Fishing in Boca Grande: A Complete Guide
Jun 17, 2020 | 9 minute read
Reading Time: 9 minutes

We all know it as the “Tarpon Capital of the World” – fishing in Boca Grande for the Silver King is definitely unbeatable. And it’s always been a fishing town! Fishing is ingrained in the very fabric of this seaside paradise, and it dates all the way back to 800 AD when it was populated by the Calusa people.

The Boca Grande Lighthouse from the beach, on Gasparilla Island in Florida
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Boca Grande has never forgotten its roots. The first records of hooking Tarpon in the area date back to the late 1700s and the first British settlers. Since then, it’s worked its way up to the number one place in the world for Tarpon fishing. It’s located on Gasparilla Island, in the way of migratory fish species, so it can be said this is what Boca Grande owes its reputation to.

Many species of fish are tied to the Boca Grande Pass, the deepest natural pass in Florida with depths reaching up to 80 feet. It’s fed by two big rivers – the Peace and the Myakka. And with Charlotte Harbor on its doorstep, it’s easy to see why fishing in Boca Grande Pass is a unique experience. Since strong currents drive the fish’s behavior, dipping a rod in these waters is sure to pay off.

What to Catch

Florida fishing is as diverse as it comes, so you don’t have to limit yourself to just one species. With endless possibilities, this is a place that will surely leave you breathless with the abundance of fish you’ll be able to reel in. Read on to see the top catches, starting with inshore and working towards offshore species.

An infographic showing the top fish species to target in Boca Grande, Florida in offshore and inshore waters

Tarpon

Tarpon fishing has become almost synonymous with Boca Grande – and for good reason! These migratory beasts are known to congregate and spawn out of passes along the rim of the Gulf of Mexico. So with the Boca Grande Pass at your fingertips, there’s no better place to be if the Silver King is the one you’re after.

Four men holding a big Tarpon in Boca Grande, Florida

Why Tarpon? As the epitome of sportfishing, this silver monster is every aspiring angler’s rite of passage. Known to put up a ferocious fight, it’s a challenge that hones the skills of all fishermen. Moreover, reaching up to 150 pounds, with catches reported to be even 300 pounds, it’s easy to see how Tarpon fishing is a feat everyone aspires to live up to.

Redfish

A true Florida favorite, Redfish is the one you can always count on. It’s the go-to target for any angler looking to get in on the inshore action. Why? Since it’s available virtually all year round, this makes it one of the most sought-after fish species in the area.

A man holding a big Redfish in Boca Grande, Florida

A prized game fish, it’s the inshore fisherman’s dream catch. Larger “Bull” Reds are a light tackle challenge anyone can take up. These will keep you on your toes, and really test your skills. However, owing to its awesome food qualities, a nice family dinner is a great award for your efforts!

Snook

Another sought-after fish in all of Florida is the inevitable Snook. But what makes it such a prized collection in any angler’s book? First of all, it’s delicious! If you need more convincing, it’s the challenge of reelin’ ‘em in that’s the real fun. Trying out your luck in the flats and marshes around Gasparilla Island is a real angling feat.

A man holding a Snook in the inshore waters of Boca Grande, Florida

Grabbing a rod and joining the locals on one of the many piers is an experience you should definitely consider. With Snook coming at around 15 pounds on average, you can use your time in Boca Grande to fill the freezer with some delicious table fare.

Kingfish

King Mackerel is a real gem of Florida fishing. It’s found in offshore waters, but can also be caught closer to shore. So if you’re doing some surf fishing from the beaches of Boca Grande, you can expect some smaller Kingfish specimens.

A King Mackerel jumping onto a boat

However, if you head further offshore, you can target some of the bigger ones. Growing all the way up to 100 pounds, reeling in a trophy-sized King is a real challenge. How do you catch them? Trolling and drifting are the most effective ways of reeling in big Kingfish, so hop on a boat and fish on!

Red Snapper

If you want to head a bit further offshore, you’ll get to chase the iconic Red Snapper. It’s one of Florida’s most beloved fish, so catching it is on everyone’s bucket list. With the Gulf of Mexico kissing the shores of Boca Grande, and the myriad of natural and artificial reefs, you won’t have to look far!

