Yellowtail snappers are the common keys snappers and probably the most fish for fish in the area. Fish this size are called "flags".
Most caught are under 2 lbs., they can be caught over 7; usually by chumming and drifting live or cut bait back in the chum line.
They are stubborn fighters and must be landed quickly, because sharks, groupers & etc. like to eat them as much as humans do, which is a lot.
Mutton snapper are among the more prized snappers both for their flesh and for their strong fighting abilities.
Caught on live or dead bait from shallow reefs to wrecks out to about 250', they range from 2 to maybe 25 lbs. The bigger ones are usually deeper but can be caught shallower, even from the bridges.
Keeper sized black grouper (they must be 24"). One of the favorite eating fish, they can grow to over 100 lbs. but most are under 60 & usually under 20.
Mostly caught on the reef or wrecks out to about 200' with live bait on very heavy tackle, they are powerful stubborn fighters that must be landed quickly, before the shark gets him (and most are "him", they start life as females and change to males later); this is manly man fishing though large ones have been caught by small women using proper technique. Currently they cannot be kept between Jan1-April 30.
This rare member of the billfish family is a record class spearfish, named for it's obvious physical attribute.
Almost always caught incidentally while dolphin trolling and released.
The world record is about 160 lbs., this one is not in that class but it is a very nice one.
Blue marlin are perhaps the most prized of all sportfishes. In the keys, they are generally in keys waters March-December but are usually thickest in summer and fall. Most in the spring run 100-300 lbs., those caught in fall are usually 500-700. A "grander" is always a possibility. Almost always caught trolling, usually with larger lure or dead (sometimes live) baits, it's possible to luck into one while targeting dolphin or sailfish. They can swim 60 mph and go on long, fast runs, usually with spectacular jumps and will take an hour to land even with proper tackle and a fighting chair; anything less could mean much longer, if your tackle even holds up. This one was under 350 and was released, as are most.
Blackfin tuna are the common tuna of the keys and are smaller than the species you see on the tv shows, running 1-50 lbs. They are caught trolling or live bait chumming (a tactic that requires 2000 pilchards in the live well), usually at places such as the 409 hump but sometimes in winter and spring they come in closes to the reef. They are fast and stubborn fighters and their meat is excellent, rivalling that of their big yellowfinned cousins, especially as sashimi.
Usually caught controlled
drifting / bump trolling live bait, sometimes suspended below a kite; they
can be caught incidentally with dead bait and/or lures. They come through
intermittently throughout the winter, usually with the big migration
happening late March-mid April though a few are around all year. Most in the
Marathon area run 30-70 lbs. but fish well over 100 are a possibility. As
with most billfish, they are released.
This is a very nice wahoo, probably over 70 lbs. Most in the keys are 5-50 lbs. but larger ones are possible and they may grow to 200.
They are known to swim at above 60 mph & are targeted by high speed trolling
(up to 20 kts) or slower trolling frisky live bait, though most are caught
while trolling for dolphin. They are excellent eating.
Dolphin (dorado, mahi mahi) are perhaps the most fun fish to catch that exist and are excellent eating.
They range in size from 3-15 lb school fish to big bulls (unlike most fish, the males get bigger) up to maybe 70 lbs, with the world record well into the 80s.
They only live about 4 years. They are generally caught trolling or sight casting to individual big fish. Fishing is generally best in late spring-early summer but they can be caught even in winter, given a few warm days with SE wind. The fish pictured were caught in a tournament that we did very well in.