There are many techniques for catching the different fish of the Florida Keys. One of the oldest and most tried and true methods is Trolling. Whether it is for Billfish offshore or Groupers on the reef, Trolling can be very productive. Trolling is where either a dead natural bait, (most commonly a Ballyhoo), or an artificial lure is dragged through the water in an attempt to entice a predator to strike.  Presentation is very important when Trolling as the bait must “swim” somewhat naturally or it will be ignored. While it doesn’t take long to learn the basics of how to rig bait, it takes an experienced mate to master the technique of making a bait “swim” as if it were alive. To the educated eye, the periods of time between bites may appear as if the mate is not doing much, but a good mate is always watching, always ready for a strike. Most experienced mates will have a good idea of what type of fish is on just by the nature of the strike. Knowing how to present a bait to entice a bite and knowing what to do after getting one on makes a good mate a key element in any successful fishing trip.

Sailfish caught deepsea fishing in Key West Florida


Live bait has gained great popularity in Key West over the last 15yrs. live baiting is exactly what it sounds like. Instead of rigging a dead bait to “swim” naturally, you use a live one and drift waiting for a strike. Most live baits are somewhat fragile and are best caught the day of the trip, either by hook and line or with a cast net. There are many different fish used for live bait found in the Keys. Ballyhoo is the main dead bait used for trolling, but it’s one of my favorite baits to use live. In the fall and winter, large schools of Ballyhoo congregate on the reef and on most days can be caught relatively quickly. Thread Fin Herring, Pilchard and Blue Runners are also commonly used for live bait.  

I prefer live bait for most days of fishing. I’ve found it works better for most of the species I target with one exception. In the spring, when the big dolphin are moving through, it’s important to be able to cover some ground and you can’t move quick with live bait, it kills them. But for Sailfish, King Mackerel, Black Fin Tuna, Amberjack and many other fish, Live bait is my preferred method, however sometimes trip length or availability dictates that we troll.

Barracuda caught in Key West deep sea fishing


Key West Fishing is Fun!

Phone: 305 293-8565

Contact me Capt Rich Houde email:
Or to send mail the "old fashioned" way to: 703 Catherine St. Key West, Florida 33040

Key West Fishing Charters with Southbound Fishing
Captain Richard Houde
Garrison Bight Marina
1801 N Roosevelt Blvd,
Key West, FL 33040
(305) 293-8565