From rivers and inlets to lakes and coastline, the opportunities for Florida fishing are limitless. Each area in the state boasts some great spots so the trick is to identify a place that suits your needs.
If you need a boat to reach your ideal spot but don’t have one, you can look at fishing charters. Popular shoreline spots like piers, bridges, jetties and other structures not only offer convenient access but some great action as well.
For example, Jacksonville Beach Pier offers a good chance to land king mackerel. For instance, the season for several species of grouper closes for certain months of the year.
Check out its seasonal fishing calendar that lists the best months to catch various species depending on the area of the state you’re in. If you want to head out to the deep sea, any charter captain will tell you there’s no bad time.
If you want to experience the thrill and excitement of offshore fishing or just head out in a small skiff in the grass flats but lack a boat, it can be a good idea to use a guide or book a charter. They’ll also provide you with rods, reels and tackle so you don’t have to bring your own gear.
An added bonus is that they’ll typically have a fishing license that covers their passengers as well so you won’t have to worry about securing one. Found statewide, large mouth bass have excellent growth rates, particularly in the productive waters of central Florida.
Historically known for huge bass, Florida remains an outstanding destination to catch a trophy. Spring is the best time of year to catch bass, when fish move into shallow water to spawn.
Spawning may occur as early as January in extreme south Florida and as late as May in the panhandle, but March and April are peak months. A medium to medium-heavy rod with 14- to 20-pound test line is preferred, particularly when fishing in areas with thick vegetation or cover.
Purple “metal flake” or “red shad” worms with twirly-tails are popular, and plastic lizards can be effective as well. With active bass and dense underwater vegetation, “jerk worms” are an excellent bait.
The design of the plastic lip determines how deep the lure dives, and anglers can adjust their choice of baits based on water depth. Popular colors are white, shad, fire tiger (green striped with orange underside) and crayfish.
Others are designed to make noise, and a faster, erratic retrieve may antagonize a bass into striking. Favoring rock outcrops and moving water, Suwanee bass prefer crayfish to many prey items of large mouth.
Bluegill, the most common pan fish, thrives in lakes and ponds, but good populations are found in rivers, particularly below dams. Bluegill eat mostly insects and their larvae, but worms are the best bait, either fished on the bottom or suspended below a float.
Crickets, grubs, sand maggots or grass shrimp will all catch bedding bluegill. Use a small hook, #6 or #8, with a split shot sinker about six inches up the line, and concentrate on water less than six feet deep.
“Beetle spin” with a white or chartreuse body on ultralight tackle is an excellent choice. Although they prefer snails and clams, repair sunfish are caught most often on earthworms around the full moons of March and April when their spawning activity peaks.
Redbreast sunfish, also known as river bream and red bellies, are the flowing water cousins of bluegill. Although spotted sunfish rarely exceed eight inches, this feisty species provides great sport on light tackle.
Beetle spins pitched close to the shoreline can be deadly, particularly tipped with freshwater clam meat. Black crappie, known locally as speckled perch or specks, are a cool weather favorite in Florida.
Unlike most other pan fish, crappie spend much of their time offshore, feeding on small fish. Successful anglers often drift through deeper water, fishing with small minnows or freshwater grass shrimp until they find a school.
Specks move inshore to spawn during the early spring, sometimes gathering in large numbers around heavy cover. Striped bass need long stretches of flowing water to reproduce successfully, and these conditions are rarely found in Florida.
Because of this, striped bass populations are maintained only through annual stockings from Commission and federal hatcheries. Live menhaden, golden shiners, craters or eels are good choices as bait.
In the same family as stripes, white bass seldom exceed four pounds, with one- to two-pound fish more common. Small crayfish or grass shrimp on #4 hooks fished in deep river bends or at the edge of sandbars are effective baits.
Live bait, including shad, grass shrimp and crayfish are especially effective, but jigs, spoons and imitation-minnow plugs also produce. In urban lakes, shrimp, squid and even cut-up pieces of hot dogs will attract sunshine bass.
Sunshine bass readily concentrate around mechanical feeders that periodically dispense food pellets. Channel catfish are abundant throughout Florida, spawning in holes and crevices in flowing water.
