As result of the numerous calls and emails I get from people coming from all over the world, I have decided to elaborate this short article about the fishing opportunities around Miami for those that are not familiar with the area and the fisheries. My goal is to give you as much info as I can so you can have a good understanding of fishing expectations as well as logistical details, lodging, areas and transportation.
Where do we fish when you come to Miami?
Since I am an inshore, flats fishing guide, we are only going to discuss the inshore fishing options and will leave offshore fishing for another time or article.
When coming to Miami, You will have access to Biscayne bay, The Everglades (Flamingo marina, chokoloskee, freshwater urban canals) and The Florida Keys.
Now, I am going to make a brief description of the fishing opportunities and areas.
This is the easiest and closest fishery if you are staying at a hotel in the Miami area. Biscayne is divided in 2 areas, North and South Bay. For flyfishing trips, about 90% of the fishing takes place in the southern area, which is where we find bonefish, permit, tarpon, barracuda, shark and snappers. The northern part of the bay offers some fishing in the intercoastal waterway and is the epicenter of tarpon trips at night in the middle of downtown miami and miami Beach.
When visiting south florida, Miami Beach is the number 1 spot that comes to mind when looking for a place to stay. Without a doubt, it is a great spot for nightlife, shopping, great restaurants and beautiful beaches. If any of these activities are in your bucket list during your visit, Miami Beach is the right area to look for a place to stay. However, If you are only coming down with the sole purpose of fishing, Miami Beach or North Miami Beach are not always the ideal places to look for lodging.
If you happen to be fishing south or down in the Everglades, staying in south beach or north Miami will add from 30 minutes to 2 hours of extra travel time to meet your guide, specially during rush traffic hours.
Some guides fish out of Key biscayne marina, while others will tell you to meet them at Mathesson park Marina, Blackpoint Marina or Homestead bay front park Marina.
The closest ramp to Miami Beach is crandon park in key biscayne but lots of local fishing guides fish out of the marinas in the south part of the bay. About 90% of the local guides are “trailer guides” which means that we trailer our boats to different locations and boat ramps around Miami, the Everglades and the keys.
Fish whereabouts and weather will also dictate which marina to fish out of. That being said, HAVE TRANSPORTATION, be flexible and ready to get on the road.
Looking for a hotel in the homestead area will be a much better choice. Renting a car is always easier and way cheaper than Uber, Lyft or taxis. Please keep that in mind and arrange your rental ahead of time.
Now let’s talk about fishing. The main targets in biscayne bay are bonefish and permit and some tarpon. Tarpon fishing is inconsistent and gets better during the right seasons. Bonefish and permit are present year long, except during times of extreme cold weather (winter months). Barracuda, snapper and shark are also present but are always a much better target for spin tackle than fly in this area.
Biscayne bay is a high skill/advanced level area to fish for bonefish and permit, specially for flyfishing. Many IGFA records and some of the biggest bonefish and permit on earth have been caught over the years between biscayne bay and islamorada. The fish are big, smart and receive a good amount of daily pressure. So do not expect numbers, expect size.
Some days can be very good but don’t expect to see the hundreds and thousands of fish and shots you had in other countries. Just because you caught a bunch of tiny bonefish in Belize, Mexico and the Bahamas doesn’t mean that you’ll have the proper skills to catch them here. Your casting skills have to be very good (to say the least) to get it done. So, if you are a beginner with very little or zero saltwater and fly casting experience, the bones and permit of biscayne are probably out of your skill level. You will be much better off arranging a fishing trip in the Everglades after more “forgiving” and doable targets for beginners such as redfish, snook, baby tarpon, jacks, sea trout, sharks, jacks and lady fish.
Something VERY important, always be honest and realist about your skills when talking to your guide over the phone so he can plan your trip accordingly.
Besides skills, we have to take the weather factor into the equation. We need sunny skies and relatively light winds to sight fish for permit and bonefish. Those conditions are not always present. Rain, clouds, and wind will present tough challenges for this fishery. Those factors will force your guide to consider other areas, if his interest is to put you on some fish and show you a good time. Once again, be ready to travel to meet your guide at the chosen location.
Everglades: Flamingo marina
Flamingo marina is about 55 miles west of Florida city and gives you access to the estuaries and brackish areas of the Everglades national park. If you and your guide have the Everglades as an option, you should look for lodging in the homestead/Florida city areas. If you stay in south beach or north Miami Beach, your travel time to flamingo marina will be from 1 hour 30 minutes to over 2 hours. Needless to say You WILL NEED a car to get to flamingo marina. Again, don’t even think about Uber, taxi or Lyft.
As far as the fishing goes, the Everglades give you a myriad of fishing opportunities for both beginners and experts and also a wide array of wildlife that you won’t see in biscayne bay and the metropolitan areas around Miami.
The Florida keys
The keys are one of the most diverse fisheries you will ever visit. In the keys, you have immediate access to the Everglades through the gulf of Mexico and Florida bay. In the Atlantic side, you have miles of gin clear flats harboring bonefish, permit, tarpon among others.
You can still plan to fish the keys staying in Miami but is a better idea to look for lodging at any of the islands if the keys are where you want to spend your days of fishing. From north/south beach, it will take you a little less than 2 hours to reach key largo and islamorada. From south Miami or Homestead it will take you 1 hour (better choice for lodging if you still want to stay in Miami). The lower keys and key west are much farther south and it will take an additional 2 hours to get there so it makes total sense to look for lodging down there if that’s your area of choice.
There is a great fishery for peacock bass, largemouth bass and exotic species right in the hearth of Miami and the freshwater swamps of the Everglades. This is a great choice for those rainy days or for when the winds are way too high to fish the saltwater flats. These fisheries are easily accessed from most areas in the city so your are free to stay at any of the neighborhoods in Miami north or south.
I am mobile guide which means that I trailer my boat around. I cover all Biscayne bay, the Everglades and the keys. At any given time, you can find me fishing places in between Miami and Key west including the Everglades. I have the flexibility, experience and knowledge to fish out of any of the areas previously described and will be happy to fish you wherever is best, according to your expectations and weather conditions.
See addresses for all the Miami marinas listed to plan your travel times:
Key biscayne Crandon park marina
4000 Crandon Blvd
Key Biscayne, FL 33149
Mathewson hammock marina
9610 Old cutler road
Miami Fl 33156
Black point marina
24775 SW 87th Ave
Miami, FL 33032
Homestead bay front park marina
9698 N Canal Dr
Homestead, FL 33035
I hope these tips help you plan you trip wisely, the next time you decide to come and fish south Florida and the keys.
Contact me and let’s go fishing!
Capt Alex Zapata
Flats fishing guide
IFFF certified fly casting instructor
Miami, Everglades and the keys
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