It’s tough to find a spot better than Key West for saltwater fishing in America. There are so many species of fish there to target and a variety of ways to do it. That is what drives so many fishermen to visit the Key West Historic Seaport, located along the harbor walk waterfront. Wreck fishing Key West now represents a significant portion of the boat charter business there.
For a uniquely Key West experience, I recommend either drift fishing or anchor fishing the large accumulation of shipwrecks that lie just north of the island. There, at the southern part of the Gulf of Mexico, many boats and ships have sunk into the watery depths over the years. A lot of these wrecks can be traced back to World War II. At that time, the fight against Germany downed many seafaring vessels. Some of the sites include Spanish Galleons, which go back even further in time. The haunting feeling given off by coming across these broken freighters and shrimping ships is palpable. Fortunately for anglers, they are also target-rich environments. Huge fish with big appetites now reside in these forgotten boats.
With that in mind, the Reel Lucky Too, a 26-foot Panga from Captain Moe Mottice’s Lucky Fleet, went north in the direction of those broken ships. The search for cobia, barracudas, amber jacks, snapper, jack crevalle, and sharks awaits. Please keep in mind, when you go wreck fishing Key West on a trip like the one I am describing, there are a few keys to having a wonderful time.
BAIT & EQUIPMENT MATTER
Bait is obviously the most important thing when trying to catch some of the monster fish when you are wreck fishing Key West. Ideally, it is better to use fresh bait trapped before heading out. Preferably, bait being used is catered to the fish being targeted. Barracuda are not picky and will bite on most any small, fast-moving live bait. However, there are fish that are more particular, such as grouper, that prefer pinfish, or permit, that bite on live crabs. Shrimp, pilchards and mullet are also handy to have.
Equipment is also very important. The Reel Lucky Too had plenty of the latest Penn rods and reels. To get the best results, anglers cannot expect to bring out some 30-year-old equipment. Light tackle/spin with 10-20 lb. weight is normally the way to go with fishing these shipwrecks.
DRIFT OR ANCHOR FISHING
The next decision when wreck fishing Key West is whether to drift fish or anchor fish. Typically, drift fishing is best when the current is light. This allows anglers to stay down because they can feel the depths without using a big lead. It is sometimes difficult to detect whether there is a bite on the line with heavier leads. By gradually drifting over the top and around the wrecks, baits can move to parts of the bottom in order to attract different fish. Usually, baits drifting with the current are attractive to your target fish because they see it as an easy meal they do not want to miss out on. Fish move around at the depths of 100 to 240 feet, but shallow water is the simplest way to catch big fish.
If or when the choice is made to drop the anchor, it is important to chum the water to draw fish to the bait. This can be a great way to catch snapper and grouper. The red snapper could be perhaps some of the tastiest fish to be found here and average about 10 to 15 pounds. The record is a 34-pound mammoth snapper hauled in by Kevin Lockwood. The black grouper is also a popular catch for a great meal because of its mild taste. They can grow up to five-feet long and tip the scales at more than 100 pounds, but the average size is around 10-20 pounds.
POPULAR WRECKS TO CHECK OUT
Another treat on this sort of trip is the history involved. Though there are many boats that have floundered near Key West, four of the most famed shipwrecks went down to Allied explosive ordinance devices in 1942. Those wrecks include Gunvor, a Norwegian boat, Bosiljka, a Slavic freighter, Edward Luckenbach, an American freighter, and the USS Sturtevant, an American destroyer. Another popular attraction is the All Alone Wreck, a 75-foot tugboat. It lies south of Key West on the Ten Fathom Ledge. If you enjoy diving as well, you can investigate the sunken German U-2513. It is a 1600-ton, 252-foot long submarine, 95 miles off Key West that offers a unique experience.
WRAPPING UP YOUR TRIP
Remember to bring a tip for the crew on any fishing charter. Common sense dictates that the amount can vary on the performance of the crew. Most crews believe 15 to 20 percent of the money spent on the charter services shows passengers appreciated the trip. Usually, boats have a predetermined split structure, but a passenger can always give a gratuity to the captain and ask him to distribute the money fairly to the rest of the crew.