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Fishable vs. restricted areas in KW Harbor, lighted areas?

So I'd like to try some night fishing around lighted areas of Key West Harbor, but am not sure about the rules. A few years ago we got into an awesome school of jacks outside of the Navy station there next to Ft. Taylor, but then got yelled at by the MPs. So, we haven't been back there since.

Looking at the charts, it looks like the southern 60% of the little sandy beach / cove between Ft. Taylor and the Naval Station sea wall is supposed to be unrestricted? If I stay to the south of where the fence is, am I OK to fish that beach? (Isn't that the same beach where some people pull up to cast net pilchards?) I'm not sure, but I think that's about where we were when we got yelled at, and we were about 150-200 ft off of the beach too...it's not like we were causing any problems or acting suspicious out there.

What about the rocks along Ft. Taylor? They aren't lighted but is there any rule against fishing there from a boat?

Can I fish the Mallory Square shoreline, including the dock just to the south of Mallory Square where the cruise ship docks (as long as there is no ship docked there?)

Are there any other lighted places that are worth fishing that you wouldn't mind sharing?

Thanks.

Replies

  • Permit RatPermit Rat Posts: 2,283 Captain
    Anybody? This is all Greek to me....I was never aware of any rules as to where one could or could not fish in Key West Harbor. To the best of my knowledge, it is all "navigable" water and therefore, public domain.

    Wheeler.....this is the time of year when the water is usually the clearest. On an incoming tide, explore the northern part of the harbor, just south of the entrance of Calda channel and Flemming Key Channel. There are a bunch of shallow wrecks in that area, and if the water is clear, you can see them on both the western and eastern shores. I never caught much in terms of food fish from those shallow wrecks.....we used to dive them for lobster and tropicals for our aquarium. Lots of cardinalfish there, plus smaller damselfish. There is one wreck off the Eastern side, where I have taken snook and grouper on artificials.....but that was then.

    In deeper water, south and just a hair west of Calda, is a wreck in deeper water. Even if the water is really clear, this wreck is hard to spot. But there are good bugs there and you could chum up some decent snapper.....maybe a legal grouper, this time of year. But like I said....back in my day, we didn't have to worry much about "size."

    In Flemming Key Channel, if you're a mind to....there is a worm hatch that comes off at the bottom of the outgoing tide. It's kinda neat, since a lot of the tarpon there are babies...but a lot of fun on light line.

    Then in the Summer, there is a hatch of a different kind of worm. This is in the main harbor, from the Pier House, up past the entrance to the Raw Bar. These worms are neat...In the dark, they look like little fluorescent "dots" traveling randomly but in a circular pattern....and quite fast (as worms go) Anyway, eventually, one of these fluorescent dots will collide with another and a mini fluorescent explosion takes place. This is obviously how they reproduce....But at any event, the tarpon (bigguns) go nuts and will hit anything thrown at them. Just something to look out for, should you be in the harbor on a late Spring/Summer night.

    Disclaimer: This was "then."
    .......Rick
  • NauticalWheelerNauticalWheeler Posts: 445 Deckhand
    Thanks Permit Rat.

    I know of at least 3 restricted areas: a perimeter around Fleming Key (including under the bridge), the Coast Guard docks/harbor on the south side of Fleming Key cut, and a 300 ft perimeter around the Naval Base between Mallory Square and Ft. Taylor. One thing I'm trying to find out is how far north and south that latter perimeter extends, effectively.

    I don't know when they put in those restrictions...I have only been going down since 2007. Up here in MD they restricted fishing access near a major dam on the Susquehanna River after 9/11 (a dam that I used to fish from a lot growing up), so I'm guessing that restrictions in KW Harbor could have also been in response to 9/11.

    When a cruise ship wasn't docked, we saw some baby tarpon in the lights around the concrete wall there. They were feeding too, but we couldn't catch any that night - probably needed flies or shrimp. I've got a couple ideas for next time (DOA shrimp - clear or glow) that I want to try. We didn't get hassled there, but I'm not sure if it's OK to fish around that dock or if that's considered part of the restricted area.

    I know of some of the shallow wrecks in the north end of the harbor. Some of the shallower ones are visible on Google Earth, and we've found a couple with sonar, but probably not all. I've caught jacks and decent groupers (not quite legal size but still fun) and lots of mangroves on them. Caught a strapping young goliath on one of them that tested my tackle. Those wrecks are mostly a fallback though when the weather is too bad to do much else or we don't have time to run somewhere. Never bothered to chum those wrecks. Also have caught some trout in the mooring fields on the west side, on occasion.

