Key West has some of the most exciting sport fishing the tropics have to offer. I've been charter fishing the tropical waters of the lower Florida Keys for more than 30 years. The local Key West waters offer a wide variety of Sport fishing, both Deep Sea and on the reef. Sailfish, Wahoo, Tuna, Dolphin (Mahi or Dorado), Marlin, Barracuda, Shark, Tarpon, Grouper, Snapper and More! Vacation in Key West, the perfect vacation destination! Where you can enjoy the excitement of fishing the waters of Key West by day and the excitement of Key West's night life  afterwards. Southbound also offers a great accommodations bonus for anglers who fish multiple days with us. Enjoy our Old Town fishing cottage with our fishing package.

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How To Choose a Key West Deep Sea Fishing Charter Captain


good catch of dolphin

Good catch of dolphin for dinner!

Choosing a Key West Charter Captain

Whether you’re an angling aficionado or a fun-seeking Key West tourist, heading out to sea on a charter fishing boat is the ultimate tropical vacation adventure. Find the right boat to suit your needs using this handy guide to choosing a Key West charter captain.

Have fun out there and here’s to a day filled with tight lines!

Set Your Expectations

Not all charter fishing experiences are created equal. A clear idea of what you’re hoping to get from your trip is vital.

Here are a few questions to answer before beginning your search:

  • Are you looking for a more serious or relaxed fishing environment?
  • Would you prefer to catch more smaller fish or fewer big fish?
  • Is there a particular species you want to catch?
  • What kind of trip are you looking for? Deep sea? Wreck, reefs?
  • How long do you plan to fish? Half-day? Full-day?
  • Are there specific amenities you’d like to have on the boat? Bathroom? Fridge? Fighting chair?

An experienced angler hoping to knock a specific species off their bucket list will have different priorities than a first timer just looking for a good time.

A concrete vision of what you’re after makes it easy to ask find a captain who has the experience and gear that matches your idea of a great fishing charter.

Decide on a Realistic Budget & Don’t Cheap Out

Automatically going with the cheapest boat is generally not the best strategy. More expensive captains often own newer, larger, more comfortable boats with included “extras”, added amenities and more advanced gear & tackle.

Additionally, cheaper boats are prone to underpay their staff – leading to a disinterested crew.

There’s an old saying in the charter fishing industry: “The cheapest charter boat is just the most expensive cruise.” You get what you pay for and you ought to be paying to catch fish!

Research Captains Online

big dolphin

Nice dolphin!

Due diligence goes a long way when researching charter outfits.

You’ll want to find out how long the captain’s been in business. How often he (or she) goes out and whether the boat has a history of success. Does the boat have up-to-date navigational & safety equipment? For example, if you look at Southbound Charter Fishing’s home page, you’ll find out I’ve been fishing in Key West waters for more than 25 years on my boat, a 40-ft custom Key West charter boat, that we target sailfish, wahoo, tuna, dolphin (aka mahi mahi or dorado), barracuda, shark, tarpon, grouper, snapper – and many more species, of course, If you check out the Catch of the Day,  you’ll find we catch ’em and that we post our photos almost every day.

The Southbound has a range of gear and tackle to accommodate both beginners and seasoned anglers — everything from 80 lb. trolling rods to 15 lb. spinning reels.  When trolling we prefer to use  30 lb. test line – it’s not too small for the big fish and still light enough to allow smaller fish to put up a great fight. We’ve landed both white and blue marlin, sailfish, wahoo, dolphin, barracuda, tuna, grouper and snapper using 30 lb. tackle. Of course, 15 and 20 lb. spinning tackle is available for the more experienced angler.

If you’re booking locally, take the time to meet with a captain in person before making a final reservation. We love to have folks come down to the docks when we get back from a charter. Just give us a call, (305) 747-3668, and we’ll let you know when you can find us For those out of town, a quick phone call goes a long way towards guaranteeing a fantastic day out on the waters of Key West, Florida.

