You will often hear us say that Destin is the place to go fishing, but not this time. We’re going to look past the “world’s luckiest fishing village” and do justice to some of the other places with the best fishing in Florida.
These places are all about big fish, tasty dinner, and beautiful outdoors. Plus, they are a short car ride away from major Florida attractions. For your convenience, we’ve listed the locations starting in northeast Florida, following the coastline all the way to the border with Alabama. Get ready to take notes – these are your perfect weekend getaways!
Fishing comes first: Jacksonville is where you come to get Kingfish. These Mackerel grow massive and make for a tasty meal. You don’t have to be a professional angler to catch them, but you could sure use help of a local guide to get the big ones.
Want to spend a relaxed day with your kids and avoid the choppy seas? Our advice is to stay inshore. There are plenty of fisheries near the coastline where you can get Redfish, Spotted Seatrout, Flounder, and Sheepshead. Here, backwater fishing is legendary. You can get all the excitement within walking distance of downtown Jacksonville.
If you fancy a bit of a longer boat ride, head out to snatch some Sailfish, Wahoo, Mahi Mahi, and Tuna. These offshore and deep sea trips can end with an impressive catch. You don’t need to have the gear, nor the moves, as local charter captains will put you on fish in little time.
When you’re not fishing: There’s a lot to do here besides fishing. Downtown Jacksonville is filled with shops and coffee houses. Make sure to visit Hemming Park where you can rest and savor the view. And if you like photography, the skyline will provide the perfect setting for your photos. Also, you should definitely visit the Riverwalk and enjoy the sunset.
#9 Daytona Beach
Fishing comes first: Daytona Beach fishing has a lot to offer, just like the city itself. It’s one of the reasons that many families come fishing here. You can stay around the peaceful waterways of the Halifax River or head far out into the ocean to hook into impressive specimens.
You can fish for Largemouth Bass around the Halifax River or head south towards the Mosquito Lagoon. There, you can winch up Snook, Red and Black Drum, Sheepshead, and Speckled Trout.
For anglers who love speed, chasing Wahoo in the Atlantic Ocean is a big deal. These fish are ferocious, and luckily only the tip of the iceberg. You will often come across Sailfish, Amberjack, Triggerfish, and Mahi.
When you’re not fishing: Cars! Known as the world capital of racing, Daytona attracts fast lane lovers. But that’s not all. The place is home away from home for thousands of beachgoers who spend the summer on these white sand beaches. So, make sure to bring a towel and hit the beach. Or, spend an afternoon in the Museum of Arts and Science where you can see a 13-foot tall skeleton of a giant ground sloth and explore the museum’s planetarium.
#8 Cocoa Beach
Fishing comes first: Cocoa Beach has excellent numbers of big Spotted Seatrout, popularly called ‘Gator Trout’. They are one of the most popular fish to catch here, as they bring a lot of action. If you’re planning a half day trip, inshore waters will give you a good bang for your buck. You will stay close to the shore, with a lot of space to explore. There is also a healthy stock of Mangrove Snapper, Black Drum, Snook, and Sheepshead.
The Banana River offers plenty of chance to target Tarpon, Mangrove Snapper, Redfish, and Jack Crevalle. You will find oyster beds and grassy marshes filled with solid fishing action throughout the year. Also, don’t overlook the Thousand Islands – these waterways will have you spoiled for choice. If you crave the thrill of the chase, the Atlantic Ocean will give you scores of insane fish – Mackerel, Pompano, Mahi, Tuna, and Marlin.
When you’re not fishing: Cocoa Beach is one of the most popular vacation spots in the US, and you’re gonna love it too! You can play volleyball on the beach, soak in the sun, or pay a visit to the famous I Dream of Jeannie Lane in honor of the ‘60s popular sitcom. There is a good selection of seafood restaurants looking out onto the ocean. Make sure to visit the Renninger’s Super Flea and Farmer’s Market where hundreds of booths sell anything from fresh produce to household appliances.
