Use this guide to catch your limit and catch ‘em big
As a kid, my parents bought me Encyclopedia Britannica’s Complete Guide to Fishing. Inside was everything a young fisherman could ever want to know.
It included the fundamentals, an exhaustive list of fish species, casting techniques, types of bait, and how to fish in certain habitats.
As a Florida native, I was naturally drawn to the pages that detailed what I’d find in the fishing holes around the Sunshine State. From mangrove flats to grass shallows and into the Everglades, that book opened my eyes and mind to the infinite possibilities of fishing.
This blog post is going to share some of this knowledge with you – plus, a wealth of experience I’ve gleaned as an avid fisherman through the years. Naturally, you’ll be going by boat.
So I’ve assembled my top 10 favorite spots to fish in Florida that make good use of Yamaha outboard parts to get you there. Whether you’re for inshore, nearshore, or offshore, read on to catch some fresh insights on the best fishing holes around your home state.
Let’s cast off!
#1 Florida Keys
As remarkably varied as it is fishable, the 120-miles stretch of the Florida Keys is a maritime habitat unlike any other. The outer curve of the Keys’ is the Atlantic ocean. It’s warm and shallow by the shoreline and reaches depths of 2,000 feet by 12 miles offshore. Deep sea fishing permits amazing sportfishing: Marlin, Swordfish, Sailfish, Kingfish, and Wahoo provide year-round adrenaline. Tarpon arrive in May, Dolphin arrive in summer and Sailfish from November to February.
Boat to the inner edge of the Keys’ – Florida Bay, aka the backcountry – to sport for numerous game fish such as Bonefish, Permit, Redfish, Snook, and Snapper.
The deeper water drop-offs, the flats, and the bridges all provide ideal environments where you’ll find schools of your favorites. For a diverse and memorable fishing experience, not much beats the Florida Keys.
#2 Tampa Bay
Just outside of Tampa is some of Florida’s most diverse fishing. Here you’ll find Snook, Sheepshead, Tarpon, Trout, and Redfish among the grass flats in the bay, but also typically offshore species such as Cobia and Kingfish. What and how you fish largely depends upon the tides, higher tide bringing better luck in the backwaters of the bay. October is a renowned time to catch Seatrout in Tampa Bay.
Heading offshore, you’ll find shallow waters extending far into the Gulf. Grouper and Snapper are common, with fisherman using shrimp and pilchards to fish the rocky bottom areas. The rocky bottom here also allows for the use of bait fish to fish for Spanish Mackerel, Amberjack, Cobia, and Kingfish.
#3 Florida Bay
Getting to remote Florida Bay isn’t the problem. What’s baffling is where to begin your fishing expedition in this massive part of the Florida Everglades Park. There are dozens of jumping off point in the Keys between Key Largo and Islamorada, as Florida Bay is part of the park found between Florida’s mainland and the Keys.
“Some of the best fishing in the bay can be found right out in front of Flamingo. I like to work those flats on the bottom of the falling tide and then the first two hours of the rise. You’ll see an amazing number of fish right there.” — Tim Klein, Everglades guide, Islamorada
Known by locals as backcountry, water here is rarely more than five feet amongst the mangrove islands, shallow flats, and infinite creeks. Bonefish, Snook, Redfish, Trout, Permit, Tarpon, and more happily call this place home.
“It’s always productive to work shorelines and the potholes in the grass flats. Lots of different species lie in the potholes, waiting to ambush a bait that’s swimming by. Mostly you’ll find redfish and snook in there, but trout and jacks will lie in there too.” — Tim Klein, Everglades guide
Word to the wise: when you come, keep an eye out for crocodiles!
That’ not all.
This Panhandle town should change its name to “Destiny.” The fishing is that good. So good that Destin’s been calling itself “The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village” for years now. Find Florida’s largest charter boat fleet here and droves of angles eager to fish the Gulf of Mexico for Grouper, Snapper, Cobia, Sailfish, Marlin – you name it.
Shark, Amberjack, Reds, and Triggerfish are a given year round. Look for offshore giants like Sailfish, Marlin, Wahoo, King Mackerel, Spanish Mackerel, and Tuna during the summer months and into early fall. Or dip into nearby Choctawhatchee Way, which is generally no deeper than 30 feet deep. Full of grass flats, bayous, jetties, and bridges, bring light tackle for Pompano, Black Snapper, and Flounder, and Bluefish amongst other inshore species.
#5 Cedar Key
Cedar Key juts off the Big Bend into the Gulf of Mexico. Especially in October, the Key is renowned for it’s Redfish. As tide rises, reds follow baitfish into the flats and grasses and remain as the tide recedes. Find them in the nearest channel or pothole as they wait for the next rising tide.
Running from shallow backwaters to grassy flats, Seahorse Reef is a particularly good fishing spot. Long seagrass coats the reef, a few small keys dot the area while deeper holes and a rich maze of channels spaces everything between. Such a home appeals to Spanish Mackerel, Spotted Seatrout, and King Mackerel as well.
