All About Florida Keys Fishing & Key West Fishing

    Follow speed regulations and channel markers.

    Speed zones and channel markers are safety devices used to provide guidance in
    dangerous areas, prevent boats from running aground, and help protect the shoreline

    Buoys and markers may also indicate areas of ecological or biological importance, such
    as natural seagrass beds or marine mammal protected areas.

    High speeds in shallow waters can stir up ground sediments.  Such turbulence not only
    affects sea plants and bottom-dwelling organisms, but also impairs your ability to see
    sandbars, submerged obstacles, dangerous shoals, or surfacing marine animals (such
    as manatees or sea turtles).  Sand churned up from the bottom can also damage your
    engine's cooling system and lead to costly repairs.

    If you become grounded, do not attempt to motor your way out.

    This could cause serious damage not only to your motor and propellers, but also to the
    seafloor and local marine organisms.  

    If you sight a marine mammal such as a manatee, dolphin or whale, slow down and keep
    a safe distance of 100 yards.  It is illegal to feed, harass, molest, or injure a marine
    mammal.

    When anchoring, use mooring buoys or appropriate ground tackle, lower your anchor
    slowly and check your holding grounds.

    Anchoring on rubble, coral reefs, or sea grass is unsafe and will destroy the underwater
    environment.
Above from the US Coast Guard





    KEEPING YOUR BOTTOM OFF THE BOTTOM!
    WARNING - navigation around coral reefs and seagrass can be tricky!

    WHY SHOULD YOU LEARN TO "READ" WATER COLOR?

    Many boaters do not realize that coral reefs and seagrass beds in the Florida Keys can be
    growing within inches of the water's surface whether they are located close to shore or
    several miles from shore.
    The following navigation tips are provided to make your boating experience easier and safer
    and to insure that others will be able to enjoy the same spectacular and irreplaceable
    marine communities.

    BROWN, BROWN RUN AGROUND

    Reef formations that grow close to the water's surface and shallow sea grass beds will
    make the water appear brown. Such areas should be avoided to keep from running
    aground and damaging both your boat and these sensitive habitats.

    WHITE, WHITE YOU MIGHT

    Sand bars and shallow rubble areas appear white. These areas can be deceiving and may
    be much shallower than they appear. Navigate with caution around these areas.

    GREEN, GREEN NICE & CLEAN

    Green water usually indicates an area free of shallow reefs or seagrass beds. Navigation of
    small, shallow draft boats in these areas is generally safe. However, larger, deeper draft
    boats should exercise caution. All boaters should carry and consult the appropriate NOAA
    marine chart.

    BLUE, BLUE CRUISE ON THROUGH

    Deep water areas, such as the ocean side of a reef may appear blue. Navigation in these
    areas is free from hazardous contact with reefs or seagrass beds. Remember, however,
    that coral reefs rise abruptly from deep water so give yourself plenty of room to maneuver.
    IF YOU RUN AGROUND:
    Turn off your engine immediately. Do not attempt to use your engine to power off the reef or
    grass flat, which could damage your boat as well as these important habitats. If possible,
    raise your lower unit or outdrive and allow your vessel to drift free from the shallow area. If
    you cannot drift free, radio Coast Guard, Sanctuary Patrol or Marine Patrol on VHF Channel
    16 to provide you with assistance.
    CORAL REEFS are an essential marine habitat that fish and many other marine creatures
    need to live, eat and reproduce Corals grow very slowly, some at a rate of 2 centimeters
    per year. Boat groundings can instantly pulverize coral, leaving areas open to infection by
    disease and devastating a thriving coral reef community.

    Damage to seagrass beds can be equally devastating. Seagrass beds act as a nursery
    and feeding ground for numerous organisms. They also filter excess nutrients and trap
    sediments, thereby providing the clean, clear water essential for coral reefs. By running
    aground or even motoring in very shallow water, boats can scar seagrass beds. These
    narrow sand channels can grow wider and wider, decreasing the seabed's ability to protect
    the reef and provide a healthy community for marine creatures.

    MORE HELPFUL NAVIGATION HINTS....USE EXTRA CAUTION when there is extensive
    cloud cover, a glassy calm sea state, extreme sun glare murky water. These are conditions
    when colors may not be apparent.Mooring buoys are located in the Florida Keys National
    Marine Sanctuary to keep boaters from damaging coral with their anchors. Some mooring
    buoys are located near extremely shallow reefs. Do not attempt to motor across a reef to
    reach a mooring buoy.

    Polarized sunglasses are very helpful in distinguishing water colors.For Key Largo
    National Marine Sanctuary, use NOAA chart #11462.For Looe Key National Marine
    Sanctuary, use NOAA chart #11445 or 11442.NOAA navigation charts are available at many
    marine supply stores throughout the Keys.
    For a complete guide to the charts available for the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, contact
    NOAA's Charts & Publications Branch at 301-436-6990.

    Text above provided by the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary


    Before heading out, check weather conditions.  Strong winds and rough seas can result
    in poor visibility and reduce safe interaction at the reef.

    Dumping trash at sea is illegal; plastic bags and other debris can injure or kill marine
    animals.  Bring your trash back to shore and recycle it.  Try to retrieve fishing gear and
    equipment, especially monofilament line.

    Use sewage pump-out facility and biodegradable bilge cleaner and never discharge
    bilge  water at the reef.

    Use reef mooring buoys or anchor in sandy areas away from coral and seagrasses so
    that anchor, chain, and line do not contact or damage coral or seagrasses.

    Accidental boat groundings damage coral and seagrasses.  Consult tide and
    navigational charts and steer clear of shallow areas.  Fine are imposed for such damage.

    Avoid areas which appear brown in color.  Shallow reef areas and seagrass beds will
    appear brown.

    If you run aground;  immediately turn the engine off, and tilt it up if possible.  Do not try to
    motor off.  Wait until high tide to remove the vessel.  Call for assistance when necessary.  

    When in a diving area, slow down to an idle speed.

    Fishermen, do not troll over or near divers.  Stay at least 100 feet from a red and white
    diver down flag and watch for bubbles.

    Florida law requires a fishing license.  Applicable size, bag limits, and seasons must be
    observed when harvesting seafood.  Release all the fish you cannot eat.  

    Don't throw fish carcasses or wrung lobsters overboard or into canals as they
    decompose and degrade water quality.

    Avoid wildlife disturbance;  stay 100 yards or more offshore; keep speed, noise and
    wakes to a minimum near mangroves.

    Camping, campfires and collecting of any kind are prohibited in all National Wildlife
    Refuges.  Personal watercraft and airboats are illegal in all National Parks and Wildlife
    Refuges in the Florida Keys.

    Other rules and regulations apply in various areas of the Florida Keys.  Check with the
    appropriate governing agencies.

    Above written by:
    Reef Relief
    www.reefrelief.org
    201 William St
    Key West, FL   33040
Ch 9
working channel; secondary calling channel
Ch 13
bridge to bridge
Ch 16
hailing and distress broadcast channel which is monitored 24 hours by the
Coast Guard; use this channel only for hailing or emergencies.  It is not
intended for casual conversation.
Ch 24-28
public coast stations
Ch 68, 69, 71, 72
working channels open for communications among pleasure boaters
W 1,2,3,4
weather channels provide 24 hour weather information.
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