By Kirby Collins – PlacesAroundFlorida.com
Florida is known as the best fishing destination in the US if not the world. Weather and location offer a year round fishing environment for everything from largemouth bass to blue marlin. Here's a quick rundown of fishing in Florida by region.
North Atlantic Coast - Jacksonville to Daytona Beach
- Inshore fishing on Florida's First Coast from Amelia Island
through St. Augustine
is a good place for just about anything from flounder to redfish, sea trout, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, black drum, croakers and whiting. Striped bass also make an occasional appearance in areas like the St. Johns River through the Downtown Jacksonville
Primary fishing areas include the St. Johns River which runs through Jacksonville
and the Intracoastal Waterway.
Beach fishing is also good for whiting, croakers and bluefish as well. Many anglers choose pier fishing such as the Jacksonville Beach Pier
. St. Augustine also has a pier that's good for fishing too. Fishing piers
can also be good for king mackerel, tarpon and cobia in the spring and fall.
In the Daytona Beach
area, inshore fishing can be spectacular with good catches of redfish, trout, sheepshead and flounder.
South of New Smyrna Beach
, flats fishing is spectacular with the Mosquito Lagoon's world famous redfish fishery. These bull reds are larger and more plentiful than anywhere else in the world.
- Bluewater fishing for marlin, sailfish, mahi, sharks and wahoo are best in spring and early summer. True bluewater fishing starts 30 miles offshore out to the Gulf Stream.
Bottom fishing for grouper and red snapper are also fantastic. Ponce Inlet south of Daytona Beach is world famous for its red snapper fishing.
Small boat anglers fishing near shore also do very well along this stretch live baiting for kingfish, cobia and the occasional sailfish.
Central Atlantic Coast - Port Canaveral to Jupiter Inlet
- The Indian River Lagoon runs through this region from Titusville to Jupiter Inlet
. The Indian River is the best place to catch huge sea trout in Florida. The Indian River is also good for snook, redfish, black drum, sheepshead, jacks, small tarpon and ladyfish.
In Indian River County, Sebastian Inlet
offers a world famous snook fishery with more numbers of snook caught than anywhere in the state. The Vero Beach area also offers good fishing with plenty of back country places to fish.
The areas from Fort Pierce through Jupiter
offer excellent inshore snook fishing places with inlets
being the most popular. Fishing at night is the preferred choice as boat traffic is more prevalent.
- As you venture south, the Gulf Stream is much closer to the coastline offering small boat fishermen to get closer to the action. At Sebastian Inlet, the Gulf Stream runs about 30 miles from shore in the summer, at Jupiter Inlet summertime Gulf Stream runs are as close as 10 miles.
offshore is also known as Florida's best yellowfin tuna fishery. Large sportfishing boats take overnight and multi-day trips for the big yellowfin tuna.
Offshore Fishing in this region offers spectacular fishing for mahi, sailfish, kingfish, wahoo, marlin and sharks. Stuart is home to many winter sailfish tournaments and competes with Palm Beach for the Sailfish Capitol of the World.
Bottom Fishing is also very good with good catches of grouper and snapper. Head boats and charter boats are available throughout the region.
South Florida - Palm Beach to Miami
- Palm Beach through Miami
offers a different kind of inshore fishing than the areas to the north. Here you're just as likely to be fishing around the many man-made structures such as bridges, seawalls, jetties and docks as you are the open flats.
Snook fishing is the most popular but local anglers also stay busy with mangrove snapper, jacks, ladyfish and small tarpon during the closed snook season.
- The Gulf Stream defines bluewater fishing in South Florida, the clear blue water of the Gulf Stream is only three miles from shore in many areas. This allows even the smallest of boats to get in on the spring and fall mahi runs. Sailfish are a wintertime favorite in Palm Beach
, however they can be caught anywhere throughout the region year round. The region is also good for marlin, wahoo and sharks.
Bottom fishing is also excellent there are many near shore reefs that are excellent places for grouper and snapper.
The Florida Keys
and Key West
offer some of the best fishing in the world. From bonefish and tarpon inshore to blue marlin and tuna offshore, if it swims in the Caribbean, you can catch it here.
More Fishing in the Florida Keys »
Gulf Coast - Tampa to Fort Myers
- The Gulf Coast offers some of the most diverse fishing in the state. One of the most popular places to fish is Tampa Bay
. Tampa Bay is home to trout and redfish along grass flats that are prevalent in the bay as well as snook and of course tarpon. However one of the most surprising aspects of fishing Tampa Bay is the availability of species normally associated with offshore fishing like kingfish and cobia. The Sunshine Skyway Bridge Pier
spans Tampa Bay and offers great fishing for fishermen without a boat. Tampa Bay is also home to snapper, grouper, sheepshead, drum and other assorted bottom fish.
To the south near Fort Myers
, trout and redfish are the focus of small boat sport fishermen. Flats fishing for snook and tarpon are also popular. Sanibel Island
is a great place to fish as well. There's a short pier on the east end of the island where you can catch anything from small snapper and drum to Spanish mackerel, cobia, snook and tarpon. Speaking of tarpon, Boca Grande Pass is quite possibly the best place in Florida to catch large tarpon.
