There’s hardly a better place on the planet to go fishing than Florida. Yes, this is a big statement, but it’s also very true. Nowhere else will you find all the top game fish in one place. Fishing in Florida means you have access to fantastic inshore, offshore, and deep water action, often in the same location.
Add to that beautiful weather practically year-round, 1,350 miles of coastline (only surpassed by Alaska), and thousands of expert charter guides at your service, and you’ve got the fishing epicenter of the US. Here, no angling dream is too big and no ambition is out of reach.
If you’re here to learn about Florida’s immense fishing potential, you’re in the right place. We’ll cover everything you could possibly want to know – top catches, fishing seasons, the most productive techniques, top fishing spots, Florida licensing information, and so much more. Let’s get started!
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Best Catches in Florida
Fishing in Florida gives you easy access to some of the best game fish in the world, and choosing the best of the best is no small task. Florida’s official state fish are Largemouth Bass and Sailfish, but there are hundreds more that you can hook into. Here are the best catches the Sunshine State has to offer.
Best Freshwater Catches in Florida
While saltwater fishing takes the spotlight in Florida, that doesn’t mean the freshwater action should be neglected. On the contrary, Florida has a lot to offer to freshwater anglers, especially Bass chasers. Here are some of the most popular freshwater species you could reel in.
- Largemouth Bass: Easily the favorite freshwater catch, Largies are so popular in Florida that they’re actually the freshwater state fish. You can target them in lakes, ponds, and channels all around Florida, and come out successful. Aside from Largemouth, there are a lot of Peacock Bass in these waters (though they’re technically not Bass), as well as some Striped, White, and Sunshine Bass.
- Crappie: You’ll hardly find a tastier freshwater species than Crappie. Floridians know this well, which is why they love their “Speckled Perch.” You can target them year-round, but for the best bite, come in the winter months – that’s when they’re most active.
- Catfish: The rivers and lakes of Florida have their fair share of Catfish, and you better believe that freshwater fishermen get excited when the spring comes. That’s the best time to go after all the Catfish species, be it Blue, White, Channel, or Flathead. The Apalachicola, Escambia, and Choctawhatchee Rivers are famous for their Catfish populations.
- Clown Knife Fish: Go lake fishing in South Florida, and you might run into the most peculiar game fish you’ve seen – the Clown Knife Fish. Even though they’re native to Southeast Asia, Clown Knife Fish have also made their home in South Florida, and this is the only place where you’ll find them. The best time to target them is towards the end of spring.
- Sunfish: The smallest of all the freshwater species, Sunfish are ever-present in Florida’s lakes. They make for great eating, and there are many different species, including Spotted, Redear, and Redbreast Sunfish, along with Bluegill and Warmouth. Whenever you hit the water, chances are, you could find a few on your line.
Best Inshore Catches in Florida
Let’s move now to saltwater, where you can enjoy some of the most exhilarating and productive fishing on the continent. Florida’s flats, beaches, and mangrove-covered shorelines make for the best playground of all inshore superstars. Whether you’re on the Atlantic or Gulf Coast, there’s no overstating just how good the action is year-round. And these are the favorite species you could find on the end of your line.
- Redfish: We’re starting off with the one and only Redfish. There’s no inshore species more beloved than this. The reason for that is threefold – they grow big (upwards of 10 pounds), they’re merciless fighters, and they’re tasty. In summer and fall, inshore anglers from all over flock to Florida for the chance of landing a Bull Redfish. They’re the poster child of Florida’s productive fisheries.
- Snook: The warm weather and waters of Florida make for perfect conditions for Snook. These tropical fish come in all sizes, from just a few pounds to the beast you see in the photo above. Snook are most active in spring and summer when the water temperatures are to their liking. They’re like freight trains on light tackle and will fight you for every inch of your line.
- Tarpon: With the nickname “Silver King,” it’s not hard to figure out who exactly rules Florida’s inshore realm. For avid anglers, Tarpon fishing is as good as it gets. These massive fish often weigh triple digits and are the most astonishing acrobats and fighters. They stick to flats in spring and summer and withdraw to backwaters during the colder months.
