Will you be visiting Key West for a vacation? Is the Lower Keys your permanent home? If so, then you already know that Key West charter boats provide an accessible means of water recreation for visitors and locals alike. Not all charter services are the same, so use caution. The capacity of the captain to provide a memorable and exciting day is of paramount importance. What makes for a day you’ll never forget also depends on factors like the climate, your location, and the activities you choose to partake in.
Private Key West Charters or Head Boat Tours
This is the initial decision that must be made. To go drift fishing, would you rather spend $50-$70 per person on a head boat with at least twenty strangers, or $75-$150 per person on your own boat? When fishing from a head boat, cast your line straight down because of the high concentration of anglers. Live bait and casting are not permitted. If you decide to take this course of action, we strongly advise you to arrive early in order to secure a seat in the front or back of the ship. About 75% of the world’s fish catch occurs there. You may get out of the boat to see some sights, but you won’t have much time to swim or learn how to fish. When compared to private fishing charters, party boats are a great low-cost option, but they lack a knowledgeable captain and limited customization.
Finding the Perfect Skipper for Your Key West Vacation
You might be making the most crucial choice of your life right now. Know your goals before starting your search for a charter captain. Choose a captain who can get you on the bite if that’s all you care about doing. If you’re going on a fishing trip with kids or others who aren’t very into fishing, it might be a good idea to look into a tailored or “combo” charter that includes activities like snorkeling as well. The following is a brief checklist of issues to mull over:
In the Florida Keys and Key West, a local skipper with experience as a charter or commercial fisherman is your best chance.
Inquire if Wednesday would be a good day to meet. Even if you won’t be around, you should still verify that you aren’t dealing with a “weekend warrior” who only goes fishing once a month since he or she has a regular job.
Large boats can easily cost $50 – $100 or more every engine hour to run, so be wary of the ‘fuel premium’ charged by charter captains in Key West.
The most adaptable charter boats are the mid-sized “center console” varieties, which can fish for any target species in a wide range of depths.
If you’re ready to spend more, larger charter boats with cabins can provide air conditioning and luxury. These vessels typically employ trolling techniques in their pursuit of billfish. If a fish is caught, the mates will do all the work and hand you the rod with the hook already in it.
Look for a charter captain who provides more than simply a catch guarantee. When the skipper makes fishing entertaining, even those who catch a few fish have a good time.
Ask for specifics if a charter advertises that they “guarantee” fish. Fishing charters typically have a high success rate. Charter boat captains almost never “get skunked.”
If you want to see pictures, go online. Be wary of a charter captain who boasts of catching large groupers but doesn’t post any photos of him holding one on his website. Photos that look dated on a website should raise red flags. Be wary if there aren’t many pictures of the skipper. That’s the gist of it.
Learn from the experiences of others by reading reviews on charter fishing trips to Key West. See to it that reviews are positive and audiences had a good time.
The Marine and Weather Predictions
You now have to take into account not only the astronomical prognosis but also the marine forecast. If NOAA predicts waves higher than 3–5 feet, you should postpone your trip. Not until 12–18 hours out can maritime forecasts be relied upon as precise, and even then they may be off. While it’s true that rough seas are ideal for fishing in Key West, you should still familiarize yourself with the charter’s cancellation policy just in case. There are many who will not issue a refund unless you cancel. Plus, they insist on full payment even if a passenger becomes seasick. The best method to protect yourself against unpredictable weather is to find a charter that has flexible policies and/or offers other activities.
Where, Where, Where?
Let’s pretend you made a reservation on one of the many boats lining the Key West tourist docks to go fishing. Sitting in close proximity to three or four other boats all day will likely result in you sharing the day’s catch with the fleet. If you’re looking for better access to the Atlantic and less competition from other boats, consider booking a charter from Big Coppitt Key, Geiger Key, or even Stock Island instead of Key West Harbor. Many astute tourists have discovered the rewards of chartering a fishing boat a short distance from Key West’s central district, and they have witnessed the island’s unspoiled natural splendor. Some of these charters will even pick you up from your hotel, while others won’t. You may also enjoy the amenities of a yacht club, such as pools, beaches, restaurants, and bars.
When reserving a Key West charter fishing boat, your preferences take precedence.
In Key West, a day on the water is a requirement. That may mean anything from catching a lot of fish to diving and getting lobster to going on a sightseeing tour to watching dolphins play or even just anchoring on a sand bar, cranking some tunes, and kicking back with a cold one. Make sure you have a plan in mind and locate a skipper or charter service that will accommodate your needs.
With any luck, you’ll be able to use these guidelines to choose a charter fishing boat that will make your next holiday or free day unforgettable.
The Author: As a lifelong resident of the Florida Keys and an enthusiastic fisherman, I’ve enjoyed many memorable days of fishing in Key West with visitors from all over the world. In my writings, I intend to share some of the knowledge I’ve gained about fishing over the years. Some of the photographs on the linked page show me fishing in Key West.
Here are some pictures from our fishing charter in Key West: Check out these pictures from a Key West fishing charter at http://www.keywestjeff.com/key-west-charter-photos.html.
In addition to being a personal friend and knowing firsthand of his amazing fishing talents, I also think I owe him a few drinks from the last time he brought me to the sand bar, therefore I highly recommend Captain Jeff’s Key West fishing charters [http://www.keywestjeff.com/] for adventure-seekers visiting Key West. You’re welcome for reading this.
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