The Florida Keys stretches 150 miles from North Key Largo to Key West and as you drive from one end to the other, you will cross 42 bridges. The vast majority of these bridges offer the angler-on-foot a good opportunity to catch many of the gamefish we have in the Florida Keys.
You will be approaching the halfway mark to Key West when the Seven Mile Bridge approaches into view. If this is your first time visiting the Florida Keys, you will quickly notice stretches of unaccessible bridge close by. Built from the instruction of Henry Flagler, Flagler had designed a railway that transported people to Key West, known as the Overseas Railroad. Due to a hurricane in 1935, the railroad bridge was destroyed (now referred to as the Old Seven Mile Bridge) and a new bridge was built in it’s place in 1982 for automobile use only.
Bridge anglers can catch snapper, grunts, snook, tarpon, permit, jacks, Goliath grouper, barracuda, sharks and more from the bridges. Live bait, like shrimp, will definitely catch the picky snappers at the bridges. The live bait can be transported and kept alive with the Frabill Magnum Bait Station and can make all the difference between catching or not. Anglers also use jigs, fresh and frozen bait with good success. If you do catch any large fish, it is necessary to use a bridge or pier landing net on a rope, or move down to the edge of the bridge to land them.
Many anglers target the bridges at night for tarpon and snook that can be found near the lights of many bridges. Often, it is necessary to walk under the bridge and cast out into the current to get the correct presentation. Other anglers have some success “trolling” plugs across bridges like Long Key by walking and pulling the plug as you would in a boat. The chances of landing one of the 100+ pound tarpon that live there might be slim, but is certainly a challenge.
Local tackle shops can give you advice on tides, weather, and which bridge might be a good bet for fishing when visiting the Keys. It is very important to know and understand the fishing regulations. The FWC will be checking the bridges regularly, so be sure that everyone in your party has a fishing license, and only keep fish that are legal. In order to do this, anglers need a measuring device, a good understanding, and published regulations with them at all times. If you intend on keeping fish, make sure you have a way to store them in a cold cooler. Lots of experienced bridge anglers have carts that make it easier to transport rods, bait, coolers and some drinks.
Be careful in the sun as well. The Florida Keys sun is no joke. Wear sunscreen and stay covered with sun protective products like Buff Headwear to keep from getting badly burned.
List of tackle shops in the Florida Keys:
Captain Bad Bait & Tackle (Key Largo)
Here is a map of the Seven Mile Bridge in Florida: