drum, or just plain "Reds."
So what makes Reds so special?
First and foremost, they are a strong fighting fish that have a broad distribution from the panhandle states to northern Mexico and as far north in the Atlantic as Massachusetts. You don't need to spend thousands of dollars flying to the Caribbean or Central America to catch them.
SNOOK! The snook is a very desirable target on the fly for many reasons; the abundance of energy & fight despite the subtle strike (well sometimes anyway) but and much to our dismay, they apparently are incredibly tasty as well. We can say that we have never killed a snook, and never will. We encourage you to catch and release as this species is in trouble in Florida and the Gulf states.
There was a very cold season which included a freeze of 2009 which killed and chased off most of the species there. Bonefish, permit and tarpon disappeared but we think they just went south because they did gradually come back. The snook there are still not quite back and not where they used to be. The number and size of the snook in southern Florida and the Gulf of Mexico is still significantly decreased. The commercial and recreational harvest of common snook was prohibited throughout Texas and Florida (USA) until August 2013.
Mahi-Mahi (Coryphaena hippurus) (aka Dorado, Dolphin, Lampuga, Lampuki, Lapuki, Maveriko) If you're interested in catching super-strong, beautiful, not-too-choosy, leaping fish, here ya go. These are the saltwater equivalents of bluegills, except they jump, and they get big. Like as big as your aging retriever. The common English name "dolphin" causes much confusion and lots of hand-wringing. Let's be clear: this fish is not related to the marine mammal also known as dolphin (family Delphinidae).
Looking to test your 12-weight rod? Want to check out the acoustics of your new reel? Head to Jupiter for false albacore. False Albacore are more accurately called little tunny (latin name: Euthynnus alletteratus). They are often referred to as bonito, but albies are not the same fish as the true Atlantic or Pacific bonito.
General Information If not already fishing for tuna on the fly, we'll just ask....Why not? This is a serious Saltwater fly fisherman's target. It's big, hits your fly at 40 mph (75 kph) and is found in just about every fishing destination you could possibly think of. Tuna are incredibly beautiful and powerful predators that come is many many different flavors too: Bluefin, Blackfin, Yellowfin, Bigeye, Longtail, Dogtooth
This is the fastest fish in the ocean!
Individual Sailfish have been clocked at speeds over 70 mph which is the highest speed reliably reported in any water creature. Sailfish are two species of billfish, the Atlantic Sailfish and the Pacific Sailfish and live in warmer sections of all the oceans of the world.
There is no fight like the fight of a Marlin. This is the prized fish of most saltwater anglers all over the world. They span almost all of the waters of the globe and can be caught by a variety of methods at various times of year in many diverse places. Marlin fishing is considered by some game fishermen to be the pinnacle of offshore game fish, due to their power, size and the relative rareness. It is an expensive hobby, requiring considerable money to pursue on a regular basis, single day of Marlin fishing can cost over $1000. They are possibly the most well-known fish in the entire world which probably accounts for millions of dollars in commerce spent hunting them. The novel by Ernest Hemingway, "The Old Man and the Sea" chronicles the struggle of a Marlin fisherman who after 85 days of failure, ventures out to sea to change his luck and catch a Marlin. Hemmingway frequently fished for Marlin, quite successfully with his family. The Marlin is the largest of the billfish and comes in many variations: Pacific Black Marlin Pacific Blue Marlin Atlantic Blue Marlin White Marlin Striped Marlin
Barracuda may be the most underrated saltwater species to catch on a fly. After hooking one, imagine this scenario: the fish is on the end of the line thrashing and running, suddenly the line goes slack. You think the fish is off but he's not because you stand in amazement as you watch a 5 foot barracuda leap 15 feet into the air like a missile being launched from below the surface of the ocean.
Spinner Shark (& other shark species)
One of the best kept secrets in all of salt water fly fishing is the Spinner Shark migration in late winter through early spring in. It happens in a place where you least expect it...West Palm & Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Really, we aren't kidding. This is spring break for sharks. They migrate to the beaches off of Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach chasing fish (snook, blues and false albacore & other tuna species) that are breeding & feeding in the surf or just beyond the surf. You can sight fish for a 100+ lb. powerhouse in just 8 feet of water. Flyfishbonehead had so much fun that we went out twice in 2012, hooked 9 and landed 5 on our first trip and landed 5 of 6 on the second. Considering the fight and how hard it is to subdue this beast that was pretty darn good.