A man on a boat holding a big Red Snapper in Boca Grande, Florida

What makes Red Snapper such an iconic species? First of all, it’s beautiful! Also, weighing at around 20 pounds on average, it’s a fairly challenging battle. And the deeper the water, the bigger the fish! It’s a real delicacy as well. This is why every year anglers from all over line up in their efforts to fill the freezer and treat their family to a yummy dinner option.

Mahi Mahi

With the Gulf waters at your fingertips, the deep ocean is just a short boat ride away. Mahi Mahi is famous for a reason – it tastes good, fights hard, and makes for a perfect photo! You’ll have no issues getting to their playgrounds, while reeling them in is an experience you won’t forget.

A man holding a Mahi Mahi on a boat

With so many opportunities, it’s not easy to choose your Boca Grande fishing adventure. Luckily you can be flexible, because there’s fish everywhere you go. The list goes on and on, with Sheepshead, Speckled Trout, Pompano, Jacks, Cobia, Goliath Grouper, and a variety of Shark species all possible targets. You name it – Boca Grande will deliver!

How to Fish in Boca Grande

There’s a plethora of ways to fish the prolific waters around Boca Grande. From charter fishing and renting a kayak, to surf fishing and hitting up the piers and docks, there’s something for every type of angler. Here’s a quick rundown of the styles of fishing you opt for.

Charter Fishing

For the real fishing enthusiasts, hardly anything beats a day out on the water with nothing but blue around. A fishing charter is by far the best way to visit some of the most prolific spots around Boca Grande. Why? Well, with the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the fish-rich reefs and wrecks, you’ll have no issue reeling in some monsters.

A charter boat speeding on the water

A charter captain will make sure to take you to the best spots, maximizing your chances of catching trophy fish. So if you have a personal record to break, or want to fill the freezer with some mouth-watering delicacies, this is the way to go. You can also hop aboard a party boat, which is a shared charter. It’s a budget-friendly excursion for those of you with a little more experience.

Surf Fishing

Visiting the beaches in Boca Grande and casting a line makes for great fun in the sun. Visit the beach by the historic Gasparilla Island lighthouse and explore this fishery for a variety of species. The waters here get pretty deep close to the shore, so you’ll find that decent-sized King and Spanish Mackerel are a common catch, as well as Snook, Jacks, and even some Sharks.

A beach in Boca Grande Florida, overlooking a lighthouse

If you want some more variety, you can go around to the east side and cast from the Boca Grande Fishing Pier. Also, try your luck around the old phosphate and fuel docks. This is a great place to visit for a chance to hook a big Goliath Grouper.

Kayak Fishing

Looking for a more adventurous challenge? Renting a kayak and heading out to the beautiful waters around Boca Grande is a special experience. Sail out of Miller’s Marina and hook some trophy Snook and big Redfish. Don’t like the heat? Paddling out at night and dropping your bait is an exciting way to get your reel screaming with a Shark at the end of the line. 

A man in a kayak with a fishing rod on the water rowing

Heading out in the early morning with daylight is another great way to hook some Snook and Trout. Set your alarm and dream of those trophy specimens, then sail out and make them a reality!

Boca Grande Fishing Spots

The only thing left for you to ask is – where can I do all of this? And the answer’s simple – everywhere! Boca Grande has been a fishing haven for centuries, so you can be sure that fishing opportunities are abundant. Read on to check out what the best fishing spots in Boca Grande are.