- Offshore fishing on the Gulf Coast is highlighted by shallow water extending far into the gulf. This makes for good grouper and snapper fishing. Fishermen use live bait like pilchards and shrimp to bottom fish rocky structures. This same rocky bottom structure also attracts baitfish which in turn attracts kingfish, cobia, amberjack and Spanish mackerel.
A few anglers head further offshore nearly 100 miles to the bluewater where the offshore fishing is among some of the best Florida has to offer. Hear anglers catch mahi, sailfish, tuna and marlin. It's a long run but worth it for the offshore fishermen who do.
Panhandle - Panama City to Pensacola
- The Florida Panhandle offers excellent inshore fishing for anglers with and without a boat. Panhandle fishing piers
offer as good a chance to catch huge gamefish such as kingfish and cobia as anywhere in the state. Piers such as the St. Andrews Pier
, Fort Walton Beach Pier
, Pensacola Pier
and the newly reopened Navarre Beach Pier regularly catch big kingfish and cobia every year. In addition, the Panhandle piers regularly catch Spanish mackerel, redfish, bluefish, croakers, pompano, sheepshead, bonita and jacks.
Inshore fishing at inshore bays like Choctawhatchee Bay, include catches of Seatrout, redfish, sheepshead, ladyfish, jacks and many other species. Similar Pensacola Bay and St. Andrews Bay also offer similar opportunities.
Small boaters have excellent near-shore opportunities to catch trophy kingfish and cobia from the three inlets
between Panama City Beach
and Pensacola. Snapper and grouper also are available to those wishing to fish inshore waters.
Kayak fishermen have more chances to catch big cobia and kingfish just off Panhandle beaches
than anywhere else in Florida. There are only three navigable inlets in the panhandle, but there are many places where kayaks can be launched from the beach. The tactics are similar to slow-trolling, kayak anglers bring two rods, one for catching baitfish with sabiki rigs, the other, usually a 20 lb. live bait rod. When you hook-up, expect to go for a ride.
- Fishing out of Pensacola
or Destin Pass
offers some of the best big game fishing in the continental US. Blue marlin of nearly a thousand pounds has been caught as well as large bluefin tuna. There are also regular catches of yellowfin tuna, wahoo and dolphin offshore.
Most of the fishing begins about 30 miles offshore at a popular ledge called the Nipple and continues past the 100 fathom line and into DeSoto Canyon. Trolling live and dead baits as well as artificial lures are the most popular tactics being used to catch the next 'grander' marlin.
Freshwater Fishing in Central Florida Lakes
Freshwater fishing in Florida for largemouth bass is world famous with catches topping the scales of 10 lbs or more occurring on a regular basis. Largemouth bass can be found in practically every freshwater body of water in the state. Other popular freshwater fish include bluegill bream, crappie, catfish and the occasional sunshine bass, which is a striper/white bass hybrid.
Lake Okeechobee is the second largest freshwater lake in the US and the largest in the Southeast US so there's no shortage of fishing spots. The most popular fishing areas are in the south and west from Belle Glade to Buckhead Ridge.
The Kissimmee Chain of Lakes is popular with visitors to the Orlando Attractions, and no wonder. After spending the day with families in crowded theme park, there's no better way to unwind than with a trophy largemouth bass. The Kissimmee Chain includes Lake Kissimmee, Lake Weohyakapka, Lake Rosalie, Lake Hatchineha, Cypress Lake, Tiger Lake and others.
St. Johns River
Beginning in Central Florida and meandering all the way to Jacksonville, the St. Johns River is popular with the houseboat crowd and high-speed bass boats alike.
The Harris Chain of Lakes northeast of Orlando holds world class bass fishing. Popular lakes include Like Harris, Lake Eustis, Lake Griffin, Lake Yale, Lake Dora and others.
Hiring a Fishing Guide or Charter Boat Captain
When fishing in unfamiliar waters, using an experienced local can make the difference between wetting a line and catching the fish of a lifetime.
An experienced captain will know when and where the fish are feeding, what baits to use and how to land a trophy fish. A local guide is also an expert about the local habitat, birds and environmental concerns that threaten the environment. Local fishing guides also know more about where to eat & stay than the chamber of commerce.
All charter boats & fishing guides in Florida are US Coast Guard licensed and insured so you'll be able to take your family fishing in a vessel where safety is even more important than catching fish.
Best Fishing Spots By Month
- Sailfish in Palm Beach
- Grouper from Port Canaveral to Jupiter Inlet
- Cobia at Port Canaveral
- Wahoo from Sebastian Inlet to Miami
- Tarpon in the Florida Keys
- Mahi-Mahi from Ponce Inlet to Key West
- Blue Marlin from Destin and Pensacola
- Mangrove & Yellowtail Snapper in the Florida Keys
- Snook at Sebastian Inlet
- Seatrout in Tampa Bay
- Kingfish at Jupiter Inlet
- Redfish in the Mosquito Lagoon at Merritt Island NWR
About the Author - Kirby Collins, Editor & Publisher at PlacesAroundFlorida.com
Kirby is an expert in Florida fishing techniques and locations. Kirby owned and operated a retail fishing tackle store in Sebastian named Tropical Tackle
during the early 90s and worked as a first mate on offshore fishing charter boats.
Having grown up in Palm Beach Gardens, he fished for snook every chance he had, usually riding his rod-rack equipped bicycle for miles to find brackish water that would hold a snook or two. When summer arrived, he'd take family vacations in great fishing locations like Sanibel Island
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