A popular site for snorkel and dive excursions, Big Pine Key also boasts excellent fishing. Part of the class of islands known as the Lower Keys, Big Pine is a great destination for small catches (and fledgling fisherman).
Home to an array of imagination-inspiring shipwrecks, the former living place of Ernest Hemingway, and perhaps the most famous island of the Floridness, Key West boasts no shortage of bragging rights. Missing from this list is the area’s abundant sea life, a feature which makes the island a popular pick amongst skilled fishers.
For a challenging excursion (and a great story), you can’t beat the tuna, tarpon, and other local game fish found in Key West. Clear water and the presence of bone fish, permit, and more make this area a dependable destination for fishers of all experience levels.
Flowing north from Key West’s Florida Straits along the entirety of the Sunshine State’s coast, the Gulf Stream provides plenty of territory for fishers (and their would-be catches) to explore. A favorite site for offshore fishing in the Floridness, the stream awards anglers with mahi-mahi, blue and white marlin, and more.
As the longest island in the Floridness, Key Largo boasts the biggest indigenous fish population in the region. Here, anglers can nab more than 600 different species of fish, including fan favorites, such as tarpon, bone fish, and permit.
But it’s not only the Hemingway House, water activities, and good food that make the town so popular. Key West is surrounded by a vast surface of flats that hold Bone fish, Permit, and Tarpon.
You can start your vacation by scouting the flats and doing a bit of sight fishing, then switch to the fly. To get to the secret spots with big fish, pair up with a local guide.
Many anglers decide to hire a deep sea charter to take them fishing in the Cuban waters. These skinny waters fish for Shook, Tarpon, Permit, Lemon Shark, and Yellowtail Snapper.
You won’t find choppy seas here, only calm waters teeming with fish. If you want to try something that’s essentially Key West, then book a fishing trip on a small flats boat.
Your fishing guide will stand on a casting platform and use a long pole to steer the boat. These islands don’t have a lot to offer to city lovers but are sheer spiciness when it comes to sport fishing.
The water depth around the rock piles on the east side of the islands is between 15 and 30 feet. These patches of rocky bottoms are home to an amazing number of Snapper and Grouper.
But you will often hook into King Mackerel, Yellowtail Snapper, Barracuda, and Sharks. Use small minnows, pinkish, sardines, squid, and mullet for the best results.
After having feasted on flaky Snapper meat in the Marquesas, head east to Sugar loaf Keys. Here you will find a maze of mangrove cuts, flats, and creeks rich in fish.
You can explore these waters from a skiff, or if you aren’t afraid of working outs, you can hop into a kayak or canoe. Before you head into these meandering mangrove cuts, fish for pilchards on the flats.
Here you will find clear waters so you can sight fish for Shook, Tarpon, and Permit. Non-local anglers often overlook this network of flats, mangrove islands, and channels.
If you do, you could be missing out on a chance to reel in Snapper, Grouper, Bone fish, Permit, Tarpon, and Jacks. You might come across deep, wide cuts where sunken boats and other debris make it for a hot fishing spot.
Plus, these mangrove islands and rich vegetation protect the channels from the wind. Calm waters make Cuddle Key channels popular among kayak anglers.
As for the bait, you will find a lot of mullet, crab, and shrimp around these fisheries. The channel between the Old Bahia Honda bridge and the Overseas Highway is the deepest inshore fishery in the Keys.
The waters drop from 18 to 25 feet and offer some of the best bridge fishing in the Floridness. There is a lot of food moving between the bridge pylons and the pilings serve as a good shelter for the game fish.
As you warm up to get to the Tarpon business, you can hook into Permit, Sleepyhead, Mutton Snapper, and Hammerhead Sharks. They weigh between 70 and 130 lbs on average, though anglers have pulled in fish bigger than that.
The Marathon Hump is a seamount, a mountain that rises from the ocean floor. The strong currents of the Gulf Stream push the bait fish towards the surface.
If you want to go home with a big, tasty dinner, prepare to pull hard. Snowy, Strawberry, and Yellow edge Grouper, Tile fish, and Queen Snapper frequent these waters.
Islamabad has the nickname “Sport Fishing Capital of the World”, and you shouldn’t miss it. Try to put your name among the few who have managed to catch Bone fish, Permit, Tarpon, and Shook in a single day.
Each of the fish have their own unique features, so it’s a real feat to land them all in a single day. You will be playing hide-and-seek with the fish around the mangrove islands and flats of Islamabad.
A reef patch south of Ta vernier Key holds a good number of Mutton, Mangrove, and Yellowtail Snapper, as well as Gag Grouper. Duane and BBB are sunken ships that lie a couple of miles from Key Largo.
Increasing coastal development means access can be an issue, but there’s still plenty of great areas where you can enjoy Florida fishing. 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. When the fall cold fronts usher hordes of flounder out of the Indian River and toward the Atlantic, anglers line the rip rap for a shot at these tasty flat fish.
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. Parking along South Ocean Shore Blvd., restrooms, shaded seating and a bait and tackle shop.
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.
On either side of the Dunedin Causeway, cast a bait over the pristine grass flats of St. Joseph Sound, or wade into the usually clear waters where speckled trout, mackerel and redfish roam. 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. Spring and fall bring king fish within reach, while a summer tarpon bite can make things interesting.
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. Shook is one of the top targets (especially in the lights), but you’ll also find pompano, Spanish and king mackerel, tarpon, cobra, sharks and sleepyhead.
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.