Ever wonder why Key West is famous for its fishing. It was Ernest “Papa” Hemingway who first put Key West on the charts for big game sportfishing, and that tradition has continues today with more than 300 world records held by Key West anglers. The warm waters, fed by the Gulfstream and protected by the only barrier reef in the United States, support an abundance of prized species -- blue marlin, dolphin (mahi mahi), snapper, grouper, amberjack, cobia, kingfish, tarpon, shark, tuna, bonefish, mackeral … to name a few.

If you’re ready to set your bait in Key West, you’re in luck, there are almost as many types of charters as there are fish to catch!

If you hope to follow in Papa’s wake, a big game sportfishing charter is the only way to go. Head down to the docks at the A&B Marina and talk to one of the captains. Both Captain Craig Eubank of Mr. Z Charters and Joe Mercurio of the the Triple Time run 46 Bertram sportfishing yachts. On board with either captain, you will fish in comfort and style.

If that’s not exciting enough for you, you might want to try light tackle fishing. The style, developed by Key West anglers, and now popular the world over, sets the bait for larger fish with a weaker line. Now you’re in for a fight!

As the world capital for light tackle fishing, it is no surprise that Key West has a large number of experienced captains in this form of sport fishing. Expect to target sailfish, tarpon, permit, king mackerel, snapper, yellowfin and blackfin tuna, grouper and sharks.

Try Captain Paul Tryon of Tailchaser Charters or choose among more than 16 guides and captains from Key West Pro Guides.

 You’ll also find a wide range of guides and vessels in Key West to fish the shallow waters of the back country. And if the private charters are a little too hard on the wallet, don’t despair. There party boats galore to put you on the waters off Key West. Also called head boats, these charters will take you to the reef, hook you up with gear, bait and tackle and even chum the water for you. The Tortuga IV  runs daily trips.

If you want to try something different and eco-friendly, give kayak fishing a try. There are several companies in Key West that rent kayaks and many of them will also rent fishing equipment. Blue Planet Kayak will give you a map and some hints on finding the fish.

May you catch the big one!

 Sailfish Caught off Key West