When it comes to designing the ultimate saltwater fishing destination, Florida serves as the ultimate blueprint. Why so? Because its geography offers access to the Gulf Stream, reefs, wrecks, estuaries, bays, inlets and rivers. Added together they afford the chance to fish for everything from bonefish to billfish - all in the same day if desired.
It's deep, it's blue, and it's full of large game fish that can turn the shape of a rod into a pretzel.
Here lurk awesome battlers such as blue marlin, wahoo, sailfish, dolphin, kingfish, swordfish, yellowfin and blackfin tuna, and sharks longer than the width of some boats.
Trolling lures and baits is the best bet, although offshore fly fishing has increased in popularity.
It's amazing how a fat snook or redfish can traverse shallow waters about the length of your hand, but best results occur in water two feet or less in depth, particularly with sea grasses and bottom contours and sediments conducive to homesteading by crabs, shrimps and other fish munchies.
Wading is popular (taking care to slide your feet to ward off stingrays), as is casting from shorelines.
The ultimate challenge is sight-fishing from a boat being silently poled by a guide. Unsurpassed flats fishing is the hallmark of the Florida Keys.
Being relatively shallow and easier on the kidneys than fishing offshore, bay waters teem with a hodgepodge of game fish favorites.
Take a variety of rods and reels - light, medium and heavy - to aptly duel with whatever slurps up your bait or make-believe morsel.
Look for concrete or rocky jetties that line both sides of a choice spot.
Many inlets are angler-friendly, providing access and facilities.
Jockey to find a good casting stage for shots at tarpon, snook, redfish, jacks and mackerel that congregate during tidal changes.
Free-line a floating live crab or shrimp with the current or cast a lead-head jig or lure up-current and work it back to you.
Night fishing is best, especially on a full-moon phase.
Cast a jig tipped with a shrimp up-current and hop it back to the piling.
You'll lose a few rigs in the rocks but you'll also catch more snook and tarpon than anyone else.
Many of the Keys bridges are perfect for this. Some bridges offer catwalks and other facilities. Some bridges do not allow fishing, so follow posted regulations.
No boat? No problem. Just walk to deeper water.
Pier anglers regularly catch Spanish mackerel, snook, tarpon, sheepshead, redfish, trout and other stars of the fishing world.
Pilings themselves serve as an attractant, and lights shown in the water at night become fish magnets.
Islands, beaches and even rocky coastal areas can be fished with good results.
Move along quietly as fish can hear the slightest noises or even see you.
Either soak a bait on the bottom or cast parallel to the beach to tempt snook or reds hunting the troughs for chewables.
Mangrove shorelines and overhanging trees provide fish with a respite from direct sunlight.
Drift along promising banks and cast the edges of the shoreline and near dead tree limbs, stumps and other obstructions.
Anchor at a promising spot and cast up-current to work your offering past target points.
Any of these places and techniques for tangling with game fish will produce successful Florida saltwater fishing trips.
Be a part of the fun, but remember to keep only the fish you'll eat that night and release the rest.
That will help ensure a healthy fishery in the future for both you and your children.
Florida fishing experience suits any styles.
For all its sophisticated charm and cultural assets, the Naples, Marco island and Gulf Coast Everglades area has one feature that is undoubtedly its biggest attribute: Water.
Florida fishng and Collier County occupies the southwestern tip of the peninsula, where miles of inshore flats and mangrove shoreline combine with offshore reefs and wrecks to provide a total Florida Fishing experience.
1. Tarpon- Sometimes called the "silver king of sportfish," the tarpon is highly prized for its fighting ability but not valued as food.
One of the state's most popular gamefish, tarpon can tolerate a wide range of salinities and are found throughout the state’s waters.
Tarpon is a catch-and-release only fishery.
One tarpon tag per person per year may be purchased when in pursuit of an International Game Fish Association (IGFA) record. Vessel, transport and shipment limited to one fish.
Tarpon begins its Northern migration in late Spring they arrive Boca Grande is know as "The Tarpon Capital of the World," around late May or early June as they follow the coast to the Panhandle.
Where to go: Tarpon can be found in Florida mainly between March and December of each year.
There will certainly be areas where tarpon will be hiding out throughout the winter – deep channels, power plant outfalls, etc. – but for the most part tarpon are highly migratory, moving for their preferred water temperature of around 79°F.
In the spring, they first show up in the Florida Keys around March or April, and move north as the summer progresses into the central Florida coasts and then into northern Florida in the late summer / early fall, until finally moving back south again in the fall or winter months, and are usually completely south of Florida waters by January.
2. Sailfish- Florida’s official state saltwater fish, this tackle buster inhabits tropical and subtropical waters. Sailfish usually travel alone or in small groups. The outstanding feature is the long, high first dorsal fin. Known for its high, acrobatic jumps, the sailfish is a favorite of blue-water anglers.
Where to go: . Sailfish are year round residents in the Florida Keys.
They migrate northward along the Atlantic coast in the spring and return in the fall.
Some Sailfish also migrate north in the Gulf of Mexico and a summer fishery exists off the Panhandle coast.
These fish travel generally far off-shore and are only occasional catches for anglers along the central and southwest coasts.
Trolling in the Atlantic along the line marking the edge of the Gulf Stream is the place to look for sailfish.
3. Spotted Sea Trout-Commonly known as speckled trout, it's a schooling species usually found in the shallow waters of bays and estuaries.
Willing eaters, they'll take live bait like shrimp and pinfish as well as cutbait and a variety of lures, including plastic shrimp, gold and silver spoons, crankbaits and even topwater plugs in low-light conditions.
Where to go: Trout school over grass flats, shell bottom and sometimes warm, muddy waters. The ideal depth is two to six feet of water.
