Snorkeling Looe Key is exciting, and maybe not for the faint of heart when it comes to the bigger types of creatures you can run into underwater. Looe Key is also a generally deeper snorkel spot than some people may enjoy.
Looe Key is a big reef, about five miles offshore, with a large variety of depths and water conditions throughout it. And it is famous for having bigger species like sharks, Colossal Grouper, Tarpon and rays. Pretty much all the fish are bigger here, because Looe Key is right on the barrier reef edge, and it is flushed with fresh ocean currents. And you can really tell you are on the ocean. Without any wind we were riding up and down on 1 to 2 foot ocean swells while snorkeling Looe Key.
We snorkeled three locations at Looe Key, from east to west.
The first spot, on the east side was a bit shallower than the middle and west side, and the visibility was the best. It is still a fairly deep snorkel spot. So you are not getting as up-close and personal with the fish and corals without diving down as some other spots in the keys.
The second location had less fish, but some big ones. There was a huge Tarpon (pic below) that would hang out under the boat in deep water, and a very beat up old barracuda (second pic).
It was here we saw our first Colossal Grouper. This fish was easily 150 pounds and near six feet long. It would just float in the shade under the boat. In the next two Loch Ness-like pictures you can kind of get a sense of how big he was.
The third most western spot we snorkeled on Looe Key was deeper, with a trench that ran south to north. It is known as Shark Alley. It often has big Spotted Eagle Rays, sharks, and other big fish. It was not an ideal snorkeling spot, because of it's depth, but it was very interesting.
There were bigger corals at that location.
We found far less fish at this location, but we noticed much bigger fish very deep tucked under the rock ledges. We noticed a Reef Shark cruising by several times. You can see it in the picture below and in the video that follows. It was not that interested in us.
Looe Key is the place for giant parrotfish. At each location in the keys we kept thinking we had seen the biggest parrotfish ever. But Looe Key takes the prize. They are huge here, and tons of them.
Just to show how big that Rainbow Parrotfish is below, the Midnight Parrotfish next to him is actually a normal sized parrotfish you would see most anywhere.
Here is a list of the fish and corals we found when snorkeling Looe Key Reef.
We saw a Queen Angelfish, Blue Angelfish, Banded Butterflyfish, Foureye Butterflyfish, French Angelfish, Rock Beauty, Gray Angelfish, Blue Tangs, Ocean Surgeonfish, Bar Jacks, Great Barracuda, chubs, jacks, grunts, Yellowtail Snapper, Gray Snapper, Porkfish, Bicolor Damselfish, Sergeant Major, Yellowtail Damselfish, Nassau Grouper, Colossal Grouper, Midnight Parrotfish, Rainbow Parrotfish, Blue Parrotfish, Stoplight Parrotfish, Hogfish, Bluehead, Cleaning Goby, Flying Gurnard, Amber Jack, Porcupinefish, Scrawled Filefish, Tarpon, Nurse Shark and Black Tipped Reef Shark.
Overall the coral was not as healthy or as prolific as some of the closer to shore patch reefs we have visited.
We saw Elkhorn Coral, Lobed Star Coral, Fire Coral, small Brain Coral, tons of fans, sea rods, and soft corals as well as some Christmas Tree Worms, White Encrusted Zoanthid and Green Finger Sponge.