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Best Florida Keys Bridge Fishing

author
Danielle Fletcher
• Sunday, 25 October, 2020
• 9 min read

You will find excellent Tarpon fishing, a healthy stock of Shook and countless opportunities to land Yellowtail Snapper, Porgy, and Yellow Jack here. It takes a lifetime to explore all nooks and crannies below each bridge pylon, but it certainly is rewarding.

keys florida fishing bridge channel bait night barracuda nilson getting cudamanadventures
(Source: cudamanadventures.com)

Contents

Once you move past Key Largo and head south, you will see fellow anglers dropping the bait straight from the bridges, or drifting their boats near pylons looking to spot a migrating Tarpon. Other days, there’ll be a line of anglers pushing aluminum carts with their gear towards their favorite fishing spot, hoping to get Yellow Jack and make a sandwich out of it.

Lying near Mile Marker 73, Channel #2 Bridge has a convenient fishing platform where you can place your gear as you get to work. Mangrove Snapper and Gag Grouper roam these waters, and you can get them using live bait such as shrimp.

One thing to have in mind here is that it can get pretty crowded, so try to arrive early in the morning to claim your spot. This bridge has made it to the list of top fishing spots around the Floridness thanks to abundant Jacks, Tarpon, and rich wildlife.

Make sure to check out the tides or team up with a local captain to get you to the honey holes. This fishing bridge has a good offering of Permit and Bone fish, but also lots of Mangrove Snapper.

You can use shrimp to get the job done, or some pinkish, especially if you want to snatch bunkers (big fish) from the water. A good thing about using pinkish is that they will keep smaller pesky fish away from stealing your bait.

keys florida fishing bridge long key
(Source: www.youtube.com)

There are Schoolmasters, Mangrove, and Yellowtail Snapper in abundance, and numerous charters from nearby Marathon going after them. The bridge has a good water level and plenty of space so you won’t feel crowded.

Prepare shrimp if you want Schoolmasters, and pack cut ballyhoo for Mangrove Snapper. But if you persevere, you may be landing Hammerhead, Bull, and Tiger Shark in addition to Tarpon.

It’s a nice feat for anglers with some experience, but there are also numerous schools of Mangrove and Yellowtail Snapper swimming around. Rig some shrimp on your hook and watch as Snapper devour it, or chase Tarpon near the base of the bridge.

As a rule of thumb, look for walk-downs near the bridges and open space in the middle of mangroves where you can easily get down to the water level and wet the line. You can winch up Mangrove and Yellowtail Snapper when fishing from the bridges, but if you hop on a boat, it’s a Tarpon paradise.

Before you head out, make sure to ask in local tackle shops about the exact bridge open for the public as construction works may change availability. Good current flow, deep water cuts where you can drop the line, and a rich selection of live bait to snatch up all make this fishery a must-visit before you finally arrive to Key West.

bridge fishing keys florida harbor toms bridges key cudamanadventures
(Source: cudamanadventures.com)

You can make more progress if fishing below the bridge, near the water level where Tarpon swim in the shadows waiting for a quick bite. Most of the time, anglers bring along chum bags just to get the fish going before they sink the bait.

There are several popular live bait options here, including shrimp, squid, pilchards, and pinkish. To get bigger fish, use pinkish, as they are difficult to pull out and you have a better chance of the bait staying on the hook.

You will have more flexibility to reach deeper cuts in the channel where big Jacks, Tarpon, and Shook hide. When fishing around the Keys bridges, you should look for times when the tide is transitioning from its lowest to its highest point and vice versa.

The website of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is a reliable place to look for data on tide changes. Just as the Keys popularity among vacation goers doesn’t wear off, neither does its fishing season.

Shook is by and large in the water year-round, and the summer also entices multiple kinds of Shark. They are subject to change, so best check out the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission rules.

fishing keys bridges fl key west ricky nilson rory herbert left right tag
(Source: cudamanadventures.com)

The vast majority of these bridges offer the angler-on-foot a good opportunity to catch many of the game fish we have in the Floridness. If this is your first time visiting the Floridness, you will quickly notice stretches of inaccessible bridge close by.

Anglers also use jigs, fresh and frozen bait with good success. The chances of landing one of the 100+ pound tarpon that live there might be slim, but is certainly a challenge.

Local tackle shops can give you advice on tides, weather, and which bridge might be a good bet for fishing when visiting the Keys. In order to do this, anglers need a measuring device, a good understanding, and published regulations with them at all times.

If you intend on keeping fish, make sure you have a way to store them in a cold cooler. Lots of experienced bridge anglers have carts that make it easier to transport rods, bait, coolers and some drinks.

Wear sunscreen and stay covered with sun protective products like Buff Headwear to keep from getting badly burned. Even after hosting over 50 fishing tournaments each year, the coastal region boasts a bounty of tarpon, marlin, and much more.

keys fishing florida bridge fish mystery
(Source: www.youtube.com)

Comprised of six islands, where backcountry and saltwater fly-fishing were first pioneered, this coastal destination is home to bone fish, tarpon, sailfish, and many more species. For fishers looking for a more easygoing excursion, the area hosts everything from dolphin fish to barracuda to blue and white marlin.

