My friend Matt tied on a special fly to the end of his fishing line, one of his own design that he has since named the “pompinator” (less colorfully known as a #4 tan/olive clouser minnow). We had arrived with our buddies on a sunny Key West afternoon, chasing after the island’s best fly-fishing, swimming, and relaxation opportunities, and Matt was eager to try his angling luck.
Walking carefully over the rock jetty, he stood at the edge of the crashing blue waves and cast his fly over the surface of the water. As he stripped in his line to imitate the motion of a swimming minnow, lizards of all shapes and sizes scampered over the warm stone, while nearby visitors built small rock pyramids and took photos. As Matt fished and we explored the edge of the jetty, we all gazed at the walls of Fort Zachary Taylor - a National Historic Landmark - behind us, a view of the beautiful ocean in front. We were all impressed with this unique fishing spot!
In no time at all, Matt had hooked a beautiful snapper, its yellow fins matching yellow stripes along a pale body. Red eyes and red tail-edging added to the fish’s general color, a lone black spot along the back providing contrast: it was a striking!
To celebrate, we walked along the edge of the water to reach Cayo Hueso Cafe, a local eatery dedicated to providing beach-goers with refreshments. From our chairs we could see the rock breakers, well known for snorkeling as well as the new coral reefs being constructed beyond their edges. The park has recently partnered with the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium and NOAA to conduct coral plantings in the swimming area; these plantings will eventually become an entire new snorkel trail for visitors of the park to check out!
Though we had to head out as the sun began to set, we knew we couldn’t leave before exploring the fort for ourselves. As we walked the paved pathway leading behind the fort’s walls, we passed its impressive green moat and large black cannonballs, poised and ready for a battle they will never see. We wove through the brick structure, struck by the fact that though the fort was built before the Civil War, it was also used Spanish American War, World War I, World War II, and the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park really does have something for everyone, from swimming to fishing to exploring the fort itself. As we left, Matt summarized it best: “It’s a one stop shop for people looking to enjoy a beach vacation in Key West.”
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About Erika: Erika Z. is a writer, birder and photographer living and working along the Emerald Coast of Florida. Her love of the outdoors and sense of adventure leads her to explore Florida’s state parks, state trails and historic sites in her free time.