Spearfishing in Key West, Florida

There are so many exciting Things to Do in Key West that it can be difficult to narrow the choices to a reasonable number. However, if you are looking for real adventure in Key West, there is one activity that the island is legendary for that at same time remains a mystery to the vast majority of visitors – Spearfishing. Probably because it is a sport usually carried out on remote and pristine reefs, with the action happening underwater, Key West Spearfishing is below the radar for the vast majority of visitors who come to the Florida Keys, even those who are serious anglers. However, this is a sport and an experience that is not to be missed, particularly if you are serious fisherman, avid hunter, or just an adrenaline junkie in general.

Key West Spearfishing is world famous because of the wide range of terrain and structure around the island, and the variety and number of game species available. With the Gulfstream running close into the outer reef line, and the large expanse of Flats around the Keys providing rich feeding grounds that pull in fish, the waters around the island offer amazing opportunities. Shallow Flats, patch reefs in 10-15 feet of water, shipwrecks and ledges deep and shallow, outside reef drop-offs edging on blue water, and open water where the sea hunter can encounter big game pelagic fish like Mahi-Mahi, Wahoo, and Tuna in 1,000 feet of water. And the Marquesas Keys and Dry Tortugas are an experience of a lifetime for any spear fisherman. Most importantly, crystal clear water means that visibility is very good provided that the season and weather conditions are chosen carefully.

At the basic level, Spearfishing is a relatively simple sport. The necessary equipment is minimal, and spearing is accessible to beginners as long as they are reasonably competent snorkelers. By this, I mean that you should be able to repeatedly dive at least 5-10 feet below the surface, returning to the surface and clearing the snorkel between dives. It is also necessary to know how to equalize the pressure in your ears by pinching your nose and blowing gently against it. The secret there is to equalize as soon as you begin going down rather than waiting until the pressure is felt. The ideal first time spearfisher-person would probably be a trained scuba diver or free-diver, but if you are comfortable in the water, a day or two of practice while Snorkeling should prepare you well enough for a first Spearfishing trip.

Spearfishing is selective fishing – you choose the fish you would like to take (and eat). It would be like shopping in a live seafood market, except that it is actually a serious challenge to spot, stalk, and hit a fish. Once you have a chance to observe them in their habitat, you will learn that fish are wary, and certainly smart enough to avoid a human hunter. Bigger fish in particular, and fish in areas where they have been hunted, will run or hide. Successful spear fisherman must learn techniques for searching out or ambushing trophy fish. They also learn to extend their depth and bottom time capabilities.

It is a challenging sport, but do not let that discourage you. There are knowledgeable captains in Key West who know spots that will offer beginners the chance to poke around in shallow water and try a few shots. With a little luck, even a first-timer can come home with a nice Snapper or Grouper for the pan, along with great memories of the amazing undersea adventure that is Key West Spearfishing.


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