The wrecks in Florida Bay are loaded with them, and you can reach them from the Keys or from Everglades National Park. There's also a legendary manta ray migration off the Treasure Coast that the fish follow in droves.
It's hard to troll a ballyhoo for a few hundred yards and not find a dolphin off the Keys this time of the year. Tarpon fever grips the state, especially in the Keys, Biscayne Bay and along the Treasure Coast.
Water clarity in the backcountry estuary environments is at a peak during the cooler months of the year, making it easier to locate sea trout on the grass flats near sandy potholes. One of the best rigs for winter trout fishing is a soft plastic shrimp lure on 15 to 20-pound fluorocarbon leader beneath a popping cork.
Target winter redfish along mangrove shorelines up in brackish spring-fed rivers, around bends or deep holes, where the water temperature tends to stay more constant following a cold front. You can use a soft plastic shrimp, or try the Ned rig, which is most commonly used for winter bass fishing, but works equally well for targeting redfish during the cooler months of the year.
Black drum can be targeted in bays or estuaries around rocks, deeper holes, and pilings as well as offshore around structure near mud, sand or she'll bottom. Found nearshore and offshore from central to south Florida triple tail are most often spotted around channel markers and crab trap buoys.
Debbie Hanson is an award-winning outdoor writer, women’s sport fishing advocate, IFA world record holder, and freshwater guide living in Southwest Florida. Once hooked, these fish take immediately to the air, make long runs, and fight all the way to the stern.
But it’s also hard to beat Miami Beach and the Keys for epic sailfish action. Florida -strain large mount bass will try to spawn all year round on the new and full moon phases.
You can fish out of Belle Glade, Lewiston, Moore Haven, Lakeport, or Okeechobee with about equally good odds of landing a 10-pounder. I like to be a homebody the first month of spring, and stick to my home waters of the Indian River Lagoon.
The world record spotted sea trout, which weighed in over 17 pounds, was caught near Fort Pierce. But the Indian River Lagoon is about 130 miles long, and you can catch bunker trout from Titusville to Jupiter.
Most of the shook action takes place from Sebastian southward, although plenty of fish are caught in the northern end of the lagoon in years when we don’t get any freezes. Give Jodie Lynn Charters a call, and they’ll put you on fish for sure.
I would not feel like I’d lived that year if I had not pursued tarpon with a fly rod from the vantage of a flats' skiff in the shallows. But there are plenty of other ways to target the Silver King that accommodate all skill levels.
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. An exciting place to explore for anglers, here you’ll find a colorful variety of fish in the area, including bone fish, tarpon, and shook.
Sitting south of Cedar Key is Seahorse Reef, a popular area for experienced Gulf Shore fishermen. Covered with long and lush seagrass, Cedar Creek is considered one of the best launching points in the Big Bend area.
Boasting an abundance of guides and ship captains for hire and a variety of other land and water-based attractions, Key West is an ideal destination to visit with the entire family. A large fountain with a jumping sailfish sits in its town square, marking the centerpiece of the area’s 15 marinas ready to take out fishing and charter boat fleets.
The fishing potential of this coastal village is abundant, as its untouched natural beauty is appealing to those looking for a peaceful on the water. Spring is the most popular season for catching underwater treasures, as the seagrass grows wild in these months making it an ideal time to spot Redfish, speckled trout, and sleepyhead.
With over 140 vessels that cater to anglers, you have the chance to catch grouper, amber jack, snapper, mackerel, sailfish, Yahoo, tuna and even a blue marlin in this emerald Gulf of Mexico waters. Those looking for a more leisurely experience can cast a line off the pier, as this city pairs laid-back vibes with crystal clear beach areas.
It’s also a great place to go fly and kayak fishing, and if you’re with the kids, you might want to check out the chance to hand-feed tarpon at nearby Robbie’s Marina only a few miles from the park. Fly and spin angling might win you saltwater game fish, while reef fishing is ideal for reeling in snapper and grouper.
With both resorts and campsites peppered around the lake, visitors can stay overnight, as the area has plenty of guides and charters to direct you to the best spots. Here you’ll discover a city listed on the National Register of Historic Places and old fish houses that date back to the original families, where both shrimp and grouper are sold to local restaurants.
For those who rather go stargazing and appreciate the outdoors, head to Anastasia State Park to find 139 full-facility campsites that sit alongside the Atlantic Ocean. Less touristy than its South Florida counterparts, here visitors will find an underrated gem with crystal clear waters stemming from the Gulf of Mexico.
The area is famous for spotting an array of colorful redfish, flounder, tarpon and sea trout, and if you venture further offshore, it’s not uncommon to see fishermen reeling in king mackerel, blue marlin, tuna, and cobra. Located on the southwest coast of Florida facing the Gulf of Mexico, Sarasota even has a handful of hotels that provide guides for hire.
Catching shook, redfish, trout, grouper and Dorado is common, while the area’s offshore activities, from its vibrant arts scene to the stunning Siesta Key beach, are sure to keep the entire family entertained. Often referred to as “The Fishing Capital of the World,” here you will discover an abundance of freshwater and saltwater hotspots to keep your vacation itinerary full, from the emerald waters in the Panhandle all the way down to the Florida Keys.