Fishing in Cedar Key: All You Need to Know
Oct 1, 2020 | 9 minute read
Reading Time: 9 minutes

Fishing in Cedar Key allows anglers to experience this unspoiled small-town community where time seems to have stopped. Locals here have fishing in their blood, as Florida’s Big Bend area is ripe with productive fishing grounds. There are networks of canals and vast grass flats teeming with fish just waiting to be caught. You‘ll also encounter a few tiny keys – it’s no wonder people also call this place “The Other Keys.” 

The waterfront at Cedar Key, Florida from the channel in the Gulf of Mexico

When setting out for some action here it’s crucial to understand the tide’s ebbs and flows. As the water level rises, the fish fill the potholes, and stay trapped there when it drops. You have to wait for the right moment to get your trophy. Thankfully, local anglers provide a wealth of knowledge that you can tap into for the best fishing tips around.

Cedar Key Fish Species

Although this sleepy fishing village may be a hard sell for the kids, passionate anglers value the area’s excellent fishing opportunities. From spring to fall, fishing is the name of the game in Cedar Key. With inshore, nearshore, and even offshore locations packed with fishing holes, you’ll be spoiled for choice. Below are some of the most popular local targets to get you on your way to creating your perfect adventure!

Redfish

A fly angler with his rod in his lap holding a big Redfish while sitting on a boat

Redfish is the beast that makes many anglers sweat, and is the reason why many anglers return here each year. Big specimens are always a challenge – even for the more seasoned veterans. You’ll need skill and determination, but if you do hook one, it’s a trophy you’ll cherish for a lifetime. This species is the region’s super-star, just don’t forget to bring some heavier tackle. It would be a shame to lose it. 

When going after Redfish in Cedar Key you’ll find yourself surrounded by crystal clear waters that can get quite shallow. This will enable you to spot your target before casting the lure. It’s a dream come true for any fly fishing enthusiasts or anyone looking to sight fishing a go. You can also try sight fishing with light tackle and, while it’s not easy, it’s a great way to test your skills.

Tarpon

A hooded angler holing a Tarpon on a boat with trees in the background

This species is so prized that, when exchanging stories, anglers will pride themselves on simply seeing it. And people who’ve managed to land a trophy Tarpon? They become legends. No wonder the fish is called the “Silver King.” When going after Tarpon, the thrill of the chase is the main part, so don’t feel disappointed if you have spent the whole day without getting a big catch. Be patient and hopefully you’ll get lucky.

This King is great for anglers who use light tackle. Catching one like this is a true hallmark of a master angler. Though Tarpon are available all year round, it’s the summer season that provides the best odds of finding a big one. Just expand your search to the nearshore waters and wait for that big rod-bending bite. Be constantly on the lookout, and be prepared to give it your very best. 

Cobia

A smiling angler holding a big Cobia on a boat with the horizon in the background

If you’re contemplating which species to go for, this mouth-watering fish is never the wrong choice. Since Cobia numbers typically stay steady, you always have a good chance of encountering them. They’re also plenty of fun to catch, as they can grow into quite a beast. This happens thanks to the fish’s diet, which incorporates smaller fish plentiful in the area. You can spot Cobia in inshore and offshore locations, as well as around reefs and wrecks.  

There are many local fishing spots with Cobia in the vicinity of Cedar Key’s shoreline. You won’t need to travel for long to get to them. Although they do congregate in various sites, it’s recommended to go for the zones with underwater structure. You’ll maximize your chances for catching a good trophy if you focus on deepwater spots with wrecks. 

King Mackerel

A smiling angler holding a big King Mackerel standing on a boat

During summer seasons this hungry, hungry fish flocks in this area to feed on the bait fish species. And oh boy, does it feed! King Mackerel is famous for its ferocious and insatiable appetite. However, this species is not all teeth – it’s also are agile and strong with high jumps that’ll take your breath away. Target it it in the summertime, and you’ll easily see why it has “King” in its name.

The best location for tackling King Mackerel is above underwater structure that are approximately 30 feet deep. Still, the plus side of fishing for these beasts is that there are more options bottom fishing. When there’s enough food to attract them, shallow waters are also a great place to find them. Luckily, Cedar Keys delivers plenty of opportunities to get after these predators. 

Snook

Two smiling anglers sitting on a boat with a large Snook in their hands with trees in the background

If King Mackerel is famous for its agility, then Snook is famous for being a slippery trickster. Your best chances of finding it during the winter season is at backwater locations, and you’ll probably have to go on quite a ride until you spot one. This sneaky fish swims near mangrove islands in search of its prey, and that is where you should be.

On the other hand, if you set your eyes on Snook during the warmer months, mangroves aren’t the best option. Once the water temperature starts rising, they will migrate to slightly deeper nearshore waters in the Cedar Key region. If you’re looking to stay away from the tricky mangroves, you’ll want to go after Snook during the warmer part of the year. While away from their winter haven, you’ll have a better chance of landing a really big trophy. 

Types of Fishing in Cedar Key

With the plethora of fishing trophies that Cedar Key offers, you need to think through how you want to go after your prized catch. To make it easier for you to pick the best way of getting your fish on, we’ve highlighted the most popular outings below, along with their positive and negative aspects. Weigh your options and see which one suits you best!

