Fishing in Miami: The Complete Guide
Nov 8, 2019 | 9 minute read
Reading Time: 9 minutes

There are a lot of good reasons to visit Miami. Great weather, beautiful beaches, amazing nightlife – they call it the “Magic City” for a reason. What most people don’t realize is that the fishing in Miami is just as spectacular as the city itself. From shallow flats to open ocean, you’re never far from huge fish in this tropical paradise.

An aerial view of Miami

In this article, we’ll break down everything that makes the area special. You can learn where to fish, what to target, and how to do it. You’ll also find info on local tournaments, licenses, and much more. In short, it’s the complete guide for traveling anglers. 

Top Catches in Miami

Miami is a city of superstars. Winter home of the rich and famous. It’s only fitting, then, that the local waters are full of sportfishing A-listers. In fact, fish that would top the bill elsewhere barely make the board in Miami. Let’s meet the headliners in Miami’s fishing scene.

Tarpon

A sport fisherman leaning over the side of the boat holding a big Tarpon out of the water

Tarpon are the undisputed kings of Miami’s shallows – impossible to predict and just as hard to catch. If you’re up for the challenge, Miami is the perfect place to test your skills. Silver Kings crowd the shallows of Biscayne Bay from May through July. During the rest of the year, there are always a few “holdover” Tarpon hiding away. The trick is to know where to find them.

Tarpon can reach over 100 pounds in the waters around Miami – enough to pull unwary anglers right out of the boat. It’s not just the monsters that people chase here, though. Many local anglers prefer to go after smaller fish in the 20–40 lb range. These young “princes” feed much more aggressively and are a favorite in the Magic City’s fly fishing scene.

Grouper

An angler holding a large Grouper on a boat

There are literally hundreds of reefs and wrecks scattering the sea floor around Miami. Each one of them is home to big, tasty bottom fish. Red, Black, and Gag Grouper are common targets for local fish-lovers. Head to deeper waters, and you’ll also find rarer Groupers like Snowies and Scamps.

Of course, there’s one species that dwarfs every other fish on the reef: Goliath Grouper. These beasts can weigh hundreds of pounds. In fact, they often weigh more than the boat you’ll catch them from. If you’re after serious heavy tackle action, they don’t get bigger than this.

Sailfish

Two anglers holding a big Sailfish on a fishing charter

Tarpon may be the kings of the shallows, but Sailfish are the stars of Miami’s deep sea scene. Sailfish are about as dramatic as fish get, with their huge mohawk sail and pulsating color changes. Once you hook one, it will jump, spin, and “walk” along the surface of the water as it tries to throw your hook. On top of that, they’re the fastest fish in the sea.

There’s a lot to love about Sailfish, but what makes Miami such a good place to catch them? For starters, they’re around most of the year. They also show up just a mile or two from shore. Then there’s the way locals target them: kite fishing. This variation on trolling skips your bait across the surface so you can see the sail rising out of the water before the fish takes your lure. 

Swordfish

Two fishermen holding a large Swordfish on a charter boat

South Florida anglers were the pioneers of modern Swordfishing. They were the first to perfect daytime Swordfishing, and discovered many of the tricks that we now take for granted. These days, Swordfish are the dream catch of Miami’s most ambitious anglers. If you think you’re up for the challenge, this is probably the best place in the world to try.

It’s not just the skill of local crews that makes Miami a dream Sword fishery. The waters themselves are perfect for these fish. They get incredibly deep just a few miles from shore. They’re also fed by the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. This means big Swordfish actively hunting both at night and during the day. No wonder people are so skilled at catching them here.

Peacock Bass

Two happy anglers holding Peacock Bass caught while fishing in Miami

Miami isn’t all about saltwater fishing. The city’s canals are also home to monster Peacock Bass. Peacocks were first introduced from South America to combat invasive Tilapia. Since then, they’ve achieved full game fish status and become a real Floridian favorite. It’s easy to see why.

Peacock Bass are colorful, aggressive, and hard-fighting. They also love the heat and tag out native species like Largemouth Bass when the water gets too warm for them in the summer. This means great fishing all year round – if you can take the heat.

How to Fish in Miami

So you have an idea of what you can catch, but how should you do it? There are a few different ways to enjoy fishing in Miami. Picking the right one for you is just as important as choosing which fish to target.