Do remember to ask for what you want. We had a charter this past week and the customers wanted to experience the sunrise, and it was totally worth getting up a little early:

sunrise over Key West waters

A sunrise worthy of an early start!

Find us on Facebook.

If budget is an issue, we offer a special Key West fishing accommodations package. If  you fish multiple days you can enjoy our Old Town fishing cottage —  all the comforts of home and just blocks from all the nightlife in the Southernmost City.


Hook ‘em Early! Sparking Your Kids’ Love of Fishing


The Action of Deep Sea Fishing Lures Young Anglers



Whether it’s Angry Birds, Pokemon GO or the newest online craze, prying your kids away from their handheld device these days is like pulling teeth. Whatever happened to building forts, playing in the mud or swinging across the jungle gym?

Get your kids outside (and loving it) by instilling a fiery passion for the action of a rod and reel – believe it or not, it’s a lot easier than you might think!

Here are a few pointers to help you power down screens and wet some lines.

Go for the Gold

goliath grouper

A Goliath Grouper – Big Enough!

Little ones don’t have the same level of patience when the fish aren’t striking. For you, a day out on the lake  beats the office a million to one even if you don’t get so much as a nibble – but to a kid, a few hours without a bite feels like an eternity.

If you want children to fall in love with fishing, they need to catch fish.

And the bigger the better.

We’ll worry about teaching the reality that sometimes you come home with an empty cooler later.

Forget about plunking bobbers at your local watering hole. Get them out on a professional charter fishing trip where the action is sure to ignite a healthy dose of adrenaline.

Once they’re hooked on the excitement of hauling in a real beauty, the transition to more fickle fishing spots like lakes, rivers and streams becomes easier.

Bait with a Hands-On Approach

Kids hate to be told, “this is for grownups.” As much as possible, get your children involved in every step of the process.

family fishing catch of day

Family Fishing Charter – Catch of the Day

A  day or two before the charter take them down to the docks around the time the boats are bringing in the catch of day – let them see what others are catching and watch as the mates clean and fillet the catch.  They will also get a chance to see the charter boat and meet the mate and captain of the boat they’ll be on.

Take them to local outfitters or bait shop  and let them touch the rods and reels, and learn about the live baits and other lures. If you’re driving to Key West from the mainland, be sure to stop at World Wide Sportsman in Islamorada  – they can look at the rods and reels and other saltwater gear, they can climb aboard a beautiful old wood charter boat,  sister ship to Ernest Hemingway’s “Pilar,” and there is a large glass tank with snook, tarpon, bonefish and other local fish.

The more chance they have to explore the ‘world of saltwater sport fishing’ the more they’ll take ownership in the experience.

Keep Fishing Fun


Catch of the Day – Mackerel!

As an experienced angler, you know that some days fishing go better than others. Whether it’s bad weather, choppy water or simply stubborn fish – when the goin’ gets tough, it’s time to go home early.

As your kids get more into it, they will let you know when they’re ready to “tough it out” and get in a couple more hours fishing in less than ideal conditions. Until then, focus on keeping it fun – because as soon as fishing feels like a chore they’ll lose interest.

A World of Benefits For Anglers

There are a lot of great reasons to introduce your kids to the great sport of fishing:

  • Fishing buddies for life. Given that you’re never too old to fish, grooming your children to be avid anglers means you’ll always have something in common and a fantastic excuse to spend time together.
  • A fisherman has a greater appreciation for nature than the common man. Boys and girls who grow up fishing are more likely to develop a conscience for protecting our seas and conservation.
  • Impart a healthy lifestyle. Why raise couch potatoes when there’s so much life to be lived out there? A love of fishing will lead to interest in hiking, camping and other outdoor activities, too.

Aboard the Charterboat Southbound

Both the mate and I (Capt. Rich) have lots of experience teaching youngsters to fish. We love the chance to show them not just how to fish, but why we love and respect the ocean and the fish that live in it. We’ve taught tons of kids to love fishing over the years and we’re excited to teach yours!

