The flats that run between the Marquesas and 7 mile bridge are prime fishing territory. Big Pine Key draws in numerous anglers, and it’s quite easy to get here. You have 2 options. You can fly into Miami or Ft. Lauderdale and drive 2 hours on the overseas highway. Or you can fly directly into Key West.
If you’re staying in Key West, then flying into the Key West International Airport is likely your best option. However if Marathon or Islamorada is where you will be staying then you should opt for the Miami Airport. We recommend renting a car after you’ve arrived. It makes it easier to hit the top Florida fishing locations more quickly, and bring the best/appropriate gear.
As far as places to stay in Big Pine, there are many nice Bed and Breakfasts. We recommend The Sugar Loaf Lodge. Many anglers stay there so they can fish for big permit. You can also find housing located on Little Torch Key. For family vacations, we recommend renting a house in the Big Pines area. Or perhaps Summerland or Sugar Loaf Keys.
You’ll find that rental rates are seasonal, and prices fluctuate. If you travel there during the offseason —June through October — priced are cheaper. This is the best time to fish in Big Pine Key due to the consistency of the water temperature.
Fish You’ll Can Catch in Big Pine Key
The most popular fish to catch in Big Pine are tarpon, bonefish, and permit. If you’re targeting tarpon, then September is an ideal time to fish. And if you’re fishing for baby tarpon, hit the waters June through October. Of course, you can find tarpon here year-round.
If you’re looking to catch bonefish, you’re in luck. Bonefishing in Big Pine has recently made a strong comeback. The population has really surged as of late. You can catch then year-round, using the right size fly.
You can also catch trophy size permit in these waters. The lower keys are famous for holding 30 – 40 pound permit. We suggest going after them using a fly or spin rod, with a black tailed devil rigged up. The months of March through October are the best times to catch them.
Where to Fish in Big Pine Key
To fish the majority of the flats, you’ll need a boat. However, you can use a kayak or wade fish in various parts of the lower keys. If you decide you want to go wade fishing, you’ll definitely want to hit Bahia Honda State Park. You’ll find an abundance of young tarpon, permit, bonefish, and snook.
One you arrive at the park, just take the path through the mangroves and you’ll be on the beach where you can fish from or around the sand bank. Try to do so when the tide is low. If the side is high, then cast into the area between the channel and the sandbank. These spots hold large schools of bonefish.
If you’re fishing for permit, hit this exact same spot. We suggest using a 10 or 11 weight fly rod for permit. And remember to fish for them when the tide is slightly higher.
If you’re targeting traps, try wade fishing during tide change. It’s a peak time to catch juvenile bonefish weighing around 20 pounds. You can catch tarpon in the nearby grass flats as well. Tarpon roll and feed in these areas. The best time to wade for tarpon in these areas is during early and high tide. The best tarpon lure to use here is an olive colored tarpon toad.
When it comes to snook fishing, you can target this same area during fall. Fish in the troughs during high and falling tide. Or you can park in the lot closest to the beach and walk through the troughs. You’ll see a V-shaped spot where you can catch lots of snook. You can snag them casting off to the edge of the V towards the low spot. You can do this when the tide is low, using a fly and spin tackle.
Another ideal spot for wading and kayak fishing fish is called coupon bite. There is a place to launch your kayak from a spot on the beach that will put you directly into coupon bite. Fish in the afternoon to have the most success.
You can find a fair amount of redfish here. Big permit can also be caught. You can actually see their backs out of the water when they’re swimming. Use weedless flies for the most success.
The Ohio Key is also an excellent location for wade fishing. If you take the path near the bridge, and wade straight out onto the water, you’ll find several sand banks. Fish this area during low tide to catch plenty of bonefish. You can hit Long Key State Park around mile marker 67. There, you can catch bonefish on a very low incoming tide. Or you can kayak out to snag lots of redfish.
Best Fishing Gear for Big Pine Key
Before you worry with rods and reels, know that you’ll need a pair of polarized glasses so you can see into the water. Also bring a hat to keep the sun out of your eyes. Go with long sleeve clothing and pants as well to keep the wind and rain off you —plus to protect you from the UV rays. We recommend using sunscreen.
When it comes to tackle and gear for Big Alpine Key, go with fly rods with a weight of 7 – 11. Or you can just go with an 8 or 10 weight rod. For tarpon you should go with the 10 weight rod. And for bonefish, go with the 8 weight rod. Use fly lines when you’re targeting tarpon and permit —especially when it comes to tarpon. Some of the best brands are Airflow, Monic, and Cortland.
If you’re a spin fisherman, bring a 4000 series spinning reel. It should no less than 200 yards of braid. For bonefish and permit you can go with lighter tackle. A 7 foot rod will work fine. They’re perfect for casting crabs. But if you’re drifting crabs you’ll need something little bigger. Also, use fluorocarbon leaders with your fly and spinning rods, plus Cortland clear lines. Yo Zuri brand is our #1 choice. If you’re targeting tarpon, make sure you use 40 or 50 pound for your bit tippet.