    Also that north end of the harbor has quite a few tarpon, at times.

    There are also quite a few small red groupers on the floor of the north end of the harbor, and my wife caught a cobia (slightly sub legal) there as well. (The only cobia I've seen in the whole time we've been coming down, apart from a pair we saw amongst a school of jacks out in the Lakes Passage...and of course we couldn't get a bait past the jacks).

    Interesting about the worm hatch and young tarpon near Fleming Key. I didn't know about that. Are those palao worms or something else? If some other type of worm, when does that happen? (I haven't been down late enough in the year for the palao hatch).
  • mountaintroutmountaintrout Posts: 15 Greenhorn
    So I'd like to try some night fishing around lighted areas of Key West Harbor, but am not sure about the rules. A few years ago we got into an awesome school of jacks outside of the Navy station there next to Ft. Taylor, but then got yelled at by the MPs. So, we haven't been back there since.

    Looking at the charts, it looks like the southern 60% of the little sandy beach / cove between Ft. Taylor and the Naval Station sea wall is supposed to be unrestricted? If I stay to the south of where the fence is, am I OK to fish that beach? (Isn't that the same beach where some people pull up to cast net pilchards?) I'm not sure, but I think that's about where we were when we got yelled at, and we were about 150-200 ft off of the beach too...it's not like we were causing any problems or acting suspicious out there.

    What about the rocks along Ft. Taylor? They aren't lighted but is there any rule against fishing there from a boat?

    Can I fish the Mallory Square shoreline, including the dock just to the south of Mallory Square where the cruise ship docks (as long as there is no ship docked there?)

    Are there any other lighted places that are worth fishing that you wouldn't mind sharing?

    Thanks.

    You can fish at Mallory Square all night. As long as you have a fishing rod in your hand you will not be asked to leave.

    I jumped my first tarpon last year from the shore.
  • bobbrownbobbrown Posts: 52 Greenhorn
    I fish KW a lot at night. The basic axiom I have always heard and used is....incoming tide=out front, outgoing tide = back of harbor. The incoming Tide during the first hours of darkness can be great out front. Can be lots of tarpon cruising and feeing on top. There either there or not...haven't found it worth while hanging around for hours waiting for something to happen. During the outgoing...flemming can be great...also I fish the coast guard wall right below the bridge...never a problem. The the corner of the dockleadinginto the gas pumps. I never go into the CG area...stay out front...never had a problem. The lights over the long wall farthest out can be great...fish them all the time. Got yelled at once by the KW police. Stay a bit away and drift fish it. I never go inside there. Your looking for moving water so I always found it best to drift fish a good cast away...very little problem. Would never go "inside" anywhere and always stay a good cast away. Moving water is the key.
  • bobbrownbobbrown Posts: 52 Greenhorn
    Forgot....the fish under the lights are very selective and spooky. Take a close look and you will see them chasing small skipping shrimp..been working on a fly pattern for years and I still find them difficult. Especially along the wall below the bridge they become more difficult with each passing drift. One bad move will put the fish down for a long time. Not so selective out front or in flemming. Full moon....3 am....outgoing tide....flemming....priceless!!
  • NauticalWheelerNauticalWheeler Posts: 445 Deckhand
    Nice info guys - thanks for sharing.

    Bob, by the "long wall farthest out" do you mean that one near Ft. Zach just before the mouth of the harbor? It was either along that wall or in the sandy little cove at the end of the wall there where we got yelled at, but then again we were there for a while doing multiple drifts and using the trolling motor to hold position. The MP guy drove up and watched us for a couple of minutes before yelling at us. So maybe the strategy is just to drift away if the guard starts looking too interested? We were having a good evening of fishing before that happened... lots of jacks, blue runners, tarpon jumping (we didn't fish for them however), and my wife caught a large snook as well.
  • bobbrownbobbrown Posts: 52 Greenhorn
    Yup...that's the wall. I only got yelled at once and that was by the KW police. Every year in May or June a British war ship comes in and docks on the inside of that wall. I've fished it with the Limey MP's ...carrying weapons...have lined up on deck enjoying our action. Just be aware...don't anchor...drift...and you can see the balck and whites coming from a long way off...so...move on.
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