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Questions about Kayaking the Keys..Dos and Don’ts

WadeFishermanWadeFisherman Posts: 456 Deckhand
edited October 2021 in General Paddle Craft #1
I am looking for any advice for those that have kayaked in the Florida Keys. I have seen a lot of used kayaks in the area for sale and they have a lot of damage on the bottom of the kayak. Is it more dangerous to kayak in this area because of the coral and rocks? Also, I was planning on buying a lifetime kayak with the rod holders… basically a $400 kayak. I am not seeking to go far out on the ocean just nearby the Islands and back country and close by land. I know some areas have stronger currents than others, but any advice would be greatly appreciated. I would just like some safety tips. Once I was in the keys fishing for bonefish and I was in a spot suggested by a reputable captain. I got out to wade fish and the water was up to my waist and my instinct said to get back in the kayak. A couple minutes later I started seeing several 4-5 foot lemon sharks swimming around my kayak and area. It was quite exhilarating . I have not kayaked in Florida for about four years. I have Mainly kayaked the estuary waters of Florida. I am located in the lower keys. Also, do you have to register your kayak now? I have my fishing license and I know you need to have a whistle a light and a life jacket. Are there any new regulations? Thank you.


  • cranker789cranker789 MiamiPosts: 529 Officer
    edited October 2021 #2
    You only have to register the kayak if there is a motor on it. I think it’s just a life jacket, light if you’re out there in dark, and whistle you need. My first kayak was a lifetime kayak, it was ok but I upgraded to a pedal kayak quickly. It’s not fun getting stuck in heavy current with a cheap kayak. Pedals make a big difference. Makes fishing much easier as well. Good luck! 
  • krashkrash Posts: 842 Officer
    The damage you see is due to people who don't take care of their equip. just don't drag it on the rocks. 
    Possibly you are looking at rental stuff being sold off at the end of its time. Florida Bay Outfitters has some good used stuff sometimes, and Paddle the Florida Keys just had a blow out sale of all their old used up kayaks (my sister bought 4 for a friend of hers).

    $400.00 is not much of a kayak, so don't expect a Lambo for the price of a used Yugo. I'd look used, not in a hurry, and find a 12 to 14 foot kayak. Be careful just because it has rod holders does not mean they are mounted in a position that is comfortable or useful to you. 
    Go rent a couple times and different types and see if you like the hobby and proceed form there.

    Paddle kayaks are very well suited for the keys. As stated above PFD (and wear it), Whistle/Horn (Noise making device), Light if you go out in darkness. Register only required if you have a motor, and if you get a trailer you'll need to register that. A word of caution suggest use a leash for the paddle so it won't float away in case of an emergency splash exit. Anything valuable , (keys, wallet, cell phone),you should also secure and water-proof it.
    Currents in the Keys are really only a concern if going thru around or near passes and bridges.

    4' of water looking for Bonefish, sounds like you might have been sent on a snipe hunt. 
    Sharks are in the water and if thats a concern maybe kayaking is not for you. But if you look around the Keys you'll see many many people swimming, diving, boating with little concern for what's in the water and you seldom see or hear about an attack. But be respectful, it is their water we are only intruders and visitors in their minds. I would not Chum and swim or wade, or have fish on a stringer. A Bait bucket with live bait would not be a good thing to have streaming from your belt either.
    Old Fugger who just likes to fish
  • WadeFishermanWadeFisherman Posts: 456 Deckhand
    Thanks for the tips. I appreciate your time.
  • Lake-LinkerLake-Linker Posts: 184 Deckhand
    I mentioned to you in another forum yesterday that wind is (almost) everything in a kayak. The more access points you find the better...Here's a few:

    The end of the road on Big Torch gets you to a lot of good shallow protected flats. It's not the easiest access but it's doable..,near the culvert between Big and Middle Torch,the borrow pit on Grand and Elgin on Little torch all get you to fishing areas out of an east wind....End of Niles Rd on Summerland gets you to a lot of  protected shallow waters to the west of there. Launching at Blimp Rd on Cudjoe - depending on wind - gets you to a lot of water on Cudjoe's N side...or across the channel to all the shallow protected waters on the N of Knockemdown....Work the west or north side of No Name by launching the east side of the bridge...

    On a calm day you can access a bunch of close-in patch reefs from Sammy Creek Landing on Sugarloaf...

    it can be pretty calm - or the wind can just funnel in there - launching from Koehn Ave n side of Big Pine. There's a pretty big area of good fishing within kayaking distance and you can always get out of the wind....I've launched at the Ramrod swimming hole but if I'm going to fish those flats I prefer to just use the spot between Big and Middle torch on Dorn.

    There's a lot of other places. I look at where I want to fish in a particular wind. Google maps works well. I then look for potential access points,cross referencing with Monroe County GIS (plat maps online) to see who owns that land. Dead ends are sometimes privately owned sometimes owned by one of a half-dozen public entities...then a drive by to see if it's actually possible to launch a yak there. Sometimes I've talked to a neighbor if there is one and he/she is outside. ("is there a problem if I launched my kayak here?"). Sometimes they lie and say it's privately owned even though I already know the owner of record is - for example - Monroe Cty or US FWS.. I write those places off out of respect for the neighbors...but there's only been a couple like that and they weren't all that great to begin with.

    There's a bunch more. Some too obvious to mention. Some with only room for one or two vehicles to park. lol...Or I didn't mention several places - like the end of the road on the east side of No Name - because a strong west wind is seldom an issue.

    On one of my best days ever - several over slot redfish and a few smaller snook and juvi tarpon -  I almost didn't fish because of the wind but picked a good access point and leeward fishing area. I completely forgot that it was windy until I headed back.
  • WadeFishermanWadeFisherman Posts: 456 Deckhand
    Thank you for your willingness to share information.
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