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Islamorada Fishing - Offshore and Reef

Stephen Brown

   Islamorada has many nicknames, but there is little doubt why it boasts the nomenclature “Sportfishing Capital of the World.” Aside from freshwater fishing, the Village of Islands has something for every angler.

   On the north-northwest side of the island chain sits the tranquil flats and grassy waters of the Florida Bay, dotted and lined with mangrove islets and forests. These make for ideal fly-fishing for anything from the tenacious bonefish to mighty tarpon, redfish, permit, bluefish, ladyfish, snook and even the occasional shark.

   To the south-southeast lies the Florida Straits, which offer anglers tons of fishing opportunities, from offshore in the deep to the channels shooting the islands. The game is dictated by how far fishers are looking to travel, where just about every resident and visiting piscine species of the Atlantic and Caribbean can be found at one time or another swimming about Islamorada.

Offshore Fishing in Islamorada - marlin and sailfish

In the Straits and Reefs

  • Offshore, about 12 miles out, trolling anglers battle billfish (November through February are premiere sailfish months in Islamorada), shark and game fish like mahi, wahoo, big amberjack, and yellowfin and blackfin tuna.
  • Further inland along the reef edge bordering the Straits (80-150 feet deep), slow trolling with live bait brings in some pretty big game like cobia, kingfish, mahi and sailfish. Along the bottom, one can reel in snapper, grouper and permit.
  • At about two to three miles out, where the shallower reef and patch reefs lie (from 20-90 feet deep), anchoring up and chumming the water makes for a great day of fishing for some dinnertime favorites like a number of snapper species (yellowtail, mutton, mangrove), red and black grouper, permit and mackerel.
  • And for those wanting to snag some big grouper and yellowtail, shoot the channels between islands along pylons from bridges and utility lines, where the big goliath grouper lurk and snapper and hogfish reign.
  • If your sea legs aren’t quite what they should be, that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on prime fishing. Simply pop in a bait shop, pick up some squid or live shrimp and head to a bridge with a spinning reel and some brews. Bridge fishing in Islamorada is some of the best anywhere; in fact, its downright annoying at times, because fishers constantly have to toss back too-small yellowtail, mutton and mangrove snapper. Depending on the tide and time of year, anglers can snag some mighty large fish passing through the bridge spans.

 

If you are not familiar with the area or don’t have a boat but are itching to nab some offshore game, hop a charter. With a range of prices, a good charter will just about guarantee landing some fish:

Charter fishing in Islamorada offshore and reef fishing - Bud N' Mary's Marina - Robbie's of Islamorada

 

Bud N' Mary's Marina | milemarker 79.8

On the Upper Matecumbe, Bud N’ Mary’s Marina (milemarker 79.8) is an all-inclusive stop for the offshore and flats fisherman, with more charter and fishing options than just about anyone in the Village of Islands. Fifteen offshore and reef charters operate out of the marina, running full- and half-day. Prices start at $700, varying with boat and captain.

  • To book a charter or to view the captains’ bios, click here.

Also running from Bud N’ Mary’s Marina is the 45-person party-style fishing boat, The Miss Islamorada. Fishing daily at 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., the Islamorada heads a few miles off to the reef drop-off, targeting yellowtail, grouper and mackerel, among others. Admission costs $65 per angler, which includes tackle and bait. Click here for more information and to book a seat.

 

Robbie's Marina | milemarker 77.5

Twelve charter captains call Robbie’s Marina home, running trips for offshore and reef fishing as well as patch reef and Gulf trips that target tarpon and shark. Prices start at $700, with most captains offering split charters.

  • For a look at the charter fishing calendar or to book a spot, click here.

For those looking to hit the seas on a budget, the offshore party-style fishing boat Capt. Michael runs daily—both half-day ($40 per person) and nighttime charters ($45 per person). What’s more, if you’re lucky enough to snag a few keepers, the mates will clean and fillet your catch for you.

  • To reserve a spot, call 800-979-3370 or click here.
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