- Spotted Seatrout: These toothy critters are among the most sought-after species in Florida, primarily because of their delectable meat. They usually stay in the 5 lb ballpark, but there are Seatrout out there that are twice that size – aka Gator Trout. Also known as “Specks,” these guys make for a family-friendly catch and are on the menu year-round, especially in summer and fall.
- Flounder: Florida’s favorite flatty! These murky fish hide around underwater structure and they’re readily available all year – but are most active in fall and winter. Your best bet to find Flounder is to cast your line around docks, inlets, and grass flats. They might be tricky to spot, but they’re fun to reel in and they’re very tasty, and usually weigh around 3–10 pounds.
- Mangrove Snapper: This inshore Snapper is one of the most commonly caught fish all around Florida. They’re the smallest of their kind (around 5 pounds) and, as their name suggests, you’ll find them around mangrove shorelines and around underwater vegetation. If you’re going on an inshore fishing trip in Florida, there’s a good chance you’ll get a Mangrove at some point.
Inshore fishing in Florida is incredibly diverse, and these species are just the pick of the best. There’s a lot more to target here: Spanish Mackerel, Black Drum, Jack Crevalle, Pompano, Sheepshead, Barracuda, Permit, Ladyfish, Bluefish, and many many more are often in the cards.
Best Nearshore & Offshore Catches in Florida
Let’s move away from the shore and into deeper waters, brimming with fantastic game fish. Some of the best fishing in Florida happens right here, and the sheer number of species will have you reaching for your gear. Let us walk you through the best nearshore and offshore catches you can chase.
- Cobia: The wild child of the nearshore realm, Cobia leave no prisoners when hooked. They’re not hard to find but, once hooked, they’ll not spare you nor your equipment. They can get chunky (20+ pounds), especially further out, so that’s an added element that makes them such a wanted catch. The best time to target them is during colder months.
- King Mackerel: Also known as Kingfish, these aggressive toothy pelagics are famous for their wild runs when hooked. You can find Kings in both nearshore and offshore waters, and they get bigger the further from shore they are. They can weigh up to 30 pounds, and you can find them in South Florida year-round.
- Sharks: One of the more sought-after fish species that can be found both nearshore and offshore, there are 15 species to choose from! Depending on your angling appetite, you can go small or big. Bonnethead, Blacktip, Nurse, Bull, Mako, Porbeagle, and Thrasher Sharks are among the most commonly caught varieties.
- Mahi Mahi: If you’re going offshore fishing in spring and summer, chances are good you’ll chase the gorgeous Mahi Mahi. More present on the Atlantic Coast and South Florida, Mahi’s acrobatics and violent headshakes make it difficult to keep them on the line. They usually weigh between 15–30 pounds and are among the most delicious fish around.
- Snappers: In all their glorious shapes and forms, Snappers are a staple catch of the Sunshine State. The most famous are, of course, Red Snapper, but they have a very strict fishing season. You’ve also got plenty of Yellowtail, Lane, Mutton, Cubera, Vermillion, and Queen Snapper at your disposal, and all are very tasty.
- Groupers: These bottom-dwelling guys might not be the prettiest fish, but they’re definitely among the tastiest. There are 17 Grouper subspecies swimming around nearshore and offshore reefs, and most of them are on the to-catch list of passionate anglers. Black and Gag Grouper are first on that list, closely followed by Goliath, Scamp, Red, and Warsaw Grouper.
Best Deep Sea Catches in Florida
Deep sea fishing in Florida is spectacular. The best anglers from all around the world come to these waters in the hope of finding that trophy catch that will be the crowning jewel of their career. And they’re right to do so! These are the fish that make deep sea fishing in Florida so good.
- Wahoo: As one of the fastest fish on the planet, Wahoo is always an exhilarating prey to chase. They move around a lot during the year, but you can always find them off the Atlantic Coast. You’ll find them in bluewater, at least 20 miles from land. As for their size, 10–25 pounds is their average weight, but larger 30+ lb specimens are the ones that will give you a real run for your money.
- Amberjack: If you’d like to go head to gills with a strong bottom feeder around deep offshore reefs, Amberjack is your guy. They’re one of the hardiest species to go after on a deep sea fishing trip, but they’ll reward you with the fight of a lifetime. They usually weigh around 30–40 pounds and are at their hungriest in the summer.