Charter Fishing

A captain and his first mate on their center console boat with trees in the background

Since Cedar Key holds an abundance of fishing spots over a wide area, being able to quickly maneuver from one to the other goes a long way towards finding your dream catch. For this reason, booking a charter trip can help you in several ways. Primarily, they can save you time, as you’ll navigate the waters better. This means more time for fishing and less time finding the spot. 

The second plus is the experience of a local captain who knows the waters. Not only can they offer great advice, but they can point you to the best spots for your catch. Depending on your charter, you can even get to go to lesser-known locations and test the bite outside the popular nearshore hotspots. Just communicate with your guide, let them know what you’re after, and they’ll help you make it happen. 

Kayak Fishing

Two anglers on kayaks paddling side by side

This method has been growing in popularity among angler enthusiasts, and it’s not hard to see why. Compared to charter packages, renting a kayak is fairly cheap. Furthermore, with this type of fishing, you can try various techniques in the shallows as well as in greater depths. Depending on your stamina you can reach all kinds of locations, though newcomers should be advised to stay within inshore waters.   

We mentioned that kayaking relies on your stamina. You’ll be your own motor, so a certain level of fitness is a must, especially if you’re heading out for longer journeys. There’s also an aspect of skill to it. You’ll need a bit of practice and experience before you start getting good at it, since you’ll have to manage several things at once. But once you master it, it could be your favorite way to fish!

Shore Fishing

Angler fishing from the shore at sunset and a boat speeding past him

This town is so rich with fishing hotspots that anglers don’t even need to go far to stumble upon great fishing grounds. In fact, you don’t even need to be on the water to wet your line in some rich fishing grounds. So if the thing you value most about fishing is finding a nice quiet spot and enjoying a relaxing afternoon while you wait for a bite, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to do so here. 

Embark on a pleasant hike and, sooner or later, you’ll find a spot that’s just right for you. And even if the fish don’t bite, you can easily move to another location. Luckily, there’s many of them. Try your luck at the local piers, or head out to the flats and try your hand at wading. Don’t give up after a single spot. Move around and have some patience, and you’ll get lucky eventually. 

Cedar Key Fishing Spots

Evening sky with moonrise over Dock Street in Cedar Key, Florida

Cedar Key’s waters are inviting to all kinds of anglers. The more skilled of you will take the call of adventure solo, and novices can take a charter and benefit from experienced advice that goes with it. Whichever you are, you’ll enjoy the local hotspots! 

  • Deadman’s Key: You can’t miss it as it is just a few miles west of Cedar Key. This grassy flat land is right in between North Key and Seahorse Key. During warm months you may encounter Spanish Mackerel, Speckled Trout, and Redfish. The last one is especially impressive with its large schools in October. If you enjoy a solo adventure this spot is for you, as not many charters venture here.  
  • Snake Key and the Finger Channels: This is another place you can encounter Redfish, and it’s just south of Cedar Key. These flatlands also hold Gator Trout, Cobia, and Sharks. An interesting point here is the southern part, with channels that can become 16 feet deep. During summer months, this is home to a variety of species like Speckled Trout, Ladyfish, and Bluefish. 
  • Seahorse Reef: This is the best offshore structure that you can’t miss if you’re willing to sail a bit further. This sandbar stretches for 10 miles and, in the summer season, it becomes one of the best places in Florida for anglers who are fishing for Spanish Mackerel. Other species you can encounter in this period include Ladyfish, Bluefish, and Speckled Trout. 
  • The Kingfish Hole: Well, the clue’s in the name! Located on the northwest side of Seahorse Reef this flat, rocky bottom area is riddled with holes. In mid-spring and fall, anglers flock here to test their luck against Kingfish. But that’s not the only fish that awaits here, as you might find Black Seabass, Spanish Mackerel, and Cedar Key Snapper.  

When to Visit Cedar Key

There’s so much fishing action all year round in Cedar Key. Anglers who are yearning to test their tackle or simply have a relaxing time with their family can drop by whenever. On the other hand, Cedar Key is a venue for some quality fishing tournaments. If you have your eyes on the prize then you need to make plans and reservations in advance.  

Cedar Key Fishing Tournaments

Two anglers posing with their tournament-winning cobia hanging between them

Cobia and Kingfish are such popular species among anglers here that there are tournaments dedicated to them each year. It also helps that they grow to impressive sizes in local waters and maintain healthy populations. Visit here in spring and you’ll get to take part in the Cobiathon / Mac Attack. It can get quite challenging and attracts quite a competition. 

But that’s not all. People who aren’t into the hustle and bustle of the previously mentioned events can also find something more fitting for them. The city also hosts spring and fall tournaments targeting all sorts of species. There are plenty of prizes to be won at various levels of difficulty so these are perfect for beginners and veterans alike.  

Fishing Seasons and Regulations

Anglers who are interested in freshwater fishing should know that they need to acquire a personal permit before fishing. When it comes to saltwater fishing, if you take a Cedar Key guide or charter, their license will get you covered.  

Cedar Key Fishing: Adventures for All Tastes

Brown pelican on a fence with the Cedar Key waterfront in the background

Cedar Key holds a wealth of fishing spots, from renowned attractions to the hidden gems. First, decide what your dream trophy is and how you want to catch it. Then you can let your fishing adventure unfold! Once you experience fishing in Cedar Key, you’ll want to come back again and again. 

Anglers who are familiar with fishing in Cedar Key, why don’t you tell us about it?! It would be great to read about your experiences, so leave your story in the comment section below.

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