Snowy Grouper
Snowy Grouper

How Do I find a Good Fishing Charter in the Florida Keys?

There is a wide variety of fishing boats and Captains available in the Florida Keys. Your Budget and the size of your party has a tremendous impact on what type of fishing charter is best for you. If you are looking to target specific species of fish or engage in a particular type of fishing these are also major factors. Are you fishing for food, sport, or both? Are there novices in your group? Do you have children, elderly, or individuals with special needs in your party? Let us review some of the various options below for fishing on your next visit to the Florida Keys.

Bridge Fishing

Bridge fishing is a low budget option for fishing in the Florida Keys. To fish from a bridge in the Keys you need to either bring fishing gear or rent/buy gear locally. You also need to purchase bait and a Florida fishing license. Be sure to check where you are allowed to fish legally. Bridge fishing will typically yield smaller fish such as snapper, grunts, and pinfish.

Head Boats

Head boats or party boats, are large boats typically in the 60-100 foot range, that can carry many anglers on one fishing trip. These boats charge per person but there can be additional costs. Head boats often charge for bait, to rent fishing gear, and to filet your catch. Because of their lower cost, head boats can often become overcrowded. So many lines in the water at the same time often leads to tangles and will limit the variety of species that will bite.  Typically head boats catch small Grunts and Mangrove Snapper on the reef but sometimes you can get lucky and hook a bigger fish like a Mutton Snapper. There will be several mates on the boat running around assisting the large group of people. To get your bait back in the water faster, you might want to practice your knot-tying skills before the trip. If you are prone to seasickness, you should consider that on a party boat there is no going back early; you will need to ride it out until the trip is done.


Fishing off bridges, or on head boats in the Florida Keys usually leads to catching Grunts; a small but tasty fish.

Split Charters

Just like getting an Uber, splitting a private charter is an approach that has become more popular these past few years. While split charters can save you money, you must strongly consider some of the possible negatives to this approach.

Split charters can get canceled at the last minute when there are no-shows. If you do not like the people you are splitting with, you are stuck fishing with them for hours! If someone on the boat begins to feel seasick, the group is either going to lose fishing time or someone will be stuck on the boat feeling ill. You may end up splitting your trip with “rod hogs”, smokers, excessive drinkers or individuals that use profanity. You may also find your group arguing about how to split your catch. For these reasons, we recommend hiring a private charter over a split charter.

Private Charters

If you have a group of 6 or less you should consider a private charter. A fishing trip customized for your needs is more likely to give you a great day on the water. With a private charter, the boat is yours for the day. If you want to go in early because someone is seasick you can. If you want to fish longer and the Captain is not booked in the afternoon you can extend your trip! When it comes to private charters there are typically two types of boats. Your group size and budget will be a factor on which is the best option for you.

Private Charters: Center Consoles and Smaller Boats

If you are on a budget or have a group of 4 persons or less, a private charter on a smaller boat might be a good choice for you. The Florida Keys has many one-man operations where a Captain runs a center console vessel sized between 24-30 feet long. They usually recommend 4 persons due to the size of the boat but sometimes allow up to 6 ( additional fees may apply). We recommend when selecting one of these Captains to research reviews to make sure you know what kind of experience you can expect. Be careful when selecting a private charter to make sure fuel is included in the price you are being quoted! If it is not, find out what the cost typically is in addition to the price you are given.

Trips are generally sold in half-day, 3/4 day and full-day increments. Smaller center consoles typically range from $650-$1200 depending on the length of your trip and what you are fishing for. As an alternative to these one-man operations, the Main Attraction fleet offers several vessels over 30 feet in length in which can accommodate 4-6 people in this same price range, fuel included.

The Reel Attraction (pictured above) is  a 32 Foot center console offered by Main Attraction with prices that compete with many one-man operations in the Florida Keys. With a Deep-V hull and twin 300hp Yamaha outboards this boat can get you to the fish quickly.

Private Charters: Large Vessels

Large vessel private charters are the ultimate option for fishing in the Keys. You will receive personalized service that includes a deckhand and plenty of room for your group. Large private vessels are 40 feet long and above. The additional width offered by larger boats, makes them more stable and less prone to rocking. The result is a drier, more comfortable ride and a reduced chance of getting seasick. The weather can change quickly in the Florida Keys. A larger vessel offers a cabin or bridge area to protect you from the rain. An air-conditioned cabin is also a great option to have on a hot day. Luxury sportfishers often come equipped with full private bathrooms and beds for naps. Most vessels over 40 feet also offer a flybridge where there is seating, windows to feel a nice breeze, and a panoramic view that makes for great photo ops. The cabins often include full kitchens with a refrigerator, microwave, stove, etc.

Bigger boats are a fantastic choice for fishing tournaments because they have multiple livewells, that hold a variety of live-bait. Due to these vessels width, multiple fishing kites can be flown without tangling, which means even more baits in the water. Larger charter vessels generally have specialized equipment such as expensive electronic deep-drop reels used for fishing in depths of up to 2,000 feet.

Larger private charter boats typically range from $750-$2500 dollars depending on the boat size, trip length, and fishing type. These larger vessels are recommended for groups of 6 persons or less. Almost all private charter Captains in the Florida Keys operate under the 6-pack license. Allowing more than 6 passengers not only requires a Master Captains license, but subjects the charter operator to more Coast Guard inspections. There are also a multitude of additional requirements for these vessels, such as rails around the boat similar to a head-boat or cruise ship.

Main Attraction has 3 vessels that fit this larger vessel category, ranging from 42-49 feet in length. Whomever you choose, be sure to research thoroughly and make sure their terms of cancelation are fair and their reviews are good. When booking your trip it is extremely important that you communicate well about your needs, wants and goals for your Florida Keys Charter. If you book with a great fishing charter business, they will know what questions to ask, but you should always be clear about your expectations.

The Main One (pictured above) is  a 49 Foot vessel offered by Main Attraction for private fishing charters in the Florida Keys. Main Attraction has 3 vessels in their fleet over 40 feet long available for hire.