Extremely popular on the Keys, this semitropical species averages under five pounds but sometimes goes over 30. Striking them isn't necessary—they strike you and then take off on a long fast run. They are live-bait feeders, preferring shrimp or mullet, but will also take popping plugs, or a fly-rod streamer. Usually found in surf, bays, inlets, passes and around reefs and wrecks. No records kept.
These giant members of the sea-bass family rank higher as food than as gamefish. Heaviest concentrations are found from November to July, especially outside reefs, in bays and around causeways. They average eight pounds in weight, but have been pulled out to 100 pounds. Plug-, fly-and spin-casting are good, but still-fishing and deep trolling are preferred. Lobster is best bait. No records kept.
The fighting qualities of this fish make it a favorite among bait casters and spin-fishermen. It is a mean, noisy bully that will hit almost any lure. Hot spots are passes and inland Keys, and best angling months are June and July. Snook average four to six pounds, and are best still-fished with live shrimp or mullet, although fly-, spin- and plug-casting produce. World record: 50 pounds eight ounces.
Nomads of the sea, these voracious feeders are considered top-ranking battlers by light-tackle men. Found four to 10 miles offshore, they average eight pounds and can go to 25. Feather and nylon jigs are most popular lures, but spoons and tin squids are effective. Best fishing March to May. Spin-fishermen should cast close to school and make quick, jerky retrieve. World record: 39 pounds 15 ounces.
These razor-toothed villains of the sea can be found almost anywhere on the Keys the year round. Though known to grow larger than 100 pounds, their average weight is 10 pounds inshore and 15 pounds in the Stream. They will strike at any lure that is flashy and moving. Best places to look for them are in bays, canals, inlets, or other relatively shallow areas. World record: 103 pounds four ounces.
Various species are found the entire length of Keys, with good red snapper banks 25 miles off Key West. Can be found all year in bays, inlets and offshore reefs, usually schooling in large numbers. The best months are May to August; weights vary from two pounds to 120 pounds. Still-fishing, drifting over reefs, plug-, fly-and spin-fishing are all good methods. Live shrimp is best bait. No records kept.
Both hooking and playing this spectacular billfish are among the Keys' greatest challenges. Because it sometimes whacks the bait with its bill before taking it into its mouth, the bait must be "dropped back" when hit to simulate a stunned fish. Best baits are mullet, bonito and balaos. Once hooked, though, the sail puts on a blood-tingling performance of aerial gymnastics. Most abundant from May to July and October to December. World record: 123 pounds.
This multihued fish is rated one of fastest. Found in blue water, often under floating weed, it is abundant all year, with best angling April to July. Light-tackle trolling with strip or whole bait, feathers and spoons, is productive. Dolphin can also be taken on plugs, fly casting or on spinning gear. For action, leave one hooked on line astern of boat—and then watch out. World record: 75 pounds eight ounces.
As powerful a fish as any angler could hope to tie into, this one is rated by some guides as the fish in the Florida seas. Striking a bait or lure savagely, it can tear off 1,000 feet of line in seconds. Best angling in June. Wire leaders are necessary because of sharp teeth. Outriggers and a skipping bait are best, but wahoo are also caught on trolled sailfish baits, feather lures and spoons. World record: 136 pounds.
Rated an even better trophy than the bonefish, this biggest, gamest member of the pompano family is the teaser of the lot. Top angling from May to July. Those caught are usually hooked on a yellow jig, retrieved in a short, jerky manner. Best spots are around bridges and on the sand flats, and good baits are hermit crabs, sand fleas and live shrimp. World record: 42 pounds four ounces.