Bonefish the Florida Keys

Head to Islamorada for fantastic fishing.

Fla Keys map

Fla Keys map

The Florida Keys is the quintessential saltwater fly-fisherman's playground, and the late winter and early spring are ideal times to visit. The Keys offer arguably the best shots at truly giant bonefish of anywhere in the world - just remember to bring your "A-game." Because of their proximity and the reputation these waters have, the fish here get hammered almost daily, and they are far wearier than other bonefish. That said, you will still likely encounter bonefish over 10 pounds even on a short trip, and fish over 14 pounds make regular appearances.

Most of the guides in the Keys are excellent, but check with anglers who have been there, or visit Web-site bulletin boards to learn more about specific guides. The Keys do harbor a few bad eggs, and the fishing will be tough enough without being harassed from behind as well. Keep in mind that this fishing is not for the beginner. Casts often need to exceed 60 feet and require pinpoint accuracy. The fewer false casts you need to reach that distance, the better off you'll be.

While you're focusing on bones, don't forget that permit, tarpon, snook, small sharks, barracuda, snapper, and even redfish and trout can be caught in these waters as well. The base station for most anglers is Islamorada, but good fishing can be found from Key Largo down to Key West.

Based on their average size here, up your bonefish gear - 8- and 9-weights work best, especially in windy conditions. The 9-weight also works well as a permit or small-tarpon rod. Floating lines should be your primary choice, but an intermediate might prove helpful for deeper flats or channels. Bonefish tapers should be fine, but in windy conditions try a saltwater taper instead.