|What To Bring|
Bonefish, Redfish, Snook, and smaller species
Bonefish can be caught on a 6-9 weight. Most commonly used is either an 8 or 9 weight because most anglers have one, many prefer a 6-7 weight because its more fun to use little tackle in general. Again as long as wind is not an issue this is certainly ok. Use a floating line with at least 200 yards of backing on your reel. Leaders should be 9-15 feet with at least a 10 lb tippet. (we use 12-15 lb) The reel should have a sealed drag and made for saltwater fishing. We use the term ‘bomb-proof” which means a tested & proven reel with the following features: 1. Very few or no moving parts 2. Smooth drag with smooth start-up 3. Sealed drag which will not corrode 4. It will not fail under any circumstance
Fishing for Permit requires a 9-10 weight rod. We almost always use a 10 weight, mainly because it is very rare that there is no wind. You don’t want to miss a fish because you couldn’t punch your fly through the wind. Why take a chance. The extra lifting power of a 10 weight will also give you an advantage when trying to keep a hooked fish from getting into coral or diving into a deep channel. Anglers need a floating line and at least 300 yards of backing on your reel. Leader should be 9-15 feet with at least 12 lb tippet (we use 16-20 lb). The reel should have a sealed drag and made for saltwater fishing. We use the term ‘bomb-proof” which simply means a tested & proven reel with the following features: 1. Very few or no moving parts 2. Smooth drag with smooth start-up 3. Sealed drag which will not corrode 4. It will not fail under any circumstance
Isley’s crab, Epoxy Permit Fly, EP Permit Crab Ginger is a special color for the keys
Tarpon usually require a 10 -12 weight. Most anglers prefer a 12 weight for the lifting power and usually gives the angler more control when trying to land the fish. Wind is usually not an issue when casting a 12 weight. Use a floating line or what we prefer is the intermediate sink line with at least 300 yards of backing on your reel. Leaders should be 9-12 feet with at least a 20 lb tippet. (we use 20 shock tippet) The reel should have a sealed drag and made for saltwater fishing. We use the term ‘bomb-proof” which simply means a tested & proven reel with the following features: 1. Very few or no moving parts 2. Smooth drag with smooth start-up 3. Sealed drag which will not corrode 4. It will not fail under any circumstance
Coker Smoker, toads in yellow & chartreuse black death, gummy minnows
Sailfish, Marlin, Tuna & Mahi Mahi
Offshore fishing for billfish & tuna usually involves a 12 -15 weight. Here you will have a chance at blue & white Marlin, Sailfish, Mahi-mahi & Tuna. We prefer a 14 weight and there are some which even have a butt suitable for gimbel use. Again because we are all about control of the fish and landing the fish quickly which decreases mortality and injury after release. The reel should have a sealed drag and made for saltwater fishing. We use the term ‘bomb-proof” which means different things to different people. To us, it means simply a tested & proven reel with the following features: 1. Very few or no moving parts 2. Smooth drag with smooth start-up 3. Sealed drag which will not corrode 4. It will not fail under any circumstance
Poppers & baitfish pink/white, green/white, blue/white work well
Shark & Barracuda
Barracuda & Shark usually require a 12 weight. A 12 weight for the lifting power and usually gives the angler more control when trying to land the fish because they fight! Wind is never an issue when casting a 12 weight either. Use a floating line or what we prefer is the intermediate sink line with at least 200 yards of backing on your reel. Leaders should be 9 feet with a metal tippet material. (we use 30 lb metal tippet) The reel should have a sealed drag and made for saltwater fishing. We use the term ‘bomb-proof” which means different things to different people. To us, it means simply a tested & proven reel with the following features: 1. Very few or no moving parts 2. Smooth drag with smooth start-up 3. Sealed drag which will not corrode 4. It will not fail under any circumstance
needlefish imitations & small baitfish Shark like big bulky orange flies
Tuna & False Albacore
Tuna & False Albacore Require a 12 wieght despite being under 25 lbs (11 kg) most of the time. False Albacore & Tuna will test your gear everytime. They are non-stop and once hook won’t quit even after they are already on the boat. We use an intermediate sinking line or a full sinking line depending on conditions. Tippet needs to be on the lighter side in the 15-20 lb range as these species have excellent vision especially in clear water. At least 300 yards of backing is also recommended. The reel should have a sealed drag and made for saltwater fishing. We use the term ‘bomb-proof” which means different things to different people. To us, it means simply a tested & proven reel with the following features: 1. Very few or no moving parts 2. Smooth drag with smooth start-up 3. Sealed drag which will not corrode 4. It will not fail under any circumstance