For the ultimate minimalist, the packing list for a Key West charter fishing trip is simple: hat, sunglasses, sandals, swimsuit, shirt, underwear (optional), sunblock, credit card, and ID to get on the plane.
After all, Key West charter outfits provide all the gear you’ll need to enjoy a great day out on the water. Local charter captains and guides will have all the top quality rods and reels, and all the latest lures and baits you’ll need to land a big one.
But the true fishing enthusiast doesn’t want to hear this. He’s been tying in the garage for months and is more than confident that his “Dave’s Super Permit Crab” or “Jaworski’s Bonefish Deluxe” are the flies that will take the Key West flats by storm. Not to mention the fact that he’s not going to travel all that way and leave his lucky rod and reel at home.
So the guides at Charter Boat Row put together a list of tips for the angler who simply must bring his own gear along for the ride down to sunny Florida:
- Can you take your rod in the airplane cabin? It used to be that airlines were super lax about letting fishermen tote their rods into the cabin for safe keeping, but nowadays TSA restrictions mean that your rod may have to go under the plane with your checked luggage. Pack your pole in a sturdy tube to ensure that it arrives to the other side in one piece. Travel tubes are available commercially, or you can simply make your own with a hunk of PVC pipe and 2 end caps. More information on TSA restrictions.
- Contact your airline to ask about sporting goods allowances. Every airline is different when it comes to classifying fishing gear and other sporting goods. While some airlines count a rod tube as 1 piece of regular luggage, other airlines specify that you’ll need to pay an additional fee because of the tube’s length. Make sure to get the lowdown ahead of time to avoid any unwanted surprises at the airport.
- Can you tote flies in your carry-on bag? Restrictions have eased a bit and most of the time you won’t have any trouble taking a book of flies with you as part of your carry-on luggage. Originally fish hooks were not allowed inside the cabin, but the TSA has since designated flies as “delicate” and therefore they can legally be part of your carry-on allowance. But, you may want to pack your flies carefully in the event that regulations change or you have to check them under the plane for some other reason.
- Use a soft-style notebook for flies. Hard plastic tackle boxes can crack on impact and take up a lot of space in your luggage. Consider investing in a few soft-style notebook organizers for your flies. Your flies won’t rattle around in the box during the flight and you can fit more in while using up less space.
- Pack your reel in a Tupperware container. The best way to ensure that your reel makes it to Key West unscathed is to pack it in a Tupperware container with a snapping lid. You can use cloth or other soft packing material to keep the reel from rattling inside the box.
- Pack additional spools of line. It’s always a good idea to bring along extra line.
- Lures with hooks need to go under the plane. Although flies are now deemed as OK, loose hooks and lures with exposed hooks will need to be packed in your checked luggage. The same goes for fishing pliers, pocket knives, and any other sharp edged instrument that is part of your tackle.
- Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Try to divide your fishing gear into two separate bags. You never know when a bag might be lost or misdirected to the wrong destination. If you’ve got a special lure or fly that you really want to give a go at Key West, make sure you pack multiples and put them into different bags.
More than 35 charter boats offering everything from deep sea to flats fishing and light tackle, as well as 3 head (party) boats call the docks at Charter Boat Row, Garrison Bight, Key West, Florida home.
The captains all wish you “Tight Lines” wherever you cast your hook!
By M.-J. Taylor
The author, M.-J. Taylor, lives in Key West and loves the bounty of the sea. She also likes to snorkel, dive and swim in the warm waters of the Southernmost City. Life is great in the land where summer comes for its winter vacation.