flats fishing for permit near Key West

Key West Flats Fishings Flats Fishing


Flats fishing is a long standing tradition here in Key West. It’s a tradition I am very proud to help keep alive today. Key West flats fishing involves poling a skiff through water less than 6 feet deep in search of tarpon, permit, and bonefish. We usually encounter sharks and barracuda of all sizes as well. If you  don’t fly fish, flats fishing is the way to go. Key West flats fishing is very exciting, and extremely addictive. Catching big fish in the shallows can be a huge adrenaline rush. You may never want to go deep sea fishing again. Please let me know if you are spin fishing, so I remember to bring the appropriate tackle.


Key West Flats Fishing For Tarpon, Permit, and Bonefish


Key West and the Marquesas are the perfect place to pursue tarpon on the flats.  We have  a healthy tarpon population year round that consist of resident fish as well as annual migrating tarpon. We typically use soft plastics or plugs when targeting tarpon on the flats of Key West. The flats fishing for permit is simply phenomenal here. We use live crabs for permit, but they have been known to eat a live shrimp or pink bucktail jig in a pinch. We find permit all year long with March through November being the peak months. Finally, no conversation about Key West flats fishing would be complete without mentioning bonefish. The bonefish population is exploding in Key West and the Marquesas. We use live shrimp in Key West whenever possible to target bonefish. Visit our Key West fly fishing seasons page for peak times of the year.


Key West Flats Fishing For Sharks


Flats fishing for sharks is ridiculously fun. They are usually easy to catch and put up a great fight on light tackle. We are very fortunate to have a healthy shark population in Key West. We see lemon, blacktip, gray reef, bull and hammerhead sharks on a regular basis. On most days we will encounter bonnethead, lemon,  and blacktip sharks. Seeing big sharks in super shallow water is a rush to say the least. Contact Key West Fly Fishing if you want to try flats fishing for sharks the next time you are in Key West.



flats fishing Key West, Fl
Key West flats fishing guide scans for tarpon
flats fishing for sharks in the Marquesas Keys

Flats Fishing For Barracuda In Key West


Barracuda are probably the most underrated game fish out there. These toothy predators which are lightning fast and great sport on light tackle. Fly fishing for barracuda in Key West is fantastic during the winter months. The best time of year to target barracuda is December through February. During our short mild “winter” barracuda school up and prowl the flats. The biggest barracuda are wary and formidable opponents. They have excellent eye sight and are capable of running right at the boat faster than you can reel. Once hooked barracuda scream drag and greyhound across the flat. Key West flats fishing for barracuda is not for the faint of heart! If you are interested in fly fishing for barracuda click here.



flats fishing for barracuda in January

Key West Flats Fishing Tips


1. Good Polarized Eyewear is your best friend on the flats. You can’t catch what you can’t see when sight fishing.  The tropical sun is hell on your eyes so good sunglasses are much needed protection. From a safety standpoint getting hooked in the eye will ruin your whole day so keep those sunglasses on!


2. Learn to scan the flats. Try to avoid tunnel vision and practice pointing out rays, sharks, starfish etc. This will help train your eyes to see bonefish, permit, and tarpon on the flats. Start small and work your way up.


3. If you are new to flats fishing practice by casting at anything that moves. Learning how to lead fish or to hit them on the head will greatly increase your success rate. Cast at every shark and ray you see, and get dialed in before the permit of a lifetime makes an appearance.


4. Fish the seasons. Trust my judgement on what to target when you are in Key West. A cold snap in January isn’t the best time to go bonefishing. Tell me what you would like to target and I will tell you if we can pull it off. You wouldn’t try sledding in July would you? The good news is most species are available as long as water temperatures are above 70.


5. Be patient. Permit, tarpon and bonefish can be difficult to catch. That’s what makes catching them so special. If your goal is to catch a permit on the flats, we must focus on permit fishing.  This means not getting side tracked or bored waiting. The right fish will show up, and you will be ready. So try not to be checking your facebook when he swims along. If you get bored waiting I have a whole host of bad jokes to entertain you with.


6. Focus. Focus. Focus. Keep your head in the game. Ask me questions if you have any. I will be happy to help you in any way possible. Get the most out of your  Key West flats fishing guide. Your success is my success.


7. Have fun out there. Fishing the flats is super cool, and the fish are just a bonus. You aren’t at work, and you are in paradise. Enjoy it!


If you have any questions about flats fishing in Key West and the Marquesas you can contact me. I will be happy to answer them.

Get information on flats fishing and fly fishing in the Tampa Bay area.