Fishing for three of the most popular sport fish to catch on fly in the Keys, bonefish, permit and tarpon. These are incredible fish to target. Even if all you get is a chance to catch a tan and a good time. I really am a proponent of experiencing places to the fullest. Fishing is just icing on the cake and landing a fish of a lifetime is the cherry on top. What fishing in these regions boils down to is your skill as an angler. I’ve fished with a few guides and any loss of fish was my fault, not theirs. Often times people blame the guide when they don’t catch thier intended target. The truth of the matter is, they are there to put you on fish and find probable locations. They cannot predict weather, fish movement, tide, moon cycle, and the many other factors that go into prime time fishing scenarios. I had the pleasure of working with Luke Kelly. A Keys guide out of Sugarloaf Key, Florida. I recently emailed Luke and asked if he would be willing to give me an interview on the Florida Keys, it’s fishing, and what is going on in the Everglades. He was kind enough to oblige. There are no better sources for information than the people that eat, sleep, and breathe fishing the backcountry of the Florida Keys and who work in this amazing place every day. So here’s what Luke Had to say.

florida-keys-flats-fishing-charter Luke Kelly

Q. When did you decide to become a guide down in the Keys? 

 (Captain Luke) During college, I dropped out of a biology degree to chase fish through shallow water, I don’t recommend others do the same.


Q.What Marina and area do you operate out of? –

 (Captain Luke) Sugarloaf Marina, I love the nostalgic property and lack there of surrounding development.


Q.What are some of the best things about the Keys fishery you would like people to know?

 (Captain Luke)It’s diversity, and ever changing patterns.


Q.What makes the Florida Keys different from other Caribbean fisheries? –

 (Captain Luke) If considering the entire Florida Keys inshore, the ability to target snook, redfish, bonefish, tarpon, and permit in one place. That’s pretty hard to find.


Q.Which species do you feel is the most popular to target when people book a trip with you? –

 (Captain Luke) Tarpon, permit, and bonefish. In that order.


Q.What is your most popular time of year as a guide, and why? –

 (Captain Luke) March through June. Tarpon season is the main draw this time of year.


Q.What methods of fishing do you think is the most popular down in the Keys and why?

 (Captain Luke) If considering inshore/flats, it would have to be fly fishing for tarpon.


Q.What are some of the things people can expect when fishing in the Keys? –

 (Captain Luke) A challenge, flats-fishing is all about the accomplishment, never the ease of catching lots of fish for our enjoyment.


Q.I know I learned a lot on my trip with you, especially with my fly-casting. What words of wisdom can you pass to people looking to fly fish in the keys? –

 (Captain Luke) Practice the double haul cast, or even take a fly-casting course. It’s all about being able to cast your fly far away from the boat, sometimes in the wind. Learning how to do this crucial ability during your charter is almost impossible.


Q.When you have down time, what types of fishing do you enjoy? –

 (Captain Luke) Spear fishing, I like to eat fish.


Q.Have you noticed any major differences in fish behavior throughout your time as a guide? Are the fish moving at different times of the year than in years past? Do you attribute any change in fish behavior to climate change? –

 (Captain Luke) The arrivals and numbers of particular fishes are somewhat consistent. There are so many factors at work to this respect, making any claim towards climate change influence would be unjustified.


Q.I’m not sure many people realize what is going on in the Everglades, could you give me a brief rundown about what is the current state of the Everglades? –

 (Captain Luke) It boils down to agricultural pollution, and the mistakes made by the Army Corps of Engineers during the 50s. This is a complicated issue, anyone interested in this should visit NowOrNeverglades, The Everglades Foundation, or BullSugar.


Q.How is the Everglades issue affecting local fish populations? –

 (Captain Luke) I can’t speak for areas impacted outside of the lower Florida Keys. Fish are doing well where I’m at, but that doesn’t mean they are out of harms way should the pollution continue.


Q.What is one thing you would urge people to do to help keep the Keys and Everglades a thriving fishery? –

 (Captain Luke) Visit NowOrNeverglades, The Everglades Foundation, or BullSugar and get involved.


Q.I think part of the problem with awareness with certain areas, is people don’t realize the overall impact of losing places like the Keys and the Everglades. What does damage to areas like this do on a larger scale, in your opinion? –

 (Captain Luke) Other than the obvious economic damage it causes. If we fail to protect/restore a natural resource such as the everglades, I fear where any appreciation for our natural world might end up. In other words, I personally would lose hope for the human race.

If you’re traveling to the Florida Keys and are looking for an excellent guide to give you a great day on the water, give Captain Luke Kelly a call. Also check out his website His website is full of information on the fishery, species to target and best time of year to do so. Also he provides links to places to stay in the keys, on pretty much any budget, from a guys trip to a more luxurious getaway.