4. Snook- Highly sensitive to changes in water temperature, snook are found in the state’s warmer waters.
A strong, voracious predator, these types of fish in Florida will rip a fishing line to shreds. Great sport on light tackle, snook are a cagey prey but are well worth the time it takes to catch them.
Regulations: Snook is managed by two regions in Florida: Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. Regulations apply in state and adjacent federal waters. No commercial harvest or sale of snook is permitted. Close season Dec. 1-end of February; May 1-Aug. 31
Where to go: You will find snook in different places at different times of the year. They move – or actually migrate – within a very small region. Some fish stay in one place all year. These places include rivers and deep water nearshore.
In the wintertime, the fish are either deep inside residential canals, estuary systems, rivers, or on nearshore structures in twenty or more feet of water.
In the early springtime, the fish begin to move out of the residential canals, rivers and estuaries and onto the flats – but they remain close enough to retreat in the event of common late-season cold fronts.
As the water warms, the fish move out onto the beaches and into the passes as the spring develops.
In late spring and early summer they’re in the passes and on those beaches spawning.
Once the summer wanes, they move back to the edges of those flats, eventually onto the flats themselves, then to the mouths, and eventually to the inside again.
Some move out into deep nearshore structures and can be caught at either man-made or natural nearshore structures.
5. Red Drum- Commonly known as redfish, this shallow-water schooling fish of Florida is found in both salt and brackish water on oyster bar, seagrass and mangrove habitats.
It can be distinguished from the black drum by its lack of chin barbels and its more elongated body.
It also has a large black spot (sometimes several spots) just before the tail. Once heavily over-fished, this species is now a conservation success story.
Where to go: Redfish are ideal fly targets in the Southwest Florida.
They can be found cruising the edges of oyster bars at low tide.
In very shallow water, redfish will tip down to feed and expose their tail above the surface.
This tailing action is a great time to lay the fly gently down in front of the fish.
Shrimp and crab imitations, seaducers, clouser minnows and other crustacean flies are the top producers for redfish.
6. Grouper- A generic name for several deep-water species, these types of fish in Florida are bottom-dwellers and important to both recreational and commercial fishermen. Red grouper and gag grouper (sometimes called black grouper) are most popular with anglers.
Anglers typically “bottom fish” for these species, but during the cooler months, they can be caught in shallow water by trolling artificial lures.
Regulations: One of the heavily-regulated fish in Florida waters, grouper rules are constantly changing.
Where to go: Grouper can be found year-round in most places – it just depends on how far you’re willing (and able to) travel! During the cooler parts of the year, groupers move closer to shore where they can catch some warmer water.
No matter where the fish are – far offshore or closer – you’ll never find a grouper far from structure (unless of course they just happen to be on the move).
Offshore, look for groupers on natural reefs, patch reefs, man-made reefs and steep changes in depth (ledges).
Nearshore and inshore, look for groupers near the shallow reefs and artificial reefs, along the edges of steep shipping channels, any hard-bottoms, and along deep bridges and residential docks inshore in the wintertime.
7. Red Snapper- An offshore fish usually found in 60 to 440 feet. It's pinkish to red in color, and its pointed anal fin distinguishes it from other snappers. Juvenile red snapper once died by the millions in shrimp trawls, but new regulations have helped this species bounce back. Red snapper are considered one of the finest food fish of Florida's waters.
Regulations: Anglers must monitor rules, as there have been frequent changes to regulations between state and federal waters.
Where to go: Things to Remember when Red Snapper Fishing:
Fish all depths with likely habitat. ...Fish structure. ...Save your numbers (coordinates). ...Fish in the summertime. ...Try chumming over shallow reefs. ...Live bait is always best. ...Try out a vertical jig. ...Use heavy tackle when fishing strong currents.
8. King Mackerel- Commonly known as kingfish, this species can be found in the western Atlantic Ocean from Maine to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and into the Gulf of Mexico. One of the state’s top ocean predators, kingfish are the favorite target of tournament fishermen. This species can be distinguished from the Spanish mackerel by the sharp dip in the lateral line under the second dorsal fin.
Where to go: kingfish are generally pelagic, meaning they swim in the open ocean. They prefer to hang out near offshore structures, such as deep ledges, natural reefs, artificial reefs, shipwrecks, oil rigs, or any other type of structure, as this is where the baitfish will be.
The only exception to this is during the summer when the fish come close to shore to follow the inward migration of baitfish.
9. Freshwater Fish - Largemouth Bass
Florida’s official freshwater fish, the legendary largemouth has an international reputation. Anglers come from all over the world just to add a 10-pound bass to their “life list” of big fish. The king of the lakes and rivers, a big bass will eat just about anything.
Regulations: Some rules may vary from region to region.
Where to go: Lake Toho (Central Florida); Lake Okeechobee; Lake Istokpoga; Lake Kissimmee
A general term to describe a number of different species – including spotted sunfish, bluegill, redbreast sunfish, redear sunfish, warmouth – these fish are the mainstay for many young anglers. Catch them on worms, popping bugs and spinner baits.
Where to go: Harris Chain of Lakes (Central Florida); Winter Haven; Kissimmee River
This information relates to recreational hunting and fishing only. Recreational Fishing License and Permits The Rules and Regulations section of Fishing Licenses Rules and Regualations has information on commercial activities related to Hunting (taking furbearers) and Freshwater Fishing - including information about license requirements and exemptions. Also online is an area devoted to license requirements for Saltwater Commercial Fishing.
Locals know Wiggins Pass as the best shoreline fishing Naples has to offer. Unlike most shorelines, Wiggins Pass gives you two choices, surf fish or fishing the pass. In most cases it’s a no brainier and you fish the pass, but when Pompano and Snook are running the shoreline in winter and early spring, AM/PM surf fishing is the way to go. Fishing Wiggins Pass