Florida Keys flats fishing is done on the flats. Flats are essentially large planes of shallow water that surround some of the keys. They can have grassy bottom or a harder coral type bottom. These flats are any where from 6 inches to 6 feet deep and stretch for miles in some areas. They are essentially like large saltwater lakes, and due to the clear water in the Keys you can see bottom and areas surrounding the boat. Florida Keys Flats fishing boats are small skiffs very similar to fresh water bass boats, except they have raised platform in the back known as the poling platform. The guide stands on this platform and pushes the boat along with a long pole, while the angler stands in the front of the boat preparing to target fish. This is known as sight fishing. It’s kind of like hunting. It is primarily catch and release fishing for tarpon, bonefish and permit. This can be very difficult fishing, since it requires skill at accurately casting and a lot of patience. Bonefish and permit are very spooky fish and will often run if they hear a the slightest noise. Tarpon, although not as spooky, are finicky eaters, and depending on the conditions won’t eat the tenderest morsel even if it is right in front of them. For easier fish to catch while sight fishing try catching barracuda and sharks. These monsters are way easier and catching either on a surface lure or fly in shallow water is a blast, even though they don’t have the prestige of other fish.
Flats boats aren’t just used to sight fish on the flats. They are often used to fish mangrove channels and the base of bridges…pretty much anywhere there might be a tight squeeze to fit a large boat in or shallow water. Chartering a Florida Keys flats fishing boat is generally the least expensive type of charter, due to the boat’s smaller size and cheaper running costs. They do ride pretty wet when the wind is blowing though and there usually isn’t any cover out of the sun so plan accordingly.