Fishing from shore in Key West
Key West does not have much in the line of bridges that are very fishable. The Boca Chica bridge is a common place for fishing but since there is a new bike path in place there might be some common ground for bikes and fishing. In many places along the road on the south side of the island – South Roosevelt – there is a sea wall with some potential for some fishing. Before the bend in the road that heads along the ocean and to the Key West airport there are a few areas deep enough to hold some fish, and during the winter months it is a haven for live bait. The road in front of the airport the water is very shallow so not much is fishable. Some of the areas are wadable as the bottom is hard coral rock. The approach would have to be from the Smather’s Beach area. There are several jettys that break up Smather’s Beach but I believe fishing is discouraged except maybe on the eastern most jetty where there is not much beach traffic.
Continue along South Roosevelt and left on Atlantic Boulevard brings you to the White Street Pier. There is ample parking by the pier and across the street. The White Street Pier offers the best opportunity for fishing and is a nice pier that is well lit at night. The concentration of anglers seems to be at the very end of the pier on the southwest corner. The water is deeper and there are plenty of hiding places for snapper and other smaller fish. When the current gets going the outer walkway to the end of the pier there are schools of fish sitting in the current. Most of them are probably too small to keep but if you can fool these snapper they can be a lot of fun on a light rod.
Another fun tidbit is there is some night tarpon fishing to be had from the White Street Pier area. Fly fishing is a preferred method of enticing a tarpon to eat from land. The line can be thrown with not much obstruction. Darker flies are a suggestion but try other colors too depending on the clarity of the water. Tarpon are big fans of clear water so don’t expect them to be around the pier if a big storm is rolling in.
Higgs beach also has a small pier that jets out into the Atlantic. During the day there are too many folks swimming here to make it a fishing spot but take a look at night and see what’s swimming around.
The Outer Mole is a great place to go find tarpon in the spring and summer. Unfortunately this area is open to US Military and their families only. If you can get access to Ft. Zachary it too can be a great place to wet a line along the Key West Harbor edge. Check with the park ranger to find out if fishing is permissible.
Fishing from shore in the Florida Keys requires a license. This rule became effective August 1, 2009. Residents can get a license to fish from shore at no cost except for convenience fees. Non-residents may obtain a fishing licence at local tackel shops or online at www.myfwc.com.
Nonresidents must purchase a 3-day, 7-day or annual nonresident saltwater fishing license when saltwater fishing from the shore or a pier, bridge or jetty attached to the shore unless fishing on a pier with a pier license.
The Lower Keys Bridge Fishing
The Keys are connected by one roadway and many bridges. The whole way down the Keys there are areas to go fishing along the the road. Most of the bridges on the overseas highway also have a secondary bridge along side that’s made for pedestrian traffic and for fishing.
Each of these “extra” bridges also has parking, garbage cans for trash, recycling and also a special PVC pipe to dispose of fishing line. South of the 7-Mile Bridge is Sunshine Key. The bridge just past the Sunshine Key RV Park there is a decent fishing bridge. There are also areas on the ocean side of the road with paths down to the edge of the channel. Sunshine Key is followed by Bahia Honda State Park which has some wonderful opportunities for beach goers, kiteboarding, swimming and fishing. Bahia Honda has some special areas where fishing is allowed. Please check with a park ranger for areas to fish. Generally under the old Bahia Honda Bridge can be good for snapper, grunts, barracuda and tarpon to name a few. During the months of April through June tarpon spend a lot of time between the old and new Bahia Honda bridges. There is even a fabled palolo worm hatch in which the tarpon flock to this area to gulp up these red and white worms as they make their way to the reef.
Other areas worth checking out would be the beach area far to the east. The rising tide can bring in some bonefish and permit. The area is perfect for fly rodding but get there for a very early rising tide to beat the beach crowds.
On the other end of the Old Bahia Honda Bridge is a parking area and a couple of flats that are wadable for bonefish and tarpon. The bottom is hard and mostly sand but I would wear wading boots only because the in and out of the water areas can be riddled with broken glass. Along the old sea wall and up to the top of the west end of the bridge there are some areas worth fishing for snapper. In the winter the fishing is good during the day and at night you may find some tarpon under the lights of the new bridge. Summertime it is better to give bridge fishing a go in the evening and into the nighttime hours. The water can get quite warm during the days, enough to send these fish to deeper water. For a glimpse of the underwater world visit the Teens 4 Oceans website (http://teens4oceans.org/index.php/gallery/webcams/) and check out their Bahia Honda underwater cam. Check it out during the slack tide for some amazing marine life!
The Spanish Harbor bridge offers only a small area to fish along side the bridge. At one time there used to be snook that spent a lot of time under this bridge but I have not heard that they are still there. The Big Pine Fishing Lodge is at the west end of the Spanish Harbor Bridge. This is a great stop for fishing supplies, snacks, drinks and ice.
From Big Pine down to Key West there are many places on the bridges to fish. Some of the shallow water backcountry areas can be accessed by kayak or paddleboard. There are generally more places to find different species of fish with an ability to get out on the water.