- Tuna: Some would argue that there’s no better game fish to target than the mighty Tuna. In Florida, you can go on a Tuna hunt, as long as you’re willing to travel 30–50 miles to get to them. Blackfin and Yellowfin Tuna are ones to look out for, as well as Skipjack and Albacore. Spring and summer are the best time to get yourself some Tuna.
- Sailfish: We’re now in the domain of Billfish and, out of all of them, acrobatic Sailfish are the most beloved in Florida. They stick to the Gulf Stream and are a prized catch on the Atlantic Coast. Around South Florida, you can catch them just a few miles from shore, but the further north you go, the farther they are from land. The best time to get one is during the winter months.
- Marlin: Even though they’re far more elusive than Sailfish, going after Blue and White Marlin is the pinnacle of saltwater fishing in Florida. A lot of professional guides focus on giant Blue Marlin, but both species can be caught in the Gulf Stream. You might have to travel far to find them, but having a 500+ lb Marlin on the line is an experience like no other. Come in summer for the best action.
- Swordfish: The sneakiest of all Billfish, Swordfish require a lot of effort to be found, and even more to be caught. They spend their lives in waters at least 1,000 feet deep, where they can grow up to over 1,000 pounds. Swordfish are finicky and not easy to pinpoint, but your best bet is hitting the waters off the Atlantic Coast in early fall.
As you can see, there are a lot of fantastic fish to target and enjoy when fishing in Florida. If you’d like to know more about how exactly you can catch them and where, check out this in-depth article about all the most prized Florida game fish.
Florida Fishing Seasons
“What fish are in season in Florida?” is one of the most common questions anglers ask when booking a trip. The answer is simple – there’s always something good to fish for, no matter when you come. With the warm waters of the Gulf in the west and the Gulf Stream near Florida’s Atlantic Coast in the east, the one thing you won’t lack is choice.
The general rule of thumb is that spring and summer are the most productive times of the year. This is when both inshore and offshore game fish come out to play and the bite is off the charts. However, there are species like Cobia, Sailfish, and Wahoo, which are at their best during winter. The best thing to do is to plan your trip according to the seasonality of the fish you’d like to catch.
Fishing seasons in Florida can be tricky to navigate, and you can learn more about them in this dedicated article. Take a look at the table below to check out the year-round seasonality for all the favorite fish in Florida. Then, you’ll have a clearer picture of when to book your fishing adventure.
Best Fishing Spots in Florida
There’s nearly an infinite number of amazing fishing spots in Florida and, while we can’t cover them all, there are some destinations that are iconic. There are still quite a lot of them, so we’ll sort them into regions to help you get a better picture.
If you’d rather have a visual guide, here’s our video of the top 10 Florida fishing spots, perfect for anglers looking for quick and useful advice.
We’ve separated them into four categories: the Atlantic Coast, the Gulf Coast, South Florida, and the Panhandle. Without further ado, these are some of the very best fishing spots in every corner of Florida!
Best Fishing Spots on Florida’s Atlantic Coast
Best Fishing Spots in Central Florida
Best Fishing Spots in South Florida
Best Fishing Spots on Florida’s Gulf Coast
Best Fishing Spots in the Florida Panhandle
Florida Fishing Techniques
Now that you know more about all the many species you can target, as well as where to go to catch them, it’s important to know how to do it. Just like there are many fish, there are also many approaches you can take to get them on your line. Here are some of the most popular and productive fishing techniques in the Sunshine State.
- Fly fishing: If you want to challenge yourself and test your angling skills, you’ll love the excellent fly fishing opportunities in Florida. You can fish for Peacock and Largemouth Bass on rivers and lakes. Redfish, Tarpon, Snook, and even smaller Sharks are available if you’re fly fishing on Florida’s flats and marshes. Offshore, Bonito are the usual target, but some brave souls even take on Billfish on the fly! These are the best destinations for a fly fishing trip.
- Deep sea fishing: Florida is best known for its immense deep sea fishing potential. If there’s just one way of fishing that you could try, it should be this. The action is off the charts wherever you are – the main difference being how far you are from the bluewater and the Gulf Stream. The southern Atlantic Coast boasts the best Billfishing in the world, and it’s similar all along the Panhandle. Marlin, Sailfish, Tuna, Swordfish, Bull Mahi Mahi, and massive Wahoo are all in the cards.
