The Intercoastal Waterway is just across Port Royal on Naples Bay and heads south to Rookery Bay and the 10,000 Islands.
This waterway is "no wake" most of the way and is banked by mangrove islands. Fishing for tarpon, snook, red fish, and other popular inshore species is great here.
If you took a walk along the Florida coast, you'll find some of the world's most popular fishing piers extending into the sea from Pensacola, Destin, Cocoa Beach, Melbourne, Flagler Beach, St. Pete and other coastal communities. If there's not a pier, there may be a jetty that puts those fishing in Florida closer to the action.
But sometimes you don't even need a pier, a bridge, or a jetty. In the mudflats of Florida's Big Bend area, folks simply wade into the Gulf of Mexico,
SALTWATER FISH OF FLORIDA
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.
Where to go: Lee County (area includes Fort Myers and Sanibel Island); Charlotte County (area includes Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda and Boca Grande); Florida Keys; Tampa Bay (area includes Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater); Homosassa
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: Key West; Miami; Palm Beach
3. Spotted Sea Trout-Commonly known as speckled trout, it's a schooling species usually found in the shallow waters of bays and estuaries. It has two large canine teeth in the upper jaw and feeds mainly on shrimp and small baitfish in grassy areas. One of Florida’s most popular sportfish, spotted sea trout will hit everything from top water plugs to saltwater flies.
Where to go: 10,000 Islands (area includes Naples, Marco Island and Everglades);Tampa Bay (area includes Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater); Indian River Lagoon
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: Vary from region to region in Florida.
Where to go: 10,000 Islands (area includes Naples, Marco Island and Everglades); Charlotte Harbor (area includes Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda and Boca Grande); Jupiter Inlet
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: 10,000 Islands (area includes Naples, Marco Island and Everglades);Northwest and Northeast Florida; Southwest Florida, including Charlotte Harbor (area includes Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda and Boca Grande) and Tampa Bay (area includes Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater)
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: Tampa Bay (area includes Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater); Fort Myers area (includes Fort Myers and Sanibel Island)
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: 10,000 Islands (area includes Naples, Marco Island and Everglades);Northwest Florida, Tampa Bay (area includes Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater)
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: Both the Gulf and Atlantic coasts; Key West
FRESHWATER FISH OF FLORIDA9. Largemouth BassFlorida’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
10. Panfish-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
The Ultimate Guide to Florida Saltwater Fishing
Love saltwater fishing? Whether you prefer to fish from a boat or a pier, for gamefish or dinner, Florida saltwater fishing has what you're looking for.
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.
Here's a rundown of these popular angling haunts for Florida saltwater fishing and successful techniques for what you might encounter.
Gulf Stream: 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.
Flats: 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.
Bays: 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. Some of the fishier hot spots are Biscayne Bay, Florida Bay, Whitewater Bay, Chokoloskee Bay, Ponce de Leon Bay, Charlotte Harbor, Tampa Bay, Homosassa Bay, Waccasassa Bay, Apalachee Bay, West and East bays (Panama City) and Pensacola Bay.
Jetties: Look for concrete or rocky jetties that line both sides of a choice spot such as Sebastian Inlet. 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.
Bridges: 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, as well as the Sunshine Skyway off Tampa. Some bridges offer catwalks and other facilities. Some bridges do not allow fishing, so follow posted regulations.
Piers: 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. Excellent pier fishing can be found in Broward and Miami-Dade counties as well as in the Panhandle.
Shoreline: 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.
Rivers: 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.