The same can’t be said for people: the population of Cedar Key is less than 1,000. Arrive in Cedar Key expecting amazing remote fishing, plus peace and quiet.
#6 Boca Grande
Fishing Boca Grande means fishing the Gulf Coast with options on the line. Charlotte Harbor is fed by the Peace and Myakka Rivers, full of canals and built structures for varied angling. The Gasparilla and Pine Island Sound each boast miles of shallow, open grass flats. Or try Lemon Bay for tidal creeks and islands.
The best part.
No matter whether you’re using flies for sight fishing, tackle, or bait – look forward to swarms of Tarpon, Sheepshead, Snook, Redfish and Sea Trout. Offshore angling provides plenty of Cobia, Jacks, Flounder, False Albacore, triple tail, and sharks for your fun and enjoyment.
The coastal village of Steinhatchee rides Steinhatchee River down to the Gulf Coast into Apalachee Bay in the nook of the Big Bend. This Gulf Coast settlement looks unchanged since founded in the late 1700’s, and we imagine the fishing is just as good now as it was then. The slope of the Gulf bottom is gradual and allows for shallow water fishing for great spans, as well as in countless creeks, and offshore fishing.
Spring is the ideal time to fish the mouth of the Steinhatchee, as the Redfish, Spotted Sea Trout, and Sheepshead school when the wild sea grass grows wilds. Dip into the beaches, the brackish river or backcountry areas for Ladyfish, Jack Crevalle, Bluefish, and Spanish Mackerel. If you head offshore, expect Snapper, Seabass, and Grouper along the bottom at about 30-50 feet. If you can’t make it during spring, don’t worry – fall is equally fantastic fishing.
Fun fact: Steinhatchee is the top spot in the US for catching scallops!
A place that goes by “The Sailfish Capital of the World” must be worth a few throws, right? Indeed, with miles of waterways along the Treasure Coast of Florida’s eastern coast, Stuart offers angling enthusiast 15 marinas for mooring and more fishing than you can shake a rod at. The city of Stuart and the surrounding areas eats, lives, and breathes fishing.
Peak months run December through March and then June and July. Inshore action brings in gamefish species like Ladyfish, Permit, Pompano, Redfish, Snapper, Snook, and Sea Trout. When you head into deeper water, look for offshore fishing for Barracuda, Bonito, Blackfin Tuna, Blacktip Shark, Cobia, Dolphin – and much, much, more. And of course, Sailfish.
An hour south of Tampa, you’ll find one of Florida’s most beloved secrets. The old-time fisherman’s village of Cortez boasts historic charm and an authentic American history rooted in maritime history. Labeled the Gulf Coast’s “last surviving fishing village, not much has changed in this timeless community since settled as a Spanish settlement in the 1800’s. That includes the superb quality of fishing.
Perched along the mainland shore of Sarasota bay and anchored near a 95-acre wildlife preserve, you can enjoy inshore, nearshore, or offshore fishing ventures. The catch varies by season, but you’re in line to catch Snapper, Grouper, Kingfish, and Yellowtail aplenty from the shores.
After a rewarding day with the rod and reel, stroll the wharves and enjoy one of the “dock to table” seafood restaurants offering the freshest of seafood, cold beer, and a great spot to swap fishing tales.
#10 Mosquito Lagoon
Mosquito Lagoon is listed by the US Government as a Lagoon of National Significance. Running north to south from Merritt Island and the Kennedy Space Center down to the Ponce de Leon Inlet at New Smyrna beach – totaling 40 mile and 21,000 acres – this huge space is a world famous redfish destination. Because the salt levels in the lagoon appeal to Redfish and Black Drum during spawning time, it’s not uncommon to fish Reds above 30 pounds. Spotted Sea Trout, Snook, and Tarpon are also numerous.
Launch from south-western side of the lagoon all the way to northern side of the beach. Mosquito Lagoon is full of sandy shoals and scattered sandbars, so new boaters may find it challenging to navigate. Go slowly here, as hurricanes shift sandy tidal shoals and sea grasses can get caught up in your engine (though you know where you can come for Yamaha outboard parts).
For this reason, many anglers choose sight-fishing in the Lagoon, a sport more like hunting. A quick and precise cast wins the biggest catch.
Reel ‘em In
Though I’d recommend it, you don’t need to browse an encyclopedia to get the lowdown about Florida’s best fishing spots. Use this handy guide to take you around this incredibly diverse state and fish some remarkably plentiful waters. We’re very fortunate to have access to such a wealth of fresh and saltwater fishing, each location boasting many hidden fishing holes that you could spend a lifetime getting to know. But what a great way to spend a life! As always, remember to take good care of your boat and respect the natural habitats. And that’s it for now – I’m taking my own advice and going fishing!
And that’s it for now – I’m taking my own advice and going fishing!