The Dry Tortugas Snorkelfishing

By Robert Trosset

The weather forecast was looking promising to make the trip out to The Dry Tortugas. We loaded up the boat and headed west to Fort Jefferson for a couple of days. The water around the fort is a magical place with excellent visibility year round. The fish and lobster are the biggest I have ever seen and it seems as though you are the only boat for miles.

The Dry Tortugas is a national park 70 miles west of Key West and is home to one of my favorite reef dives. It is also considered one of the best snorkeling areas in Key West. The fishing is amazing but the only catch is spearfishing and lobstering are not allowed inside the park boundaries. As is true with many divers, traditional fishing is not something we gravitate towards. We don’t want to be on top of the water, we want to be in it watching the fish swim around us. Dropping a line in the water and hoping for a bite; where’s the excitement of the hunt; the thrill of the chase? So, what is a boat full of divers to do when there are all of these fish just waiting to be caught? Well, we did what any true pioneers would do, and took advantage of the rules! We put two activities together and made them into something awesome…that is where snorkelfishing was born!

You get into the water with snorkel gear, then get handed a small, custom made, waterproof fishing rod and reel. It looks like something you would give to a child, but this is not Childs play. This is pure awesome! Search for the fish you want or just lower your line and watch the fish eat your bait. Is that grouper going to be the one to get it or will you be pulling up the yellowtail swimming in for a bite? Pulling up a severed line on a boat is just disappointing. When your snorklefishing and a barracuda comes out of nowhere like a flash of light and claims your catch right in front of you, you almost can’t be mad. The anticipation, the action, you get a front row seat for it all. I caught my first fish, and I was hooked!

When we finally decided to get back in the boat, the excitement didn’t end there. We started to fish the old fashion way. Let me tell you that normally I don’t like fishing; I don’t care for the down time. This wasn’t the case at The Dry Tortugas! All you have to do is put bait on a hook and into the water, then magically it turns into a fish! I know what you are thinking, but that is the way it felt like to me. We were catching Yellowtail Snapper and Grouper with ease. We had our pick of fish and found ourselves throwing back smaller ones, not because they weren’t legal but because why keep the small ones when you have tons of big ones just waiting to be reeled up?!?

After a long weekend of camping, fishing, diving and Snorkelfishing we had to go back home. I laid back in the beanbag and relaxed to the sound of the boat cutting through the water. Drifting off to sleep I knew we had a boat load of fun and a box full of delicious fish.

By Robert Trosset; Featured in Coastal Angler Magazine, Florida Keys Edition, January 2018
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