- Bowfishing: Maybe you’ve had your fair share of traditional fishing and you’d like to try something new – something exciting. Bowfishing is a great choice for adventurers who don’t mind going out into the night with lighted boats, prowling the shallows in search of a great catch. There are over a hundred bowfishing charters in Florida available to you. Tilapia, Catfish, and Carp are the favorite freshwater catches, Flounder, Sheepshead, King Mackerel, and Barracuda are your go-to prey in saltwater.
- Spearfishing: Want to get close and personal with your catch? Spearfishing in Florida will not disappoint! Whether you’re an experienced diver or a first-timer, the reefs and clear bluewaters all around the state make for perfect spearfishing grounds. The Keys are among the top spots for your spearo escapades, as well as Miami, Tampa Bay, Pensacola, and many more. Your prey could be anything from Groupers and Snappers to Cobia, Mahi Mahi, and King Mackerel.
Fishing Trips in Florida
Florida’s rich and diverse fishing scene is home to thousands of fishing guides. Finding someone to make your fishing dreams come true is always possible here. Whether you’re up for a quick inshore jaunt with the family or a multi-day expedition hundreds of miles from land, there’s an experienced fishing guide in the Sunshine State to make it happen.
Inshore and nearshore excursions will keep you close to land, and they can last anywhere from 3–8 hours. These are a good match for anglers just learning the ropes and for families. If you’ve got smaller kids, you’ll want to keep it short and sweet, but still get some fish on the line. For that, inshore fishing is perfect and you can hire a private charter or hop on a party boat.
Offshore and deep sea fishing trips often mean the same thing – going further away from shore to target big game fish. These are longer expeditions (8+ hours) that will put you on anything from Snapper to Swordfish. Chances are you’ll be in for a longer boat ride (an hour or more) before you get to the fishing grounds. It’s a good idea to have some angling experience before you go off into the deep waters, but it’s not a requirement.
There are also specialized fishing trips, where you’ll be targeting a specific species. Tarpon, Snapper, Sharks, and Billfish are only a few of the species around which charter captains organize their trips.
The best thing about hitting the water with a professional crew is that your skill level isn’t very important. Beginners and seasoned anglers alike will find a challenge in Florida, be it in the form of a thrashy Redfish or an unstoppable Blue Marlin. Your guide will prepare the gear and the boat, all you have to do is prepare yourself for some of the best fishing action you’ll ever enjoy.
Florida Fishing Regulations
Before you cast your line in some of the richest waters in the nation, let’s talk about fishing regulations. Floridians take good care of their fisheries, as they should, so you need to make sure you’re fishing within the law. If you’re going out on your own, you’ll need either a freshwater or a saltwater Florida fishing license, depending on where you’re going.
Going out with a saltwater fishing charter? Then you’re all set, your license is included in the price of your trip. It’s different if you’re fishing with a freshwater guide – you’ll still need to buy your own fishing license. Here’s a quick video about the types of licenses available.
Yes, there are many awesome fish you can chase when fishing in Florida, but there are also quite a few regulations to keep in mind. The Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper season is the most anticipated time of year, but it only lasts a few weeks. The good news is that, with a professional guide by your side, you don’t have to worry about it, they’ll keep you in the loop.
Speaking of professional guides, the Sunshine State is probably one of the best places to be one. If you believe you’ve got what it takes to run your own fishing business, here’s how to become a guide in Florida. There’s quite a bit to be done before you start running trips, but on these fantastic waters, the opportunity is absolutely worth the effort.
We don’t exaggerate when we say that, in Florida, the fishing action as is as good as it gets. There are only a few destinations in the world that can be compared to these prolific waters. Whenever and wherever you come, you’re in for the most memorable angling experience of your life.
Fishing in Florida FAQs
The species you can keep are: Bonnethead, Sharpnose, Blacktip, Thresher, Nurse, Smooth Dogfish, Spinner, Shortfin Mako, Florida Smooth-Hound, Finetooth, Blue, Bull, Oceanic Whitetip, and Blacknose Sharks.