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Florida Keys gear questions

Hi everyone.
I am planning a kayak fishing trip along the Florida Keys Overseas Paddling Trail and looking for tips on gear.
I plan on getting an Abu Revo Inshore combo, a Curado 300EJ combo, an Abu 7000i combo, and a fly rod (although I have never fly fished I'd like to take a cheap one to play with). Do you think these will cover it or should I add or omit? Any other recommendations? I will be kayaking and camping so will being staying inshore and in the backcountry so wanting to catch whatever can be found there (tarpon, permit, trout, snook, etc - maybe a shark or two with the big reel!).
I also plan on spooling these with 50lb braid. Does the color matter since the water is so clear? Any suggestions on tackle, lures, bait, leaders, etc? This will be my first time fishing in the Keys or for any of the big 3 so any tips would be great.

Thanks so much for any info you can give!


  • TeamTekeTeamTeke Posts: 993 Officer
    You really need a good mid-size spinner for the Keys, 7' and 15# mono line...maybe some 10-20# braid on another spool. Not sure how you will use all the baitcasters to throw small baits, jigs, etc. 50# braid is overkill for inshore other than tarpon-sharks.
    Happiness is the journey, not the destination.
  • razorreilly09razorreilly09 Posts: 8,401 Admiral
    If you've never used a flyrod before, you may want to practice before you go or just wait till.your not on vacation to learn to use one, just my .02
  • pjstevkopjstevko Posts: 513 Officer
    you'll want 2 spinning set-ups....

    set-up 1: 7-71/2 ft rod, 4000 series reel, 20# braid, 30# flouro leader. Use this set-up for heavier lures (1/2 oz or greater), baits and bottom fishing.

    set-up 2: same rod and reel, 10# braid with 15-20# flouro leader. This rig is for for lighter lures, freelining baits and flats species.

    Good luck
  • cbumpcbump Posts: 45 Deckhand
    razor, you are the second person that has given me that advice and I think you are right. No sense in bringing along extra gear to get in the way and probably not get used. Thanks

    pj, very simple and I like it. Thanks! That is what I will do then. Teke, spinning rods it is.

    Any advice on lures, tackle and bait?
  • NauticalWheelerNauticalWheeler Posts: 463 Deckhand
    You will catch many different species if you use Gulp Shrimp, 3" New Penny color on a jighead of 1/8 oz for shallower grass flats, 1/4 oz for deeper grass flats up to 8 ft or so. We use yellow pompano jigs, 1/2 - 5/8 oz for the deeper channels, and put the Gulp on those also. (You can use jigs bare, but it's not as effective). Gulp gets torn up easily though, and is expensive...however many packs you take is how many you'll burn through. Some people swear by DOA shrimp, and they are more durable, but I hear those have to be fished very slowly (I have not used them yet, but did get some for this year). I would take some of those as backup at least.

    If you have an area of uniform depth, such as a grass flat, you can use a popping cork to suspend the jig just above the grass. For other times though, just hop your jig slowly along the bottom of the flats or channels.

    Around structure, such as mangrove roots, ledges, and the mouths and edges of channels is where you will find many fish. Snook, groupers, and mangrove snappers love those mangrove root overhangs, especially where it borders a pretty deep channel.

    If you catch pinfish and put them on a hook with an egg sinker and drop them near some mangrove roots, they are likely to get eaten by something strong (grouper, snook, etc).

    If you don't want to mess with bait, 5" jerk shads are also very good for anything that eats bait fish (snook, redfish, jacks, groupers, etc.). Tarpon would eat these too, though I haven't personally caught them that way. Cudas also take these, so when you feel a "tick" and reel in and there's no bait there, that's probably the culprit. The goal with jerk shads is to twitch or "jerk" the rod tip, so that you kind of launch the bait, then let it glide, then jerk it again. You can try it faster or slower. These can be used on a light 1/8 or 1/4 oz jighead, or with split shot, or weightless with a worm hook (if it's not windy). The wind will make the unweighted ones skate across the surface and look unnatural, although a jack or cuda might chase after one doing that. Usually if you're fishing a channel or mangroves you'll need some weight on it. We like chartreuse or white. Again Gulp are good, but expensive and get torn up easily. Other brands don't have scent, but are good too and they won't get torn up quite as quickly.

    If you see any disturbances on the flats caused by schools of mullet or rays, fish that area (a pocket of cloudier water than the surrounding water). There can be swarms of fish eating the shrimp and whatever else is stirred up by that.

    You can tell a LOT about the backcountry water and fish structures in the Keys by looking at Google Earth satellite can see where it's deeper, where the deeper channels border the mangroves, etc. I can tell you within 1 ft how deep a lot of that water is based on color.

    Good luck navigating BTW - hope you carry extra batteries for your GPS.

    And of course, you will want good polarized sunglasses for spotting fish. I love my Costa 580g green mirror lenses, although some people don't like them or have had problems.
  • cbumpcbump Posts: 45 Deckhand
    Thanks NW, that is a lot of good info. I'll make sure and bring all of those baits. As far as getting live bait, should I bring a small UL sabiki rig or will a cast net be sufficient?

