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Key West has got it all. From bone fish to tarpon to Dolphin and tuna, grouper to cobia and sharks, too. Besides diving and snorkeling, fishing is probably the most popular outdoor activity in the Keys and the most expensive, especially if you don't have your own boat. It is on the little, open skiffs that you can find incredible diversity of fishing experiences in the same day. In the morning you can fish offshore for sailfish or dolphin and then by afternoon get a quick shot close to shore to pick up tarpon, permit, grouper, or snapper. Here in Key West you can probably pick up more cobia--one of the best fighting and eating fishes around--than anywhere else in the world.

For another challenge, try tarpon--one of the most agile and acrobatic fighters in the sea. As soon as it's hooked, it'll do a dramatic walk on water called the "tail walk." Shark fishing is also popular.

key west For a look at real competition, watch the charter captains and their bookers in and around Mallory Square. Booking through one of the kiosks in town is usually the most costly way to go. Realize that most bookers earn 20 percent of a captain's fee per person in addition to an additional monthly fee. So you can usually save yourself some money by booking directly with a captain or going straight to one of the docks. You can negotiate a good deal at Charter Boat Row located at 1801 N. Roosevelt Ave. (across from the Shell station) where there are more than 30 charter fishing and party boats. Whichever you are looking for, just show up to arrange your outing, or call Garrison Bite Marina, 305/292 8167 for details. The advantage of the more expensive but smaller charter boats is that you can call the shots, ask to go where you want, catch what you want. These "light tackles" are easier to maneuver, which means you and one or two others can go to backcountry spots for tarpon and bonefish as well as out the open ocean for tuna and dolphin. You'll really get to feel the fish and get some good fights.

Larger boats which can carry up to six or seven people work out to be cheaper and are best for kingfish, billfish and sailfish. The huge commercial party boats are more for sightseeing than serious angling, although you can get lucky and get a few bites at one of the fishing holes. One especially good deal is the Gulfstream II, 305/296-8494. This all-day charter goes out daily from 9:30a.m. until 4p.m. You'll pay $30, plus $3 for a rod and reel. This 65 foot party-boat usually has at least 30 other anglers. Bring your own cooler or buy snacks on the boat. Beer and wine is allowed.

However, for serious anglers, nothing compares to the light tackle boats that go out from Oceanside Marina (305/294-4676) in Stock Island, at 5950 Peninsula Avenue, a mile and a half off US 1. It's a 20 minute drive from Old Town on the Atlantic side. Here there are more than 30 light tackle guides, which range from flatbed, backcountry skiffs to a 28 foot open fisherman. There are also a few larger charters and a head or party boat that goes to the Dry Tortugas. Call the dockmaster for details.

(Key West tournaments in blue)

Jan   Feb   March   April   May
  June   July   Aug   Sept   Oct   Nov   Dec

Key West Kingfish Extravaganza
239/379-4446 or Fax 239/342-3492, Key West

Key Largo Sailfish Tournament
305/451-2511 or Fax 305/`51-7170, Key Largo

Cheeca Lodge Presidential Sailfish Tournament
305/664-4651 or Fax 305/664-2083, Islamorada

Over The Hill Rip Off
305/852-5713, Islamorada

Marathon Kingfish Extravaganza
239 /379-4446 or Fax 239 /342-3492, Marathon

Holiday Isle Sailfish Tournament
305/664-2321 or Fax 305/664-4507, Islamorada

Hog's Breath King Mackeral Tournament
305/296 0364 or Fax 305/296 0365, Key West

Islamorada Women's Sailfish Tournament
305/852-9337, Islamorada

Backbone Lures "Fish 'Til You Lose it" Tournament
305/852-7888, Islamorada

Islamorada All Tackle Spring Bonefish Tournament
305/852-1694 or Fax 305/852-5091, Islamorada

22nd Annual Ladies Tarpon Tournament
305/743-6139 or Fax 305/743-0392, Marathon

Holiday Inn Key Largo Dolphin Tournament
305/451 0000 or Fax 1305)453-0960, Key Largo

Key West & Lower Keys Fishing Tournament
1~970-9056 or Fax 305/745-3332, Key West- Lower Keys

Texaco Key West Classic
305/294-4440, Key West

32nd Annual Marathon International Tarpon Tournament
305/743 6139 or Fax 305/743-0392, Marathon

Coconuts Dolphin Tournament
305/451-4107 or Fax 1305/451-1891, Key Largo

Marathon Dolphin Scramble
305/743-3407 or Fax 305/743-9977, Marathon

Holiday Isle Dolphin Tournament
305/664-2321 or Fax 305/664-4507, Islamorada

Don Hawley International Tarpon Tournament
1904/222-5823 or Fax 904/222-5152, Islamorada

Tavernier Creek Bait & Tackle Dolphin Rodeo
305/853 0056 or Fax 305/853-0730, Tavernier

Women's World Invitational Tarpon Fly Championship Tournament
305/664-9279 or Fax 1305/664-2888, Islamorada

Big Pine & Lower Keys Dolphin Tournament
305/872-2411 or Fax 305/872-0752, Big Pine Key

Gold Cup Tarpon Fly Fishing Tournament
800 393-5381 or Fax 201 /794-8147, Islamorada

Key West Gator Club Dolphin Derby
305/296 7511 or Fax 305/296 0358, Key West

South Florida Fishing Classic

TNT/ Golden Fly Invitational Fly Championship
305/664-2080 or Fax 305/664-2023, Islamorada

Coconut Cove Resort Dolphin Tournament
305/664 0123 or Fax 305/6S4-4498, Islamorada

6th Annual World Class Angler Light Tackle Classic
305/743 - 6139 or Fax 3O5/743 - 0392, Marathon

7th Annual World Class Angler Dolphin Open
305/743-6139 or Fax 305i 743-0392, Marathon

Key Largo Dolphin Derby
Key Largo & Islamorada

Dolphin Daze Tournament
305/296-7182 or Fax 305/296-3165, Key West

Oceanside Marina Shallow Water Challenge
305/294-4676. Tackle Shop or Fax 305/292-4495, Key West