Check our Key West fishing catch of the day and like us on Facebook.  Don’t miss out: we offer a fishing accommodations package for anglers who fish multiple days – stay in our Old Town fishing cottage and enjoy all the comforts of home just a few blocks from the action of Key West’s Duval Street.

More Photos of Kids Fishing


A barracuda is a great first fight – and catch for this young angler.

Landing a barracuda put a smile on this young angler’s face!



Summer Fishing – Key West! Dolphin Are Biting


We’ve had a terrific few weeks with great dolphin action. Anglers are going home with plenty of mahi mahi for dinner!

Great day of fishing for the whole family – released a couple of barracuda and then brought home dinner!

dolphin, mackerel, bnonitos, key west

Some Dolphin and a nice Cero Mackerel for Dinner
& Some Bonitos for fun

dolphin, mahi mahi, bonitos

Great action with some big Bonitos and dolphin for dinner!

Found a school of dolphin and broke out the spinning tackle. Great action on the lighter gear and great eating sized fish.

bull dolphin

Nice bull dolphin!

dolphin, mahi mahi

Another nice one!

Anglers got their limit on Dolphin, some big Bonitos and a Black Fin Tuna:

dolphin, mahi mahi, bonitos, black fin tuna

Dolphin, Bonitos and Black Fin Tuna! Great Day!

Still plenty of fish around. Plenty of action and a lot of fun on lighter spinning tackle.

schoolies, dolphin, mahi mahi

Mostly smaller “schoolies” but all good eating size.

We ran across a great video clip of flying fish being chased by dolphin and frigate birds:

Check our Key West fishing catch of the day on our website or find us on Facebook.

The Southbound offers a special Key West fishing accommodations package for anglers who fish multiple days in our Old Town fishing cottage, all the  comforts of home and close to all the action in the Southernmost City.

Dolphins Running in Time for Championship Tourney!


The dolphin are running! And yes, we are catching them – this one was hooked yesterday (May 4th).

dolphin at the dock

Caught May 4, 2014

That’s great news for the anglers who are planning to enter the Florida Keys Dolphin Championship. This tournament is great for those who like fishing in teams, as you can have as many folks as you want on your team.

The tournament is onMay 16th, 17th, 18th (2014) and has piled up more than $100,000 in Cash and Prizes for winning anglers. The First Place Dolphin Worth $15,000!

The largest dolphin weighing more than 55lbs wins a Mercury/Seahunter Boat worth $75,000.  Here’s a 55-pounder caught recently aboard the Southbound:


55lb Dolphin

55lb Dolphin caught aboard the Southbound.


Southbound Sport fishing charter boat

The Southbound Underway




April Fishing in Key West Highlights Sailfish Tourney & Return of the Dolphin


April is a terrific month for fishing in Key West – the weather is getting warmer, the dolphin are coming back in droves and the kickoff for the Key West Fishing Tournament makes this a great time for avid deep sea anglers of all ages.

Traditionally, April means we see the large schools of dolphin with the bigger bulls and cows returning outside the reef off Key West. We catch dolphin year round – but during the winter, we’re more likely to hook the smaller  ‘schoolies.”  Starting in April, we expect to see the schools with larger fish as they make their way north along the Gulfstream.  The water temperature off Key West today is 75 degrees — just a degree shy of the 76-83 degrees that dolphin like.

April also marks the start of the Key West Fishing Tournament; a tournament that targets 37 species – from marlin to dolphin to tarpon – if you like to catch it, it’s probably on the list.

Key  West Fishing Tournament logo

The tournament runs from April 4th to November 30th (including the kickoff tournament) … and has divisions for kids, too … Juniors and PeeWees (under 10) … this is a great way to get your kids more involved in fishing – and you know we love to teach kids to fish.

The 8 month long tourney starts with a Kickoff Tournament April 5 and 6 with $5,000 in cash and prizes. More info:

Speaking of tournaments, the  Key West Sailfish Championship  is the third week in April – 23-27. There are divisions for pros and non-pros. First prize awards up to $50,000 in the pro division, $15,000 for non-pros.

