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Go North to Key Largo for Relaxed Fishing and Underwater Spectacle

Stalk snook, redfish and bonefish inshore and take a shallow dive to the lush coral reef.

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The inshore fishing in Key Largo could be one of the best-kept secrets in Florida. From bonefish, permit and tarpon to snook, sea trout, redfish and grouper, the flats, shorelines and sounds of Key Largo host a variety of species that appeal to just about every angler who heads to the first and northernmost of The Florida Keys.

One reason why some might overlook Key Largo’s great fishing is the area’s reputation as a premier dive destination. From artificial reef sites such as the 510-foot U.S.S. Spiegel Grove to the lush natural reefs of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo’s underwater attractions draw scuba and snorkel enthusiasts.

Snapper caught on a reef
Coral reefs and patch reefs attract snappers and other species. Kevin Falvey

The reduced fishing competition means charter captains can put their customers on fish without making long runs and without worrying about other anglers taking their favorite spots. In fact, Key Largo flats guides enjoy the least-pressured bonefishing in The Keys. No-motor zones also keep personal watercraft from running across productive flats.

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Bonefish, permit and tarpon can be caught year-round on ocean and backcountry flats, with the best fishing during spring and early fall, when water temperatures are ideal. Anglers seeking sea trout, snook and redfish typically run toward Flamingo in Everglades National Park, but nearby Blackwater Sound and Long Sound can be just as good given the lack of fishing pressure. During the heat of summer, some guides offer night trips. You literally can hear snook and tarpon feeding on bait in the dark throughout the creeks and mangroves.

Redfish caught inshore in Key Largo
Stalk redfish and more inshore. Kevin Falvey

Just offshore of Key Largo, captains target grouper on patch reefs and shallow wrecks, as well as at freshwater springs in 6 to 30 feet of water. Wrecks farther out, in depths of 350 feet, attract 20- to 50-pound bruiser amberjack, which give visiting anglers the fight of their lives. Dolphin and tuna also swim in those depths, while coral reefs and patch reefs attract yellowtail and mutton snappers, among other species.

Grouper caught in Key Largo
Key Largo hosts a variety of species, such as grouper. Kevin Falvey

The island also boasts some of the best restaurants in The Keys, all of which offer locally caught seafood, and some of which will cook your catch. Accommodations range from motels and campgrounds to full-service resorts and idyllic waterfront hideaways, where you can rest up for a variety of non-fishing excursions such as glass-bottom boat tours to Pennekamp, paddling a canoe or kayak, or simply taking a swim at the beach.

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If you choose a waterborne activity, you’ll likely encounter everything from brilliantly colored tropical fish species to schools of prey fish and even mammals like bottlenose dolphins. Key Largo visitors interested in a more up close and personal marine-life encounter can even swim with dolphins at Dolphins Plus, rounding out a full day of unexpected adventure and surprising beauty.

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