A popular site for snorkel and dive excursions, Big Pine Key also boasts excellent fishing. Part of the class of islands known as the Lower Keys, Big Pine is a great destination for small catches (and fledgling fisherman).

Home to an array of imagination-inspiring shipwrecks, the former living place of Ernest Hemingway, and perhaps the most famous island of the Floridness, Key West boasts no shortage of bragging rights. Missing from this list is the area’s abundant sea life, a feature which makes the island a popular pick amongst skilled fishers.

For a challenging excursion (and a great story), you can’t beat the tuna, tarpon, and other local game fish found in Key West. Clear water and the presence of bone fish, permit, and more make this area a dependable destination for fishers of all experience levels.

Flowing north from Key West’s Florida Straits along the entirety of the Sunshine State’s coast, the Gulf Stream provides plenty of territory for fishers (and their would-be catches) to explore. A favorite site for offshore fishing in the Floridness, the stream awards anglers with mahi-mahi, blue and white marlin, and more.

bridge fishing keys florida channel cudamanadventures
(Source: cudamanadventures.com)

As the longest island in the Floridness, Key Largo boasts the biggest indigenous fish population in the region. Here, anglers can nab more than 600 different species of fish, including fan favorites, such as tarpon, bone fish, and permit.

Some will also offer the opportunity to slide a canoe, kayak or stand-up paddle board into the water, but all include plenty of space to fish from shore, or wade into coastal shallows. The prominent paved jetty pier on the north side, complete with safety rails offers a safe, spacious platform for reaching the surf zone or the deeper water of the inlet.

Incoming tides always bring a push of activity, but when the fall mullet run piles an enormous biomass in and around the inlet, anglers have a field day with bull redfish, giants nook, tarpon and the occasional cuber snapper. Mangrove snapper, jacks, sleepyhead and black drum add to the mix; while the shallower end, along with the smaller south jetty may yield pompano, whiting and craters.

Species mix includes trout, weakfish, redfish, black drum, flounder and sleepyhead with the occasional striped bass. Several pull off spots provide casting access to the St. Johns River, or you can take one of the interior roads through the campground to fish the Fort George Inlet on the north side.

The mix here includes flounder, redfish, black drum, pompano, whiting, bluefish, Spanish mackerel and sharks. Deploying live baits off the deep end often yields king mackerel, tarpon, sharks and barracuda.

bridge fishing keys florida lure key bridges barracuda tube muller caught
(Source: cudamanadventures.com)

Neoprene or insulated waders keep you comfy in the winter, but during the warm season, simply walk in with lightweight clothing and enclosed shoes. Tarpon often run this area anglers soaking live baits or sight casting big swim baits might put one in the air.

From the metered parking area to the pier is a bit of a hike, but it’s a straight shot down the walking promenade running along the cut. Both provide spacious access to a wide range of Keys favorites like snapper (mangrove, lane, mutton and yellowtail), tarpon, grouper, yellow jack, shook and porgies.

The gem of Pinellas County, this 1,136-acre park comprises Madeleine, St. Jean, St. Christopher, Bone Fortune and Mullet keys and complements an impressive angling menu with campgrounds, picnic shelters, bathroom/shower facilities, concessions, bait shop, dog park and historical significance. Expect a good mix of shook, trout, redfish and flounder, along with mackerel, cobra, pompano, sharks and mangrove snapper at the piers.

Boardwalks over the protected dunes offer access to the redfish, flounder and trout waters on the marsh side, but surf fishing is the big attraction. From whiting, pompano, bluefish and mackerel; to sharks, cobra and bull reds, this is one of Western Florida ’s premier shore fisheries.

The main causeway bridge and the smaller one right before the island offer sleepyhead, black drum, shook and snapper opportunities. The piers light attract bait fish, so expect everything from shook, to trout and the occasional bluefish to stake out these feeding spots.

keys fishing florida marathon bridge mile shark
(Source: www.youtube.com)

With beach shallows, the coastal Gulf and deep channel waters within easy reach, anglers find a steady mix of the inshore regulars, along with passing tarpon, king fish and sharks. Summer is prime time for big shook staging for their spawn; while fall sees voluminous bait fish schools exiting the inner bays, with several predators in pursuit.

Empty lots and bridge pull-offs may be convenient and cost-efficient, but a cursory scan for questionable types who clearly not fishing might offer a safety/vehicle security clue. Tip: Local businesses rarely budge on the “restrooms are for customers only” thing (many have signs posted), so don’t expect any mercy, no matter how much you grimace and squeeze your knees together.

Commercially produced aluminum pier/ bridge carts with wide wheels will easily transport your rods, tackle bag, cooler and live bait well over pavement, rocks or sand; but for casual duties, a garden utility cart (some models fold) will suffice. Waiting until you feel that cool downdraft can leave you and your gear exposed and out of options; so know where the nearest shelter lies and have a bug-out plan just in case.

It starts with respectful spacing, so if you approach an area where others are fishing, take note of where their lines are set (short, long) and allow reasonable buffers.

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Sources
1 en.wikipedia.org - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grouper
2 en.wikipedia.org - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantic_goliath_grouper