Fishing On The Compass Rose
An Offshore fishing experience, also referred to as Deep Sea fishing, out of Key West, Florida is like nowhere else in the world. The reef line is only 6 miles south of Key West and the Gulf Stream can be just past that during the winter months which make it great for catching trophy size sailfish, wahoo, tuna and more. During the summer months the gulf stream moves further south and we get to stretch our legs a bit and run 10-30 miles offshore in search of weed lines and dolphin fish. Offshore fishing is the stuff of lore made famous by the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Zane Grey and others. Their is plenty of excitement to be had year round fishing out of Key West, Florida, whether we are trolling, kite fishing or sight fishing you can expect to leave with a great new fishing story of your own. Key West has it all.
Key West reef fishing is an action packed fishing experience. Depending on the time of year many different species occupy the reef.
You are always sure to find yellowtail snapper and barracudas on the reef. As the winter months approach and the water cools and cero
mackerel and mutton snapper and grouper grow thick on the reef. It is a great trip for action and a lot of fun for beginner anglers.
When the wind blows there are shallow water reefs we can fish to stay in the calm waters and still enjoy the day. The reef action
is a blast on light tackle.
Wreck fishing near Key West and in the Gulf of Mexico is full of surprises. The wrecks are home to fish from 600 lbs to 3 lbs and you
never know who is going to be home when you arrive. The way we fish wrecks is to anchor down, begin a chum slick and watch. As the
time passes the fish grow larger and larger from cobia to snapper, grouper to goliath groupers weighing sometimes over 400 to 500 lbs.
It is hands on bottom fishing and spinning tackle fishing for the surface species, kingfish, cobia and sometimes permit.
Shallow water snorkeling at the beginning of lobster season can be amazing. Imagine looking under a rock or in a hole and seeing a dozen
or more lobster waiting for you to pick them up and take them home for dinner. It is a great family activity and the sheer beauty of
the shallows and coral heads is a site all should see. So load up the kids and bring your towels and let’s go explore the shallows
As light dims and the suns sets fish come out to feed. The tarpon fishing in the harbor of Key West is already legendary but to
watch a sunset as the the Silver King jumps in the air on the end of your line is burned into your memory forever. Harbor fishing
is a very hands on fishery for tarpon. You free line back a bait in the current and when he picks it up you begin to wind. Remember
we are using circle hooks so don't set the hook. As soon as the line starts to scream out you lift your rod tip and begin to pump and
wind the fish in. Normally to make the fight a little easier we drop anchor and chase the fish. They aren't edible so we don't kill
them but we will bring them up close enough for some great pictures. Shark fishing at sunset you can just hear the music from Jaws,
dunt dunt dunt dunt. Shark are a blast to catch and the action shark fishing often is one right after another. It normally take s a
little while (15 mins) for them to find the chum but as soon as they do they stack up around the boat and it is one shot after another.
Most common sharks are lemons, bulls, black tips, hammer heads and so many more. They range is size from 20 lbs to 600 lbs and even
bigger. Shark fishing is again a catch and release fishery. There is no reason to kill them most are no good to eat. So come enjoy
the sunsets peace and tranquility only to be disturbed by the reel screaming line with another fish on.
Years ago the Air Force built towers out in the Gulf of Mexico for communication and mapping. The towers are anywhere from 29 to 60
miles into the gulf and to fish in federal waters in the gulf requires a special permit. So not a lot of guides have it and not a lot
of guides run that far out to fish. Needless to say the fishing around the towers gets very little pressure and the fish are dumb. I
love dumb hungry fish. You will find permit, cobia , barracudas, grouper, snapper and goliath groupers on the towers. The large tower
legs are as close to oil rig fishing as we have in the keys and hold some truly great days of fishing.
The Gulf of Mexico is littered with ship wrecks from all different eras. There are World War II wrecks to shrimp boats to every kind of sea going vessel you can imagine. Being that the gulf has a fairly flat bottom, the fish are attracted to structure for protection. The truly unique thing that happens around structure on the bottom is the food chain that lives on the wreck. The smallest of baits live in round the wreck to provide themselves with structure to hide in. A natural food chain occurs because where you have small baits you have larger and larger fish to eat them. The different gulf wrecks hold different fish at different times of year but you can always expect to find grouper, snapper, barracuda, sharks, goliath groupers, permit, king mackerel and many more. The typical style of fishing is to anchor up current of the wreck and start chumming to draw the fish away from the structure. Once you draw them away a little you can drop down a bottom rod and as soon as it hits the bottom you have a bite. Many times the cobia will follow a shark up and you can catch one after another, switching from spinning to conventional tackle. Bottom fishing is great for novice anglers and kids because the bites come often and constant, if you lose one you'll get another shot.