#7 West Palm Beach:
Fishing comes first: West Palm Beach has some of the best fishing in Florida – and enough evidence to prove it. Inshore, you can explore rich fisheries of canals and lakes and get Peacock Bass. They are especially prolific during summer, so look out. If you want to stay near dry land, there are many guides who organize kayaking and canoeing tours.
Of course, the Intracoastal Waterway is another praised fishery that often produces Redfish, Snook, and Tarpon. Just a quick boat ride to the north, you can find excellent reef fishing. Snapper and Grouper swim there in large numbers. These trips are favorite among less experienced anglers.
Sharks are local favorites and anglers often come here to get them. It’s a lot of fun, but you will need the local knowledge to stay safe and get the best out of your day on the water.
When you’re not fishing: This city is well known for its vibrant nightlife but has a lot to offer in the daytime too. Stroll down the waterfront, eat ice cream, watch your kids play in the water fountain, or just enjoy the sunset near the palm-lined boulevard. With various beach activities, snorkeling options, and good old sunbathing, you won’t even notice how fast time flies.
Fishing comes first: Fishing Miami can be a real challenge as there is so much to choose from. The city has a stellar reputation among anglers as you can get Sailfish with the Miami skyline still in the background. Now, that’s a sight!
Miami offshore fishing is what everyone is talking about: Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, Amberjack, Tuna, and King Mackerel are a common sight even on half day trips. The city is buzzing with tourists and locals who line down the harbor to hop on one of the boats and head out.
If you’re looking for some fast-paced action inshore, you can battle Tarpon during the night. Night fishing trips are quite trendy here! Go around the bridges with the night lights of the metropolis guiding your way and you will see what ‘fishing is on fire’ truly means.
But Miami is not only about big game fish. The inshore fishing Miami offers is some of the best on the entire east coast of Florida. The eastern part of Biscayne Bay has excellent fly fishing opportunities, with numerous flats hiding Permit, Bonefish, and Tarpon. It’s a real treat by all accounts.
When you’re not fishing: Well, where do you get started, really? Once you’re done with shopping downtown and eating in one of many restaurants, we suggest you hit the beach. Miami Beach is the best known, but don’t miss South Beach either. When you’ve absorbed your share of the sun, stroll to the marina and hop on a boat tour.
#5 Florida Keys:
Fishing comes first: If you want to go on a road trip to angling paradise, take a ride from Key Largo, and drive along the 100+ miles of concrete that span all the islands of the Florida Keys. You must try fishing in Islamorada, Marathon, and Key West. These vast fisheries are second to none, and you can get Bonefish, Tarpon, Permit, Snook, and a variety of Snapper, while still standing on dry land.
Moving into the Atlantic or towards the Gulf, you’ll encounter really big fish. Think Mahi Mahi, Mackerel, Tuna, Sailfish, and Marlin. And, if you want delicious meat, you can always find Snapper and Grouper. You can get all these praised fish on a half day trip, but most times it’s best to go full force and hire a full day charter.
You will have an equally good time exploring the flats with your kids. They will have a nice time chasing small Snapper on light tackle. If you want to catch your own dinner, go fishing around the Florida Keys bridges. There’s plenty of Snapper and Jack Crevalle action around bridge pylons.
When you’re not fishing: As you drive down the famous Overseas Highway, have your camera ready to get some stunning photos. Scuba diving is popular as are beachgoing and sunbathing. But beach activities are not all there is to do around here. You can visit the Ernest Hemingway museum, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, and National Key Deer Refuge Park. And, you simply have to try the local delicacy – Key lime pie.
#4 Marco Island
Fishing comes first: Marco Island is the right place to fish if you love the breathtaking scenery. You will find some of the best fishing in Florida right here, with schools of Redfish, Tarpon, Black Drum, Speckled Trout, and Ladyfish. And that’s backwaters only. If you want an action-packed day without big waves, then stay inshore and try light tackle or fly fishing. It will certainly do the trick.
