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.
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. 1) Fort DeSoto Park in south St. Petersburg leads the list on Florida ’s left coast.
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. All public beaches allow fishing from the shore and it is quite common to see people with their poles and cast nets working the calm surf.
You can catch most inshore fish from the beach such as shook, pompano, shark, snapper, and redfish. Most beaches have lots for parking, pavilions, and picnic areas, many with barrier islands and tidal pools.
Very heavy, 10+ foot rods are designed specifically for long casting into the surf. Yes, artificial lures, spoon, and other contraptions work just fine, but nothing beats fresh bait.
Cast netting for bait fish is a common activity at the beach and a lot of fun. The beach is also a good place to learn the trick to throwing these nets.
Also visit our Liveries page for more details on catching your own bait at the beach. Rods are generally 10 to 20 feet long and the best reels to use are the ones designed for surf casting.
The ideal line weight is 15 pounds which gives you enough strength to pull in big fish but is light enough to not get dragged by the constantly churning surf. Florida's Most Famous Fisherman Larry Finch, “The Fishman” Catches Big Flounder and Sleepyhead on Lee County beach in February 2011 using a big surf casting pole and sand fleas for bait.
A PVC sand spike sold in stores should be modified by bolting on a 2-foot aluminum tube which allows the spike to stay put and not get knocked loose from the pounding surf. Fly-fishing on the beach is also very popular on the Gulf Coast due to our calm surf.
On any given day you will see fly fisherman on the southern end of Naples Beach towards Gordon Pass. This sparsely populated beach makes for perfect fly-fishing.
The picture to the right is a fly angler who walked over the rocks at the end of Naples beach and stood in the water at Gordon's Pass. Whether it is on the roadside, at a public or private dock, or under a bridge, you will surely have good fishing from the shore.
As you travel throughout Florida it is not uncommon to see a fisherman on the side of the road?if it has water, it most likely has fish. Many cities allow public fishing from jetties with cleaning stations and parking.
There are also rock jetties on beaches that provide structure for fish and excellent places to cast your line. Shook and other inshore fish can be found feeding in the surf at sunrise and sunset.
The wildlife on these barrier islands are exceptional with turtle tracks and nests, fiddler crabs everywhere, and plenty of birds including bald eagles. It is common for boaters to ignore the tide and find their boat is “sky-high” out of the water, literally beached.
Where spearing is allowed in state waters in Monroe County you cannot spear in canals, 100 yards from shore or bridges, and many other areas so be sure to inquire locally before hunting from shore in the Keys. These giants can weight 100 pounds and once caught they jump and make long runs.
Having 350 yards of 30 pound test will give you plenty of line capacity for the fight. Fishing for Tarpon from the beach is much easier but takes a lot of work to haul these monsters in.
Plenty of line, lively bait like mullet or lady fish will do the trick if the Tarpon are in the area. Winter months are best in south Florida when the Tarpon migrate into the warmer waters from the cooling north.
To catch shark you need big bait chunks, wire leader line and a heavy pole. On Marco Island beach one busy winter afternoon, an angler caught a small blacktop shark.
For about 15 minutes you could hear people screaming all the way down the beach as the shark passed by. The endangered Loggerhead Sea Turtle emerges from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean to nest on our beaches each summer from May to August.
Please stay away and do not disturb the Turtle nests when visiting the beach, violators are subject to fines and imprisonment. If you see one on the beach or the babies coming from their nests, do not approach them, move quietly away and let them do their thing.