A Guide to Deep Sea Fishing in Fort Lauderdale

Feb 2, 2022 | 7 minute read
Reading Time: 7 minutes

It’s safe to say that Fort Lauderdale is the jewel in the crown of Florida’s Gold Coast. It boasts over 300 miles of waterfront, with 23 of those miles belonging to stunning white sandy beaches. Life really does revolve around the ocean here. It’s often known as the “Venice of Florida,” thanks to the multitude of canals that run through the city. Today, however, we’re here to talk about the incredible deep sea fishing in Fort Lauderdale!

A view of Fort Lauderdale's shoreline with the beach and cityscape on the left and the clear ocean waters on the right

A deep sea fishing trip here is notable for one main reason. It has easy access to the Gulf Stream, which runs right past Fort Lauderdale. This warm, swift Atlantic current holds a whopping number of big game fish, all within 10 miles of shore. Unlike many other deep sea fishing excursions, Fort Lauderdale’s close proximity to the Gulf Stream means you can hit deep waters without having to travel far at all.

World-famous deep sea fish, reduced travel time, and plenty of beachfronts to explore? We’re in! Before you head out on your Fort Lauderdale deep sea fishing adventure, you probably want to know a little more about what you can catch, where you should go, and how to cast a line. We’ve got you covered. Let’s dive in…

Top Deep Sea Fishing Targets in Fort Lauderdale

You’ll find a wealth of envy-inducing big game fish here. Whether your idea of deep sea fishing involves battling mighty Billfish or plumbing the depths of the reefs for tasty bottom fish, you’ll find it here for the taking. Let’s take a closer look at what’s in store!

Mahi Mahi

These fish are one of the most popular big game targets around – not just in Fort Lauderdale, not just in Florida, but across the globe! It’s easy to understand why anglers love targeting this beauty. Not only do Mahi Mahi look fantastic, with shimmering yellow-green scales, but they also put up a hard fight.

If your dream deep sea adventure involves acrobatic displays, fast runs, and plenty of rod-bending action, make Mahi Mahi top of your target list.

A man and a woman holding a big Mahi Mahi on a boat in Florida

Mahi Mahi can be found in Fort Lauderdale’s waters year-round, but are most abundant during the spring and summer months. May to August are especially popular months to target these fish. You can soak up some of that famous Floridian sunshine at the same time.

Wahoo

Where you find Mahi Mahi, you’ll often find Wahoo. While they don’t quite have the same starry reputation as their more colorful cousins, we think “the nation’s favorite bycatch” have plenty to offer deep sea anglers!

They’re among the fastest fish species in the ocean, for starters. Finding one at the end of your line means you’re in for scorching runs and plenty of reel-screaming action.

A man holding a Wahoo on a boat

You can target these speedsters year-round. However, Fort Lauderdale’s winter Wahoo are the stuff of legend, so your best bet when it comes to hooking a trophy is during the colder months. The majority of fish are hooked from January–March using live bait. Many local anglers choose to implement a slightly unusual technique – kite fishing! But more on that later.

Billfish

If there’s one family of fish that Florida is famous for, it has to be Billfish. And Fort Lauderdale is no different! Boasting Blue and White Marlin, Sailfish, and Swordfish, the deep waters that lie off the coast of this city offer up ample angling action. Sailfish start off the year, biting like crazy in January, and you’ll find Swordfish lurking at the bottom of the ocean.

Four smiling anglers hold a large Sailfish caught fishing near Fort Lauderdale

If it’s a Marlin chase you’re after, the appearance of both Black and White varieties matches up with Fort Lauderdale’s seasons. The fishing gets seriously hot in the summer months, as the weather heats up. What makes going after Billfish in Fort Lauderdale so special is, again, the speedy travel time.

The chance of battling it out against Marlin, Sailfish, and even Swordfish, all within one day and a short distance from shore? Simply unbeatable.

And More…

Deep sea fishing in Fort Lauderdale can also involve going after big, beefy bottom-dwelling fish. Species such as Grouper and Snapper inhabit these waters and, although they might not be as well-known as Marlin or Mahi when it comes to their fighting spirit, they’re still plenty of fun to catch!

Two smiling fishermen in caps and sunglasses standing on a boat, holding a Blackfin Tuna

Rather than acrobatic leaps, fast runs, and head-shaking galore, bottom fish tend to take your bait and dive in and out of nooks and crannies with it, as well as heading to the bottom of the ocean floor. Reeling one in is a real battle of strength, and provides a serious workout. Blackfin Tuna are also a popular catch, and you may even target Amberjack and Cobia around the reefs as well.

How can I go deep sea fishing in Fort Lauderdale?

