Florida is the heartland of American angling. Whether you’re after freshwater fun or deep sea adventure, the Sunshine State has some of the best fishing you could ask for. But what’s the best of the best? Today, we break down the best counties in Florida for fishing.
Some of these places are obvious choices, but you may be surprised by a few of our picks. What they all have in common is world-class angling and a fleet of experienced charters. You probably want to see if your county made the cut, so let’s get started!
7. Collier County
Collier County holds some of the wealthiest communities in the country. People are drawn here from far and wide by tales of sugar-white sands and untouched preserves. The area doesn’t disappoint. Nature lovers can escape the crowds at Ten Thousand Islands Wildlife Refuge. City types can enjoy high-end shopping and luxury living in downtown Naples. It’s the best of both worlds.
Collier County’s coastline is a maze of winding waterways between endless uninhabited islands. In short, it’s the perfect inshore fishery. Make your way through the mangroves in search of Redfish, Trout, Snook, and Tarpon. The area is especially popular with fly fishing enthusiasts, and many guides specialize in this style of fishing.
There’s a lot more to Collier than bays and backcountry, though. The area sees huge numbers of King Mackerel and Cobia roll past twice a year. It’s also an amazing place to target Tripletail, Permit, Grouper, and Snapper around nearshore reefs. The waters don’t get very deep, but that doesn’t mean that the fish are small!
6. St. Johns County
St. Johns County offers a quieter, more ancient side to the Sunshine State that most people never see. Explore the 17th-century fort and old narrow streets of St. Augustine. Stroll along sandy beaches without having to fight for umbrella space. The area has an almost European feel that you can help falling in love with.
Of course, this is still Florida, so expect big fish wherever you look. The inshore scene features all-star species like Redfish, Flounder, Trout, and Tarpon, as well as big Black Drum for good measure. Around the reefs, you’ll find Red Snapper, Gag Grouper, Black Seabass, and more. It’s a long run offshore, but you’ll be rewarded with Sailfish, Wahoo, Mahi Mahi, Tuna, and even Marlin.
Then there’s St. Johns County’s ace in the hole, the St. Johns River. The river marks the western edge of the county and is home to a wide mix of freshwater favorites. Largemouth, Sunshine, and even Striped Bass show up here, as well as Crappie, Sunfish, and a variety of saltwater species further downstream.
5. Pinellas County
Pinellas is the most densely-populated county in the Sunshine State. Honestly, we’re not surprised that so many people want to live here. St. Petersburg and Clearwater make up a vibrant metropolitan area known for its big cultural scene and year-round events. Balance that with beautiful parks and uninhabited islands, and you get pretty much the perfect place to live.
So, is the fishing any good? We’ve got two words for you: Tampa Bay. This vast inshore haven holds year-round catches of monster Reds, doormat Flounder, super-sized Seatrout, and more. Tarpon spend a good few months here in summer, and Snook also show up when the water gets warm. Pinellas County is as popular with fish as it is with people!
Pinellas’s inshore scene is great, but it’s only half of what the area has to offer. Offshore reef fishing trips are a great way to fill the freezer and have a blast at the same time. The sea doesn’t get deep enough for big game species, but you can find a ton of tasty Snapper, Grouper, Triggerfish, Kingfish, and Cobia – more than enough for a fishy feast.
4. Miami-Dade County
If the busy streets of downtown St. Pete just don’t cut it for you, there’s only one place to go: Miami. The Magic City is the crown jewel of Florida’s cultural and artistic scene. The nightlife’s not bad, either – think rooftop cocktails and all-night clubs. Miami’s only a part of what makes the county special, though. The nature here is stunning, from the shallows of Biscayne Bay to the swamps of the Everglades and beyond.
What better way to see these beautiful places than aboard a fishing charter? Pole Biscayne Bay’s flats in search of Snook, Tarpon, and Bonefish. Explore the brackish backwaters for Redfish, Trout, and Gar. Hit the canals to take on Peacock and Largemouth Bass. Even in town, you’re never far from big, hard-fighting fish.
Most of Florida has good inshore fishing. Miami-Dade County doubles down, with world-class offshore action as well. Deep reefs hold Red Snapper, Grouper, Tilefish, and more, just a mile or two from the beach. You don’t have to go much further to find big game species like Sailfish, Wahoo, and Mahi Mahi. All that, with the Miami skyline for a backdrop.
3. Palm Beach County
Palm Beach County has something for everyone. Yes, that’s a cliché. Let us back it up. The area is known as much for its boutiques and museums its beaches and marine life. Even the geography of the county is diverse, with the Everglades, Lake Okeechobee, and 50 miles of smooth white sand to explore. You won’t get bored, that’s for sure.
Palm Beach’s fishing is every bit as diverse as the county itself. Take on Snook, Tarpon, Redfish, Trout, and so much more inshore. Hit the reefs for Red Snapper, Grouper, and deep-water species like Tilefish. Up for a real challenge? Head to the famous Sailfish Alley to battle Sails, ‘Hoos, Dorado, and Tuna just a stone’s throw from shore.
But wait, there’s more. Palm Beach County’s canals hold a variety of exotic species, from Peacock Bass to Clown Knifefish and stranger species still. Then there’s Lake Okeechobee, home to some of the biggest Largemouth Bass on the planet. We told you there was something for everyone!
2. Lee County
Lee County has one of the most rapidly-growing populations in the US, and it’s easy to see why. This is angling heaven, where houses come with private jetties, and local wetlands are teeming with marine life. If you’re after a slice of the quiet life with easy access to rich inshore fisheries, chances are you’ve already moved here. Lucky you!
The star of the show here is Tarpon. Huge schools of “Silver Kings” come rolling through the bays and passes each summer. Boca Grande is probably the best place on earth to target inshore giants, but the whole area around Sanibel and Pine Islands is incredible.
Lee County is no one-trick pony, though. The local bays are chock full of fish, from Bull Redfish to Seatrout, Flounder, and more. If you’re after a real heavyweight (and a 200 lb Tarpon just doesn’t cut it), you can also take on Goliath Grouper. True to their name, Goliaths can weigh more than the boat you catch them from and they love these warm, sheltered waters.
1. Monroe County
Of course the Keys are at the top of our list. This tropical island chain has more sandy beaches and gin-clear shallows than you could rattle a crankbait at. It’s a real “wish you were here” destination. As you make your way from Key Largo to Key West, you pass through a string of vibrant communities, each with their own feel. You also pass a variety of awesome fishing spots.
Monroe County’s flats are a fly fisherman’s paradise. Big Bonefish and Tarpon swarm these shallow waters, alongside Permit, Snook, and even Barracuda. Beyond that, you find spot reefs full of Snapper, Grouper, and other tasty bottom fish. Then you hit the bluewaters. Sailfish, Marlin, and Wahoo hunt around the humps here, while huge Swordfish patrol the deep.
The Florida Keys are outstanding, but let’s not forget Monroe County’s trump card: the Everglades. Hop across to the mainland to explore this endless maze of marshes and mangroves. Battle saltwater all-stars like Redfish, Trout, and Snook, as well as freshwater species like Bass and Gar. All of this among some of the most unique nature in the country.
These are our picks for the best counties in Florida for fishing, but there are many more out there. Each county has its own special something, from summer scallops in Gulf County to the endless lakes of Osceola County. It all comes down to personal taste and what you want to do once you catch your fill.
What’s your favorite place to go fishing in Florida? Feel like your county should have made the list? Drop us your thoughts and stories in the comments below. We always love to hear from you!