Maybe you’ve come to Miami to rest and relax in the sun. Or perhaps you fancy the vibrant nightlife. No matter your business, it’s important to note—especially for you restless souls who grow tired of sunbathing—that a fishing mecca lies only a few miles south in the Florida Keys.
The Keys are a cluster of 1700 islands that begin at the southeastern tip of Florida, about 15 miles from Miami, and extend in an arc southwest and then end at Key West, the westernmost of the inhabited islands. Only a day’s drive from Miami, Key West is home to some of the best fishing waters in the world. Tarpon, dolphin (the fish, not flipper), tuna and grouper abound—as does the elusive bonefish.
Affectionately known as the “The Grey Ghost” by local anglers, bonefish thrive in the large expanses of white sand flats and turtle grass that speckle the warm waters off the Keys, as well the out islands of the Bahamas, two of the best places in the world to find them. The beauty of bonefishing lies in that any level of fisherman can enjoy it, fly casting off the flats, making it very practical. If you’re a fly fisherman by trade, you’ll have a distinct advantage as the casting technique is very similar.
You can test your skills at a number of the Keys, but in Key West the fishing options are endless, not just for bonefish—should the weather not be conducive for spotting the grey ghost as clear, calm days are almost required for bonefishing. For a light-tackle outing with a very colorful Key West flair, call Capt. Bruce Cronin (tel. 305/294-4929).
“Bonefish are some of the most temperature-driven and bait-selective fish you will ever find,” says Cronin. “Combine that with keen eyesight, and an inbred wariness, and you have one of the most elusive species you could ever seek-out.”
While bonefish and other species prefer the flats where they forage for shrimp and crab, as the water temperature drops, it forces them off the flats and into what Cronin calls the “honey hole,” also known as Key West Harbor.
“Key West Harbor is the closest, deepest water [40 plus feet] to land of any other place in the Keys, and it’s lucky for us because it fills up with fish, as the water temperature drops. And with the harbor being protected by land, we can fish no matter how hard the wind blows.”
As the harbor warms, says Cronin, you can hook a fish on every drop, if you can master the technique.
So while our focus was on bonefish, the waters off Key West are packed with a variety of fish. “There’s a chance at catching tarpon, permit and bonefish, in a single day…the ‘Grand Slam,’ the ‘Holy Trinity.’ ”
Holy Trinity indeed.