My customers often tell me fishing behind the shrimp boats is like fishing in your own aquarium. The water is normally crystal clear
and fish boil around the boat. The best of the shrimp boat fishing is normally about 25 to 65 miles out from Key West so you have to
pick your days. But when it is the right time of year and the weather is right I can't wait to go. A typical shrimp boat fishing
trip starts early in the morning because we have to run out there and meet the shrimp boats on the grounds before they dump all
their bycatch for the morning. You see in the keys the shrimp boats drag nets all night long and then sleep during the day. While dragging nets the shrimp boats not only catch shrimp but all kinds of other fish called bycatch. Normally they just sort out the shrimp and dump the
rest overboard. The fish aren't dumb they follow the sound of the shrimp boats for a free meal and just wait for them to dump the
bycatch. Well what we do is show up at the grounds between 6 and 7 am when they are getting ready to dump their bycatch and we become
the food source. It is amazing to watch a five hundred fish boil next to the boat. The water just comes alive with boils as we throw
the shrimp trash in the water, everything from bonitas, blackfin tuna, sharks, cobias and mackerel. Don't forget all the fish on the
bottom sitting down there waiting fro their free morsel to drop from the surface, mutton snappers, groupers and all kinds of bottom fish.
To catch the tunas often you don't even put the bait in the water you hold it out above the water and make them jump for it, like a
puppy jumping for a treat. It is probably the best fly fishing opportunity in the entire keys and that is saying something. I had a
trip out to the shrimp boats where my anglers caught 200 fish on fly in one day, everything from barracudas to blackfin tuna, sharks,
cobia, amberjack, bonitas and even permit. It is one of my favorite fisheries and customers are often so dumb founded they just sit
and feed the fish after they are too tired to catch any more. It's a long run but it is a lot of fun.
Key West is lucky to have the quantities of fish and the natural structure to hold them. Year round in the keys permit migrate from
the shallow water to the wrecks. Sight fishing the shallow water wrecks for permit is a blast. Watching a school of 15-30 permit
swim at you while you are holding a crab ready to cast is enough to make even the most seasoned angler muff the cast. The excitement of
making the cast and watching the permit eat the crab is wild. This fishery is not for everyone, it takes a decent cast and even
then sometimes they still don't eat. There is a reason they are considered one of the premier gamefish in the Florida Keys. They can
be absolutely frustrating but when everything goes right the smiles on my customers faces tell the story.
Whether on fly or spin, catching sharks in three to four feet of water is just fun. The typical trip starts with a short run to the shallows around the out islands called flats. The water is crystal clear and picturesque and flat calm. The excitement of watching the sharks from 100 yards swim in following the scent of the bait and zoning in their prey is almost too much for some charters to take. Then you get to watch as they get more excited and begin to feed. Shallow water shark fishing is a blast for anglers of all ages and a great way to introduce young anglers to the sport. Typically fast action and constant different species of fish keep it entertaining.
The Island Excursion trip is a custom charter for the out islands. It is your own deserted island to play on, going snorkeling, shelling, eating lunch, basically relaxing and hanging out. You can mix this into a fishing charter or just play on an out island for the day.
During certain times of the year reef fish congregate on the reef to spawn and feed. Whether it is the mutton snapper or mangroves or others the fishing action is unbelievable. A short run of about 6 to 8 miles in to the atlantic side ,the fishing begins with anchoring the boat and chumming the fish to the back of the boat. In just a few short minutes the fish will ball up behind the boat sometimes the water will turn yellow with large schools of yellow tail snapper. You drop a bait just drifting it with the current then all the sudden it takes off running. All you have to do then is close the bail and the battle begins. Often as the sun sets the fish become even more aggressive and the bite goes off. This is a fishing trip with a Key West sunset all in one.
Dry Tortugas is a small, remote island located 70 miles West of Key West, Florida. The Dry Tortugas islands and surrounding waters is
the Nation’s most remote National Park. It is a long run trip but the sites, the fish and Fort make it all worthwhile. The fishing is
very productive, just as it was 60 years ago and there have been many IGFA World Records caught near the Dry Tortugas.
Currently, I believe the area boasts over 300 world records, maybe you’re next. The Garden Key at the Dry Tortugas houses a pre Civil War era fort,
part of which now doubles as a park ranger station. The fort itself will amaze you, to think clear back in the 1700's 14 million
bricks were hauled all that way to build what was one of the largest manmade structures built at the time. Both island chains are
surrounded by shallow and deep water reefs and wrecks, and are a true angler’s paradise. Because of the distance to the area from Key
West, these reefs and wrecks receive very little fishing pressure. A typical trip might include your limit of grouper (black, red,
and gag). Also, limit of all kinds of snapper; yellowtail snapper, red snapper, mutton snapper, mangrove snapper, and cubera snapper
are a common catch. Of course king mackerel, cobia, permit, and goliath grouper are all over the wrecks, Offshore in the blue water
species like, tuna, wahoo, mahi mahi, sailfish and other pelagics can be caught live baiting. It is one of my favorite places to fish
but it takes good weather, a commitment to a 12 hour fishing day and a fuel surcharge that is expensive.
Island Excursion Trip
The Island Excursion trip is a custom charter for the out islands. It is your own deserted island for playing, going snorkeling, shelling, eating lunch, basically relaxing and hanging out.
Sunset Mutton Snapper Trip
Often as the sun sets the fish become even more aggressive and the bite goes off. This is a fishing trip with a Key West sunset all in one.
For questions or inquiries about fishing on the Compass Rose, you can call Capt. Mike. Phone number is (305) 395-3474.