    Good choice on the glasses. I have some 580 green mirror glass also and love them!!
  • cbumpcbump Posts: 45 Deckhand
    BTW, I think I may try and focus on one area rather than paddling the entire trail so that I will have more time for fishing and exploring.
    What area would you recommend for this? I was thinking the Lower Keys simply because there is so much to explore. Should I stay gulf side or Atlantic side for better fishing and calmer waters?

  • razorreilly09razorreilly09 Posts: 8,401 Admiral
    Depends which direction the wind is coming from. You can access either with a short paddle or drive
    Check out the old wooden bridge camp and cottages in no name key
  • NauticalWheelerNauticalWheeler Posts: 463 Deckhand
    Prevailing winds are usually out of the E or SE, so it's often calmer on the Gulf side or in between.

    I've only been up from KW as far as the Mud Keys, and a couple of the channels in between, but the Mud Keys are nice. Snipe Keys and Cayo Agua would be really neat in a kayak (just looking at them in Google Earth). Lots of channels to explore...and there are fairly deep pockets that motorized boats can't get into because it's too shallow in spots, and others that are deep enough but kind of skinny for a motorized boat to navigate. You could get lost in some of those places, like around the Snipe looks like a maze. Harbor Keys look good also. All of those places will have gorgeous water and will be sheltered from the wind. There are many great snorkelling spots too.

    In Google Earth, water that is blue or green is usually 3-4 ft or deeper. Bluish brown or greenish brown, 2-3 ft. Dark brown 2 ft. Light brown or white, 0-2 ft. You can also tell sandy bottom vs. grass. There are a lot of beautiful spots on the Gulf side, with a sandy bottom.

    That blue water up against the shoreline is where you'll find undercut banks, which can be good. Also as I said the mouths of channels, grass flats, etc. can be good. A lot depends on the tide. The channels going out into the Gulf can be good too, but the current is strong. Sand pockets surrounded by grass can also be good...usually that means there's a hole where fish may hide.

    I've caught mainly snappers, groupers, jacks, blue runners, and cudas in the backcountry channels. There are a gazillion mangrove snappers. You would have to try hard to NOT catch dozens in a day. In winter, there are also pompano, bluefish, and ladyfish, but those are probably gone soon if not already. In the Lower Keys there aren't as many snook or redfish, but there are some (or so I've heard). Not sure about tarpon...they may move in later than I've been there. Sharks will be in the larger channels and basins. I've also caught muttons where those larger channels empty out into the Gulf.

    If you don't KNOW that you can throw a cast net from your kayak, the odds are about 100% that you can't. (heck I can't throw one standing on the deck of a boat). Also they are heavy. Sabikis do work, especially if you tip them with something. However, they are a pain to store after you use them...they get tangled in everything, and they're super sharp. You could just use a small jig instead, tipped with something. But, there's still the question of what you're going to do with bait if you catch it... Just using lures might be your best option.
  • cbumpcbump Posts: 45 Deckhand
    I could just bring a minnow bucket right?

    I can throw my cast net from the yak. It's pretty small. Can definitely throw it standing in water up to my belly button as well.
  • NauticalWheelerNauticalWheeler Posts: 463 Deckhand
    After I suggested the minnow bucket earlier I had second thoughts because pinfish are pretty large relative to those minnow buckets... A handful might live OK in there, as they're more docile than most other types of baits. I'm guessing pilchards probably wouldn't last long at all. Maybe you could find a small collapsible bait pen or something that's a bit larger than a bucket.
  • cbumpcbump Posts: 45 Deckhand

    Think this would be perfect if it was little smaller. May work as a big drag on the yak.
  • ThumpThump Posts: 189 Deckhand
    If you have some bait you don't want eaten then don't put pinfish in there. They are the opposite of what you said. They will end up nawing on each other if you leave them unfeed for a couple of days...
  • NauticalWheelerNauticalWheeler Posts: 463 Deckhand
    Yeah, my comment was more about having bait cooped up in a minnow bucket that's around maybe 10 inches in diameter and a foot tall, maybe for a few hours (not talking about days). Some kinds of bait freak out and dart around and injure themselves in a confined space like that, but I think pinfish would handle that OK... for a couple / few hours anyway.
  • dodger31dodger31 Ft MyersPosts: 228 Deckhand
    How about this? I use it in my livewell for larger minnows and leeches for freshwater fishing. Might be too small but worth a look.

    If the Link doesn't work its called the minnow tamer and Cabelas carries it for about $23.

  • cbumpcbump Posts: 45 Deckhand
    Thanks for the link. I think that could probably work and may not put too much drag on the kayak. I ordered something similar yesterday called a bait motel. Its 5 gallon size. I'm going to try it out before I go and if it is too much weight over the side then I'll check out this smaller version.
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