More on the sailfish tourney : or call me to charter the Southbound.

Tournament calendar for Key West.

sailfish caught on the Southbound

A contender for the sailfish tourney?

Key West for Kids: Family Fun Fishing on the Southbound


Teaching Kids to Fish is All About Having Fun!

Some of the best days out fishing are with kids – especially if it’s their first time fishing on the deep sea. There’s nothing quite so rewarding as seeing the expression of surprise and delight when they feel the first tug of a big fish on the hook. Both my mate and I know how important it is to make sure their first impression is fun! Otherwise for the rest of their life they associate fishing with a long boring day.  You have to get them catching fish right away to catch their interest.

barracuda and teenager

Hooking this barracuda was a good fight for this young man!

Fishing off Key West is great for beginners of all ages – the water is usually calm, and it’s easy to find a spot where the kids can hook fish that are large enough to be exciting but not overwhelming to someone new to the sport.  It’s also a great idea to let them catch something they can have for dinner.  Catching dinner is a good idea, but it’s also important for kids to have the excitement of a barracuda or a shark on the line! A lot of captains will tell you this is the time to double up on the chum, though, frankly, in Key West, something is always biting and we know what bait and tackle to use depending on what sort of fish we want to catch.

little girl with shark catch

This young girl was clearly thrilled with her shark!

Teaching kids to fish has got to be about fun – but it’s also about teaching them to understand why we catch and release- why conservation is important.

dolphin amberjack kids

These kids took home some dolphin for dinner and they caught and released a sailfish.

The Florida Fish  and Wildlife Conservation Commission runs some fishing clinics for kids. There haven’t been any down in the Keys this year, but if you live in Florida you might want to check and see what clinics are available in your area:
Kids are taught the basic rules – how to be a good angler – and have a chance to get familiar with tackle and do some casting. There’s also some knot-tying instruction. And of course, there’s some fishing and  lots of fun!

kinds catch a shark

Another very happy pair with a shark!

Kids are always ready to try new things – but it can’t be only about fishing. I kept my cousins’ kids entertained with some time on the bridge at the helm of the Southbound.

guest captains on the bridge

Guest captains on the bridge!

Southbound Key West fishing report


Fishing report March 23, 2011

Conditions improved and fishing improved as expected this past week.  The blue water and strong east current moved in and with it came the Sailfish. Over the weekend we had a beautiful color change and the sailfish were up and “tailing”. For those that don’t know what that is, when conditions are right, usually east current and east wind, (opposing each other). And you have a good color change, (blue water with current meeting green water); Sailfish will swim along the surface and surf down the waves. Often the top of their tail is sticking out of the water, hence the term “Tailing”.  When this is happening it’s a lot of fun and very effective to pull the baits in, put your outriggers up and just idle up the change looking for fish swimming along. When you see one, you spin the boat and pitch live bait at them. It’s a fun and exciting way to fish. It’s great for the customers too because they can see the fish from the time it’s swimming toward the boat until it chases and eats the live bait. Often the Sails are eating the baits only 15-20 ft behind the boat, so everybody gets a great view. With these conditions there can be more than one color change- Murky green to powder blue, and powder blue to dark blue. Sailfish can be seen along either change or between them in the powder.

Cobia are also being seen tailing along, mostly along the green to powder change. Sometimes they are hard to spot because they are the same approximate color as the Sargasso weed that tends to gather along the changes.

There have been a large number of bonito and black fin tuna seen along the color change also, but fishing for them is more frustrating than productive. They are headed west and seem to be on a mission with very few stopping to bite. It‘s still an amazing sight, but few are being caught for the time spent trying. Even live bait doesn’t seem to draw their interest.

Still seeing some small “early season” dolphin along the dark blue edge too. Most are in the 3-7 lb range but I’ve heard of a few larger ones being caught. It’s still early for dolphin, the really good dolphin fishing shouldn’t be until May, but these are a nice “time filler” between sailfish for the time being.

If the current stays the fish should stay. Hopefully the fading moon won’t pull the gulf stream offshore anytime soon.