Most catfish prefer many of the same food items as bream, although they are opportunistic and will rarely pass up any meal. The “whiskers” are loaded with sensory cells that enable catfish to locate their food by smell.
Take advantage of this by using baits with strong odors: chicken liver or gizzards, shrimp, cut mullet and commercial stink baits. Catfish spines may cause a painful injury, and anglers should take care when handling these fish.
The Commissions Rich loam Hatchery produces 200,000 – 300,000 channel catfish annually for stocking in urban lakes. More than 300 miles of urban canals in Made and Broward counties have fishable populations of butterfly peacock bass, an introduced species that reaches nine pounds.
Butterfly peacocks prefer live fish or fish-imitating lures, rather than plastic worms commonly used for large mouth bass. The best bait for butterfly peacocks is live shiners, but artificial lures also work well, including top water plugs, jigs and crank baits.
Moreover, fisheries conservation laws require some fish to be released based on bag (creel) limits or size restrictions. Strike quickly when a fish takes your bait or lure to reduce the chance of it swallowing the hook.
Placing the fish back in the water between photos or measurements can be a good idea, especially if you have a live well×. If you need to hold the fish horizontally grasp it firmly by the lower jaw and gently under the stomach with a wet hand.
Cut line, gently pull shank to reverse hook and remove with pliers. If necessary, move the fish in a gentle figure eight to pass water over the gills (do not pull it backwards).
* Note: taking photos and measurements allows you to submit your fish to Florida's Angler Recognition programs, including TrophyCatch and Big Catch, for certificates and much more. Register now to learn more and for a chance to win great rewards. ** Note: most non-native fish should be harvested and not released, the exceptions are peacock bass and triploid grass carp.
You can also ask questions at bait shops, and they'll tell you what they've heard reported by others who've been fishing in the Florida Keys. They are also well versed in the fishing regulations mandated by the State of Florida.
They know what species are protected, bag limits, length and size requirements and other restrictions so no legal issues arise as a result of your saltwater fishing trip. In the box below you'll find Florida Keys fishing charters broken down by area.
It's also essential that you're fully familiar with the various fishing regulations so you can stay compliant and still have fun. Catch the legal limit of Florida fish and hook as many big ones as possible.
However, to do this you must have strong hooks and highly effective lures that will consistently entice the saltwater fish to bite. Typically, braided lines work the best, especially under hard fighting conditions.
You also need to have quality rods and reels that will handle the weight and hold up to the strenuous battle of fishing the Florida Keys. The excitement of catching a prized saltwater fish can pale suddenly when you watch it slip back into the water and swim away.
Below you can browse through an assortment of books that specialize in tying knots and how to properly attach leaders so your fishing trip isn't ruined by letting the 'big one' get away! However, Florida is third in the nation for most lightning strikes and first for the greatest number of deaths and injuries.
The summer months are in the rainy season, and this is when the thunderstorms build every afternoon. Florida Keys weather advisories are only as accurate as mother nature allows, and so it's important to keep a watchful eye to the sky.
Even boats that are equipped with lightning protection systems are not necessarily safe. If you can't get to shore before the storm hits, then get inside the boat so you're undercover.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases such as the following groups of items. You also need to keep it off your hands, as the Florida fish you're trying to catch are not going to want your bait if it smells like sunscreen.
Florida Keys fishing tips include making sure you can see what's going on when you're out on the water. You need to prevent the glare that builds up on the gin clear water of the flats, or anywhere else in the Keys. You want to see where you're going and you must be able to see the fish.
You'll find that there are lots of great Florida Keys fishing tips. For example, a good saltwater fisherman's favorite tip is to keep baby powder on hand.
The key is to have the right sized tackle box that can handle your fishing gear and be easily accessible. Every sport fisherman will have a good story and tip to share, but once you've wet your line, and brought in your first big fish, you'll have a good head start on your own Florida Keys fishing tips and tales.
Your reel has to be able to crank down hard when it needs to, and your line has to be strong enough to stay intact. Fishing line is susceptible to sunlight and other elements such as car exhaust and heat.
If it kinks or looks chalky then it most likely will not stand up to the strain of a big fish taking the bait. You can find many of the other essentials you'll need for your next fishing expedition by browsing through some other selections below.