An infographic showing a map of top places to fish in Boca Grande, Florida – Gasparilla Pass, Fishing Pier, Turtle Bay, Bull Bay, The Phosphate Docks, Boca Grande Pass, The Lighthouse Hole, Gulf of Mexico
  • Boca Grande Pass: This is the place to visit for anyone who wants to cross Tarpon fishing off their bucket list. Separating Boca Grande from the island of Cayo Costa, this pass sees thousands of these silver giants every year. However, this is also a perfect place for Shark fishing, as the world record for the biggest Hammerhead was achieved right here.
  • Gasparilla Pass: The less famous brother of Boca Grande Pass, this northernmost spot of the island is often overlooked. With some big Snook passing through on their way out to the Gulf for spawning, in May these waters turn into a real hot spot. However, other species like Trout and Tarpon are common visitors as well.
  • The Lighthouse Hole: Want to fish like a local? When all the Tarpon addicts have left the Pass, experienced local anglers are once again able to fish “the hole” in peace. It is a popular spot because the depth of the water drops to around 70 feet close to shore. This makes it the best spot to bottom fish for Snapper and Grouper.
  • The Boca Grande Fishing Pier: Pier fishing is a local favorite in the waters of Boca Grande, since big fish tend to congregate around several piers and numerous docks. Visiting the Boca Grande Fishing Pier will surely yield some great results. Redfish, Snook, and Trout are all possible catches and beloved Floridian targets.
  • Turtle and Bull Bay: These two bays are a perfect place to sink your line for Snook, Redfish, and Trout. Join a captain who knows how to navigate shallow waters, and you’ll have your hands full and your work cut out for you. Additionally, some deep holes and mangroves in the area will see you reeling in some monsters too. 
  • The Phosphate Dock: One thing left from Boca Grande’s phosphate history is this rewarding fishing spot. If you’re looking to catch some big Goliath Grouper, there’s no better place to be! In addition, you’ll see plenty of Snook and Snapper.
  • The Gulf of Mexico: With the abundance of natural and artificial reefs, the waters of the Gulf will see you reel in prized Red Snapper, Kingfish, and the Florida favorite – Cobia. Typically, you’ll join a charter captain and head out up to nine miles out. This is where you’ll get a chance to troll for Mahi Mahi and big Kingfish.

Tournaments and Fishing Seasons

By now it’s pretty clear that Boca Grande is on the world map when it comes to fishing. The world’s number one Tarpon fishing spot can back this up. You can’t go wrong whenever you visit, but if you really want some unforgettable action, show up for one of the tournaments in the area.

An aerial photo of a sportfishing yacht in the ocean

Boca Grande Fishing Tournaments

The Boca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce hosts Tarpon tournaments every year. The tournament season kicks off with the Ladies Day Tarpon Tournament in May where women compete in reeling in the Silver King. 

It’s followed closely by the Boca Grande Fishing Classic organized by The Gasparilla Inn & Club. Join and you’ll be fishing for Tarpon, Redfish, Snook, and Trout in the waters of the Boca Grande Pass and the nearby back waterways.

The main event takes place in June, and it’s the biggest Tarpon fishing tournament. Bringing in hopeful anglers from all over the world, the World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament is the place to be. To sum up, for anyone who’s ever wanted a serious battle with the silver giant, there’s no better competition.

Boca Grande Fishing Seasons and Regulations

Fishing in Boca Grande is great year-round, owing to its convenient location. You can target different species, depending on the season, the fishing style, and the area you want to explore. However, if you’re wondering about Tarpon (as we’re sure you are), the Tarpon season begins in April to early May. You’ll be able to fish for them well into September or even October if the weather allows it.

An infographic showing seasons and regulations for top Redfish, Red Snapper, Snook, Mahi Mahi, Kingfish, and Tarpon in Boca Grande, Florida

You can only keep a single Tarpon with a $50 tag if you’re interested in breaking the IGFA record. There can be special regulations during the busy months as summer approaches. One of them is the limit of three lines per vessel for catching any species in Boca Grande, so this is why you should make sure to check the current regulations on the FWC website.

Why Boca Grande? It’s One of a Kind

If you’ve come this far, you already know why – Tarpon! As the top Tarpon fishery in the whole world, Boca Grande fishing is something you have to try out in your angling career. However, with such a diverse set of opportunities all around it, this little island town can deliver on all of your fishing dreams.

Gasparilla Island Lighthouse in Boca Grande, Florida

Have you tried fishing in Boca Grande? Did you enter any tournaments in the area? Or are you planning on trying it out in the future? Share your experience in the comments below, and ask us anything!

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