Florida Keys Light-Tackle Flats Fishing

with flats & backcountry fishing guide Capt. Luke Kelly

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Florida Keys Permit Fishing

Sight-fishing for permit in shallow water is considered one of the greater challenges in sport-fishing. Accepted as a wary and intuitive fish, it should also be known that permit are highly aggressive predators when in shallow water.


Never is an angler better equipped for the permit’s challenging nature when using live bait. Live crabs are the bait of choice when targeting permit. Light-tackle fishing rods enable the far cast needed for permit on the flats.

Light-Tackle Fishing offers a wide variety of techniques found very productive in catching aggressive saltwater fish. Often the best way for someone looking to fully utilize their opportunities on the flats given a short amount of time.


People with high hopes of catching that challenging Keys gamefish can increase their odds when using a light tackle spinning rod and reel. Whether it be on live or artificial bait, there are tons of ways to catch fish in the Keys on light-tackle!


For those with little fishing experience, light-tackle fishing offers many simple methods found successful in flats & backcountry fishing. Casting a small bait at a far distance is a breeze when using a light-action spinning rod and reel wrapped with light-test fishing line. If casting directly to a fish sounds a bit tedious, many spots exist in the lower Keys backcountry where anglers can simply wait for gamefish to find their already perfectly placed bait. It’s all about having a good time, anyone can do this on light-tackle.


For the experienced looking for a challenge, sight-fishing and casting directly to gamefish in shallow water is just that. Light-tackle fishing offers a very direct form of doing so when on the flats. Being able to properly utilize a spinning rod and reel and cast a given distance are the main skills needed to enjoy the hunt for gamefish in shallow water. Those who are familiar with light-tackle fishing generally appreciate the ease of making the best of every opportunity given while flats fishing in the Florida Keys.

However, anglers must also be aware of the small window in opportunity present when attempting to catch this fish. Precision sums it up, if a timely and accurate cast is made on the first attempt it normally pays off with a flats fishing trophy. The cast or placement of bait is the most important factor, a hungry permit takes care of the rest when achieved correctly.

Florida Keys Bonefishing

Bonefish are the glue in Florida Keys flats fishing, providing action when permit and tarpon aren’t biting. Bonefish are often social fish, seen most of the time in small schools or pairs. Accepted as a wary gamefish, patience and accuracy must accompany an anglers desire to catch one.


Typically sight-fished in shallow water, bonefish are very sensitive to noise. Anglers must first do whatever possible to remain quiet while attempting to stalk bonefish.

Florida Keys Tarpon Fishing

It could be said that tarpon are the largest fish caught in the Florida Keys on a daily basis. The term light-tackle should be used wisely when referring to the actual catch of this fish.


In-fact, tarpon are actually best caught and successfully released alive when using heavier forms of tackle. A tarpon’s unmatched endurance must literately be beaten in-order to leave them with enough energy after release.

Hooking large tarpon on lighter forms of tackle provides the best fishing battle imaginable. When caught for the first time people are often amazed by the tarpon’s endurance, and aerial displays. No other fish fights like a large tarpon. We should respect that, and catch/release them responsibly!

When using a light-tackle spinning rod, a bit of weight must accompany the bait to enable a casting distance needed found successful when targeting bonefish. If this weighted bait falls to close to a bonefish, the noise created from the bait’s small splash will send the bonefish fleeing. Anglers must simply take this into consideration and lead the bonefish by a few feet when presenting. When all is accomplished correctly, bonefish almost always reward a light-tackle angler’s patience.

Capt Luke Kelly