Even though seriously deep waters are located only a short distance from Fort Lauderdale’s shoreline, the best way to explore them is still on board a local charter vessel. Not only will you be able to reach the hotspots quickly and easily, but you’ll also have your guide’s local expert knowledge at your disposal. In addition, you won’t have to worry about bringing your own gear along or setting it up.

A view of a sportfishing boat trolling along blue waters

Some of the most common ways of deep sea fishing also work best from a boat. Want to try and match the speed of your target fish when dropping lines? Or maybe you’re looking to hit the deepest hotspots. Stepping foot on a vessel is a must if you want to try Fort Lauderdale’s most popular deep sea fishing techniques. Read on to find out what they are.

Trolling

If you’re familiar with deep sea or big game fishing, chances are you’ve heard a thing or two about trolling. It’s by far the most popular bluewater fishing technique out there. It involves essentially dragging a variety of bait and lures through your chosen fishery at different distances and depths from a moving boat. It’s perfect for attracting the attention of big game fish, many of whom like to attack moving prey.

If you’re a first-time deep sea angler, trolling is a great way to get to grips with choppier, deeper waters – and the fish that live beneath them. Your captain will set up multiple rods on the boat. Then it’s your job to keep a keen eye on them until you notice the tip of a rod bouncing, shaking, or generally just moving. From there, it’s all hands on deck!

Kite Fishing

A Sailfish jumping hooked on a fishing line, jumping out of the water

Although kite fishing has been around for a long time, many anglers like to say that it was actually perfected right here in South Florida. Who are we to disagree?

This technique is seriously effective, and also provides an exciting visual aspect. You’ll be able to see your bait splashing on the surface of the water and, the majority of the time, you’ll see your fish approach before it hits. This technique is especially effective when it comes to hooking Billfish.

So how does it work? Well, with kite fishing, the simpler the better. Your captain will usually set up one rod with a specialized fly kit attached, with release clips rigged along the rod’s line. Up to 3 rods can be attached to a kite, with lines threaded through the release clips.

Then you’ll send the kite up in the air, which causes the bait to make a commotion on the water’s surface. You’ll be able to reach waters that your boat can’t navigate, such as around reefs and wrecks, too.

Bottom Fishing

Trolling and kite fishing are the two most popular deep sea fishing techniques in Fort Lauderdale, especially for anglers looking to hook that trophy Billfish, Mahi, or Wahoo.

However, if you’re more interested in tasty table fare or hitting up the reefs and wrecks, chances are you might just try bottom fishing. This technique involves lowering a weighted hook or lure to the bottom of the water column and is seriously effective at targeting deep dwellers.

Another form of extreme bottom fishing that you may well try out in Fort Lauderdale is deep dropping. Want to get your hands on Swordfish? This is the way to do it. Deep dropping involves using special gear that is built to reach waters of significant depths – we’re talking over 700 feet.

As you might guess, reeling in a fish from those kinds of depths can take a lot of time and energy. Special deep dropping reels will do the work for you.

Anything else I need to know?

A blue infographic with white text reading "Deep Sea Fishing in Fort Lauderdale What You Need to Know" as well as Florida's state flag

Just the legalities of fishing here, of course. All anglers aged 16 or above need a valid license to go deep sea fishing in Fort Lauderdale. If you’re fishing onboard a local charter, however, you won’t need to worry about purchasing the license yourself, as your captain will cover this for you.

When it comes to the fish you’ll be targeting, remember that Billfish are catch and release. In addition, most Grouper species are protected from January 1 to May 1.

If you’re interested in the more competitive side of deep sea fishing and want to try your luck at a tournament, there are a few exciting events to be found in Fort Lauderdale. The Line, Vine, and Dine Competition offers a fantastic combination of delicious wine, great charity causes… and a Billfish tournament.

Want to ramp things up a notch? The Sailfish Challenge takes place in nearby Pompano Beach, with cash prizes in the thousands.

Deep Sea Fishing in Fort Lauderdale: An Angling Adventure to Remember!

An aerial view of one of Fort Lauderdale's canals

There’s nothing quite like a deep sea fishing adventure in Florida. And, with direct access to deep waters just a short ride from shore, Fort Lauderdale has to be at the top of your bucket list! Whether you’re a newbie looking to get in touch with your competitive side, or a hardened deep sea angler who wants the catch of a lifetime, it’s all on offer for you here. It’s time to make your way to this sunny slice of paradise and get ready for the battle of a lifetime!

Have you ever been deep sea fishing in Fort Lauderdale? What did you catch? Any tips or tricks to share? Let us know in the comments below. We love hearing from you!

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