If you’re into adrenaline stuff, you should head offshore, explore the reefs and or go deep sea fishing far beyond. You can get Mackerel and Mahi, Tuna, and Wahoo. While you’re at it, try bottom fishing to get juicy Snapper, Grouper, and Amberjack.
When you’re not fishing: You won’t find the hustle and bustle of cities here. The nature is stunning, though. Take a stroll down the waterfront area and snap a photo or two. You can also find good dining places with excellent seafood.
#3 Fort Myers:
Fishing first! It’s no secret that Fort Myers has a lot to offer to inshore fishing lovers. Scores of anglers come here to try their hand at landing the Backcountry Slam (that’s Spotted Seatrout, Redfish, and Snook in a single day). If you’re up for a game of hide and seek, check out grass flats, mangroves, and channels where feisty fish are. You can enjoy excellent fly fishing here as well.
The best of Fort Myers fishing comes in the shape of Tarpon who make their run northwards each spring, passing just outside Fort Myers. They swarm the inlets and not only make for a beautiful sight, but for mighty opponents as well.
As you fish the inshore spots, don’t be surprised if you come across Goliath Grouper and a number of Sharks. It’s a sight every angler is thrilled to see, no matter how experienced they are.
Love the thrill of the chase? Then head out and explore the excellent deep sea fishing Fort Myers offers.
When you’re not fishing: Visit the Butterfly Estates and see all butterfly species native to Florida. You should take a stroll to the Sanibel Lighthouse and snap some nice photos. If you want to be a cool dad, take your kids to Edison and Ford Winter Estates and explore dozens of inventions together. Hiking, bird watching, kayaking, and canoeing are just some of the things you can enjoy here.
Fishing comes first: Tampa is well known among anglers for its excellent inshore fishing. You can get scores of Redfish, Black Drum, Spotted Seatrout, Jack Crevalle, and Sheepshead along the coastline. But it’s really only the beginning. Snook are a must when fishing these waters. They make for a darn fine evening fishing trip.
The waters of Tampa have excellent fly fishing opportunities. Tarpon swim around bridges during spring and summer and display incredible acrobatics. You need to see them to believe just how tough these fish are.
Travelers with limited time usually choose to stay inshore. But they come back to explore the offshore fishing Tampa has, in hope of landing Amberjack, Grouper, Snapper, Cobia, Mahi Mahi, and King Mackerel. It’s best to have a whole day available for fishing, and believe me – you won’t be disappointed. You can try trolling and bottom fishing and get back home with a helluva dinner.
When you’re not fishing: Hop on a Tampa streetcar and go explore the historic landmarks of the place. You can start with the Ybor City, a multi-ethnic part of the city that has largely shaped modern-day Tampa. This part is famous for cafes, buzzing nightlife, and fine dining, but offers a lot to the day traveler too. There is a number of golf courts around the city and the waterfront offers a nice respite from the heat.
#1 Panama City Beach
Fishing first! Panama City Beach takes the incredible fishing of the nearby Panama City to a whole new level. Here you will find stretches of sandy white beaches and excellent inshore game fishing. Crowds of anglers come here year after year, eager to explore endless fishing opportunities. You can scout the bay waterways and get Redfish, Flounder, Speckled Trout, and Sheepshead.
But there’s a lot more. Sight fishing for Tarpon is a popular pastime, though fly fishing enthusiasts also chase these mighty fish. You can explore natural and artificial reefs and target Spanish Mackerel. Sharks won’t be far away.
Panama City Beach is also a popular launchpad for offshore charters that head to the Gulf of Mexico. Sailfish, Mackerel, Grouper and Snapper, Wahoo, and Mahi all await in the blue waters.
When you’re not fishing: Beach! In all honesty, there are crowds, but rubbing your elbows with fellow beachgoers should not dissuade you from seeing this candy-like beach. The emerald green waters are beautiful and the sand is sugar white. It’s the right place to unwind.
These are our top picks for the premier fishing spots in Florida. How about yours? What places do you love fishing around the Sunshine State?