Bonefishing in Key West | Detailed Guide

Bonefishing Key West

Key West is an ideal destination for anglers looking to experience the thrill of bonefishing. The shallow flats, crystal-clear waters, and abundant marine life make it a dream come true for any fly fisherman. But if you’re new to the sport of bonefishing, don’t worry – this guide will get you started.

Before you head out on the water, it’s important to know a few basics about bonefishing. Bonefish are bottom dwellers and prefer areas with rocky or sandy bottoms. They feed mainly on small crustaceans and shrimp, so using live bait like shrimp or crabs is often the best way to catch them.

Because they’re so wary, it’s important to use the right tackle and approach the fish quietly. Fly fishing is often the best way to target bonefish because of its stealthy nature.

The Florida Keys offers some of the best flats fishing in the world, and Key West is no exception. There are several popular flats fishing spots in the area, including Bahia Honda State Park, Geiger Key Beach, and Mangrove Bay. Shallow sandbars near bridges are especially good spots for bonefish because they can easily hide beneath them.

Understanding Bonefish

Bonefish are known for their slender, round bodies and silvery color with a bluish or greenish back. Their size is quite impressive, typically measuring 72-76 cm (about 24-30 inches) in length and weighing 6 kg (14 pounds).

They also have long snouts that can be used to dig out worms, mollusks, shrimp, and tiny crabs from the gravel or sand. This makes them bottom feeders, with a high tolerance level for oxygen-poor water due to specific biological adaptations they possess.

One of the most unique features of Bonefish is the reflective scales on their body which give them excellent camouflage and allow them to blend into their environment making it difficult for many people to spot them on the flats.

This camouflage also helps them to capture prey efficiently when they move quickly over sandy bottoms. Their diet consists mainly of small invertebrates such as worms, mollusks, shrimp, and crabs but they will also eat other fish if they can catch them. 

In addition to this physical adaptation, bonefish have evolved various feeding behaviors that allow them to survive in different waters around the world. For example, when hunting in shallow waters they will use an ambush technique where they bury themselves beneath the sand waiting for unsuspecting prey to come within striking range.

In deeper waters, these fish will school up and form a line allowing them to target schools of smaller invertebrates with ease. These behaviors clearly demonstrate how bonefish have adapted over time in order to take advantage of their environment’s food sources.

Fishing Gear and Techniques for Bonefishing in Key West

Bonefishing in Key West is an unforgettable experience for any angler. With its shallow flats, crystal-clear waters, and abundant marine life, the Florida Keys offer some of the best bonefishing opportunities in the world. To make sure you have a successful day on the water, it’s important to know what gear and techniques are best for catching these elusive fish.

When it comes to tackling bonefishing in Key West, using lightweight spinning rods with 10-15 lb test lines is recommended. For fly fishing enthusiasts, 8-9 weight rods are ideal as they provide enough power to cast long distances without spooking the fish.

When choosing your reel, look for one that has good drag capacity and a smooth retrieve rate so you can fight larger fish if needed. As far as lures go, small shrimp imitations or poppers work well when targeting bonefish in shallow areas – just remember not to use anything too flashy or large as this will scare them away!

When fishing for bonefish it’s also important to approach them quietly and slowly so they don’t get spooked before you even have a chance to cast your line. Wading or walking quietly along the flats is the best approach for this – just make sure you don’t disturb the fish’s habitat too much! Additionally, be aware of any potential predators in the area such as barracudas or sharks, and take extra care not to wade too deep into open water.

Finally, when targeting bonefish it’s important to understand their behavior. They tend to be more active during the cooler times of the day such as early in the morning and late in the evening when there is less light.

Additionally, they can often be found in shallow waters where there is plenty of cover or structure that they can hide around. By understanding the behavior of bonefish and using the right gear and techniques, you’ll be sure to have a successful day of bonefishing in Key West!

Finding Bonefish in Key West

One of the best places to bonefish in Key West is the Lower Keys. These shallow flats provide prime conditions for bonefish, with plenty of large and small fish around for anglers to target.

The crystal-clear waters make it easy to spot these skittish fish, and anglers will be able to find them along the rocky points and sandbars that line the area. The flats are also home to a variety of other species, including tarpon, jacks, sharks, permit, and snapper.

Another great spot for bonefishing in Key West is Fort Zachary, Taylor State Park. This park offers access to some of the most pristine mangrove flats in Florida, providing anglers with an opportunity to sight cast to countless numbers of tailing bonefish.

There is also plenty of other gamefish around such as snook, redfish, barracuda and more. It’s also an excellent place for wade fishermen since there are no boats allowed on many of these flats – making it a great spot for those looking for some solitude while they’re fishing.

Known to be hard fighters, bonefish offer anglers of all skill levels a unique opportunity to experience the thrill of fishing in Key West. With the right gear, techniques, and knowledge of their behavior, anglers can have a successful day on the flats and come home with some great stories about their encounter with these elusive fish.

The bonefish season in Key West typically runs from April through June and September through November. During these times, anglers will have the best chance of catching bonefish in the area’s most productive flats. With plenty of experienced guides available to help you locate these fish, combined with stunning scenery and pristine waters, Key West is certainly one of the world’s premier destinations for bonefishing.

A good understanding of tides and currents is essential for successful bonefishing in Key West, so make sure you research the area beforehand and plan your trip accordingly. With the right gear, techniques, and knowledge of their behavior, anglers can have a successful day on the flats and come home with some great stories about their encounter with these elusive fish. Happy fishing!

Bonefish Regulations and Conservation in Key West

Bonefish in Key West is catching and releasing only, meaning anglers must return any bonefish they catch immediately to the water. This is an important step in protecting this species and ensuring its sustainability for future generations of anglers.

1. When targeting bonefish in Key West, anglers should adhere to the rule of catch and release only. This means that any bonefish that is caught must be gently handled and released back into the water unharmed.

2. It is important for anglers to use the appropriate gear when engaging in bonefishing, as this will help ensure a safe and successful release. A light tackle rod and reel, along with a fluorocarbon line, is best for targeting bonefish.

3. When handling the fish, it is important to use wet hands or gloves to avoid removing any protective slime from the bonefish’s body.

4. In order to ensure the safe release of bonefish, it is important to quickly get them back into the water and away from any predators.

5. Anglers should also be aware of their surroundings when releasing a bonefish and try to minimize any damage to the area’s natural environment. This includes being mindful of boat wakes, noise, and pollutants.

By adhering to these guidelines, anglers in Key West can help ensure that bonefish are able to thrive and remain an integral part of the Keys’ ecosystem.


Florida keys offer some of the best bonefishing opportunities in the world. With miles of pristine flats and crystal clear waters, Key West is definitely a destination for anglers looking to target these hard-fighting fish. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced angler, bonefishing in Key West can be an exciting and rewarding experience that will leave you with some unforgettable memories. Just remember to always respect the fish and the environment by following catch and release regulations, using the right gear and techniques, and being mindful of your surroundings when fishing in Key West.