Key West Offshore Fishing
The offshore/trolling is second to none here in the late spring/early summer months. May, June and July are probably the best 3 months for landing that Mahi Mahi you have always wanted. We also see Wahoo, Tripletail, Barracuda, Blackfin tuna, and Billfish. The best time to land that trophy sailfish is in April, when we see a large migration throughout the Florida Keys.
One great way to spend a day on the waters off of Key West is offshore fishing. Countless species of fish inhabit these waters and they all have different behaviors.
This means that if an angler wants to catch a larger variety of fish, they will have to employ different techniques in different areas. We will focus on two of the most popular and tastiest game fish available offshore in the Keys; mahi-mahi and wahoo.
Trolling for Dolphin (Fish)
When people hear the word ‘dolphin’ they think of the endangered dolphin porpoise. These animals are not what Key West anglers mean when they say ‘dolphin’, they are referring to the dolphin fish or the mahi-mahi.
Mahi have voracious appetites. They live an average of just five years but many reach weights of 50 pounds in that time. Their favorite foods include flying fish, ballyhoo and the many small fish and crustaceans which inhabit floating Sargasso weed.
The fish are known to especially like these weed lines during the day. It may sound strange but, in addition to feeding near the weed lines, mahi-mahi also hide from the sun’s rays under these weeds.
Mahi-mahi can be found in Key West waters all year long, but the best time is during the warmer months. The fishing really gets good in April and stays that way until the first cold weather arrives. During the winter, they stick to the warm waters in the gulf stream.
The best technique for catching these fish is to troll. This entails casting your lines behind the boat and then driving the boat around your fishing ground, preferably near some Sargasso weed lines.
However, don’t get too close to the weed lines as they may get caught in your tackle. Additionally, many times mahi spend their time somewhat near to the weed lines, not directly underneath, or sometimes deeper in the water column.
If nothing is biting at first try changing the depth of your line, fishing further from the Sargasso weeds or changing the speed of your troll. Many anglers use medium-weight tackle for dolphin fish, however, consider heavier tackle just in case you hook a larger species of fish.
Winter Time Trolling for Wahoo
Key West offshore fishing boasts another fun fish to catch while trolling, the wahoo. These tasty gamefish are very fast and can reach speeds of 80 mph in short bursts.
They are also very large creatures, reaching weights in excess of 75 pounds, although they average much closer to 30. Wahoo prefer colder waters and can often be found at depths of 100-300 feet.
The fact that they like chilly water means that the winter months are ideal for landing a monster wahoo. The biggest fish can be caught from November through February, but the week preceding and following the full moon of December seems to be the best time of the year.
Wahoo are usually found over some type of underwater structure or depth change.
If you have live bait, employ a slow troll but, if you have dead bait, troll faster to attract these fish. The wahoo’s favorite bait fish include ballyhoo, bonito, speedos, and blue runners.
The fish have soft mouths which can be torn easily, plus their jaws can move both vertically and horizontally. That makes the wahoo a very elusive creature which can remove itself from the hook at a moment’s notice. Always maintain a tight line when you’ve hooked a wahoo.