First, incoming tides signal increasing action as roaming predators such as mackerel, king fish, tarpon, cobra, bluefish and sharks follow the bait fish schools that ride the rising water closer to these structures. 2 hooks and a 2- to 6-ounce pyramid weight at the bottom will yield a mixed bag of pompano, whiting, redfish, black drum, flounder, bluefish and trout.
Available in most tackle shops, double droppers are easy to tie and customizable with various colored beads and floats to hold the baited hooks above the bottom. Common baits for the smaller species include live shrimp, squid, sand fleas and clam strips (brined for toughness).
When you’re ready for a stronger challenge, fish cut sardines, whiting or mullet, or live bait fish (pinkish, pilchards) on a fish-finder rig (available at bait shops). Designs range from grocery baskets fitted with PVC rod holders to fully customized wheeled platforms with bait tank, cooler and gear racks.
Some will also offer the opportunity to slide a canoe, kayak or stand-up paddle board into the water, but all include plenty of space to fish from shore, or wade into coastal shallows. The prominent paved jetty pier on the north side, complete with safety rails offers a safe, spacious platform for reaching the surf zone or the deeper water of the inlet.
Incoming tides always bring a push of activity, but when the fall mullet run piles an enormous biomass in and around the inlet, anglers have a field day with bull redfish, giants nook, tarpon and the occasional cuber snapper. Mangrove snapper, jacks, sleepyhead and black drum add to the mix; while the shallower end, along with the smaller south jetty may yield pompano, whiting and craters.
Species mix includes trout, weakfish, redfish, black drum, flounder and sleepyhead with the occasional striped bass. Several pull off spots provide casting access to the St. Johns River, or you can take one of the interior roads through the campground to fish the Fort George Inlet on the north side.
The mix here includes flounder, redfish, black drum, pompano, whiting, bluefish, Spanish mackerel and sharks. Deploying live baits off the deep end often yields king mackerel, tarpon, sharks and barracuda.
Neoprene or insulated waders keep you comfy in the winter, but during the warm season, simply walk in with lightweight clothing and enclosed shoes. Tarpon often run this area anglers soaking live baits or sight casting big swim baits might put one in the air.
From the metered parking area to the pier is a bit of a hike, but it’s a straight shot down the walking promenade running along the cut. Both provide spacious access to a wide range of Keys favorites like snapper (mangrove, lane, mutton and yellowtail), tarpon, grouper, yellow jack, shook and porgies.
The gem of Pinellas County, this 1,136-acre park comprises Madeleine, St. Jean, St. Christopher, Bone Fortune and Mullet keys and complements an impressive angling menu with campgrounds, picnic shelters, bathroom/shower facilities, concessions, bait shop, dog park and historical significance. Expect a good mix of shook, trout, redfish and flounder, along with mackerel, cobra, pompano, sharks and mangrove snapper at the piers.
Boardwalks over the protected dunes offer access to the redfish, flounder and trout waters on the marsh side, but surf fishing is the big attraction. From whiting, pompano, bluefish and mackerel; to sharks, cobra and bull reds, this is one of Western Florida ’s premier shore fisheries.
The main causeway bridge and the smaller one right before the island offer sleepyhead, black drum, shook and snapper opportunities. The piers light attract bait fish, so expect everything from shook, to trout and the occasional bluefish to stake out these feeding spots.
With beach shallows, the coastal Gulf and deep channel waters within easy reach, anglers find a steady mix of the inshore regulars, along with passing tarpon, king fish and sharks. Summer is prime time for big shook staging for their spawn; while fall sees voluminous bait fish schools exiting the inner bays, with several predators in pursuit.
Empty lots and bridge pull-offs may be convenient and cost-efficient, but a cursory scan for questionable types who clearly not fishing might offer a safety/vehicle security clue. Tip: Local businesses rarely budge on the “restrooms are for customers only” thing (many have signs posted), so don’t expect any mercy, no matter how much you grimace and squeeze your knees together.
Commercially produced aluminum pier/bridge carts with wide wheels will easily transport your rods, tackle bag, cooler and live bait well over pavement, rocks or sand; but for casual duties, a garden utility cart (some models fold) will suffice. Waiting until you feel that cool downdraft can leave you and your gear exposed and out of options; so know where the nearest shelter lies and have a bug-out plan just in case.
It starts with respectful spacing, so if you approach an area where others are fishing, take note of where their lines are set (short, long) and allow reasonable buffers. Even if many go when stormy or cold they still leave because they cannot take what some people like to enthusiastically call “hardcore fishing ”.
Some jetties are more famous or infamous than others, some for the great fishing and some for the kind of people that frequent those places. One of my favorite places is Bad Harbor jetty, a dangerous place since its walkways sit very close to the water and are always getting splashed by the waves on the strong incoming tides or when the wind really blows past 20 knots on an Eastern direction.
At Bad Harbor jetty you can catch many species but it does get crowded at times hence why I only go when everyone thinks they should be home. On the full moon nights and just about any other night when the tide is going out you can try your luck at Permit or Shook, in the winter time till the beginning of spring blue fish, sharks, black drums, and sleepyheads are in full force at that jetty.
When the Tarpon are there they are there in full force and are great fun to catch if not many boats get on the way and cut you right off. For the permit you can use small less than your palm size blue crabs or a chunk of blue crab, but the mostly used for to catching permits there has always been a “J” or “Keyhole hook” with 4 or five nice size sand fleas.
The Port Everglades inlet jetty had been closed down after Hurricane Wilma hit, it took almost 5 years before it was reopened. And the great thing about this jetty is that you can take you snorkeling gear and have a nice look at the reef close by.
The South side where the camping ground is at is well known for the flounders fishing when they start going to the ocean to mate. You can cast top water artificial lures on the outside of moving bait balls being pressured by fish and you will have some real good fun doing so.
The North side is more famous for the pompano crowd and you will see the floor covered with clamshell fragments. There are certain times when the crowd gets huge like when the Black Drums are running heavy, there is barely a place to cast.
I like to move around and unfortunately at Sebastian Inlet jetty a lot of thieves like to make their way into the heavy crowds to see what they can take. The biggest attractions at Sebastian are the pompanos, sheep heads, black drums, flounders, nooks, and bull redfish.
It gets to be a Big Bull redfish Rodeo at times at Sebastian Inlet jetty, bulls that reach the 40 inch to 45 inch mark are very common and it’s like winning a lottery to get a slot fish for dinner. One thing about Sebastian is the culture of people, so many cultures fishing in the same place is very interesting and you can have awesome great conversations, but keep an eye on your gear at all times since some people can carry on a conversation while someone is having a party with your tackle.