From a Boat

An offshore sportfishing boat cruising at sunrise

Boarding a boat is pretty much the only way to get to Miami’s offshore bite. It also makes it much easier to get close to Tarpon. On top of that, you’ll be able to carry more gear with you. And that’s just the boat itself. Fishing with a guide skips a lot of trial and error and takes you straight to the most productive fishing spots around.

Renting or chartering a boat costs more than others ways to fish around Miami. Even so, it’s the best way to really get the most out of your day. If you’re looking for an unforgettable experience as well as great fishing, this is where to find it. You can also join a shared drift boat (commonly known as “party boats”) if you want some tasty reef fish on a budget.

From Shore

A view along the shore to a lighthouse in Miami

Don’t like boats? Don’t worry – you can still enjoy great fishing without one! Fish the canals for Largemouth and Peacock Bass. Head to the South Pointe Park or Newport Pier to target Spanish Mackerel, Sharks, Jacks, and more. You can also land Bonefish, Tarpon, and Snook in the surf. Just keep an eye out for signs, as fishing is banned on many beaches.

The problem with shore fishing is that you’ll often have just one rod, which limits your tactics and your hookups. On top of this, you’ll have to buy or rent equipment locally. Rental rods generally won’t stand up to true game fish like Tarpon. One solution is to travel with your own fishing gear. Another is to fish with an on-foot guide, who will usually provide quality equipment for you.

From a Kayak

An angler fishing on a kayak in a canal

Kayak fishing isn’t for everyone. It can be a real workout just getting to the fishing grounds. It’s also tough to see what you’re casting at half the time. However, fishing from a kayak opens up many of Miami’s top fisheries and species. Think of them as a middle ground between banks and boats. Like with boats, you can either rent a kayak or go on a guided fishing tour.

So what can you catch? It all depends on your skill level. Kayak fishing is normally an inshore affair, targeting Redfish, Snook, and maybe Tarpon. However, seasoned ‘yakers often take on bottom fish like Snapper and Grouper. Some even go after big game species like Sailfish. Needless to say, this is not for first-timers!

Best Fishing Spots in Miami

We could dedicate an entire article to where you should fish in Miami. In fact, we already have. Instead of covering every location again, here’s our top spot for each of the species we mentioned above.

Biscayne Bay

A view across Biscayne Bay toward Miami

Biscayne Bay is the obvious choice for inshore fishing in Miami. It’s especially good if you’re chasing Tarpon. Shallow flats, mangroves, cuts, channels – the bay has everything the Silver King could want from his kingdom. They’re not the only fish you’ll find here, mind you. Bonefish, Snook, and Permit all vacation here at different times of year.

The great thing about Biscayne Bay is that you can fish it any way you want. Cast from shore on Key Biscayne. Take a kayak onto the local flats. Explore untouched mangroves on a boat. However you do it, you can expect a day of outstanding fishing in a beautiful setting.

O.L. Bodenhamer Wreck

A large shipwreck underwater

There are literally hundreds of wrecks and reefs in the waters around Miami. Each one of them holds a mix of big, tasty fish. The wreck of the O.L. Bodenhamer is slightly farther from town than many, so it tends to be less crowded. On top of all that, it’s an old World War II Liberty Ship, so it’s pretty big. In short, it’s a reliable place to fish without fighting for space.

The Bodenhamer sits in around 400 feet of water, a great depth for a huge mix of fish. Grouper, Snapper, and Amberjack all hang out here. You can also find bigger game hunting around the wreck. Blackfin Tuna, Mahi Mahi, and Sailfish all show up in decent numbers.

Gulf Stream

An angler sitting at the back of a boat which is cruising offshore from Miami

OK, this one is a bit vague. The Gulf Stream is pretty much all the water between Miami and Bimini, after all. However, this warm-water highway is the best place to explore if you’re after proper big game hookups.

If you’re looking for Sailfish, troll the waterline where the shallow green water meets the deep blue. After Mahi Mahi and Wahoo? Explore any of the FADs and buoys offshore from Miami. The best spots for Swordfish vary with the time of day, but you don’t need to travel far to find them.

Miami Airport

Road signs showing the turning to Miami Airport

You probably drove right past one of the best fishing spots in Miami after you flew into town. Just south of Miami Airport are a series of lakes home to big numbers of Peacock Bass. Blue Lagoon is the most famous, but they’re all great for Bass fishing. You can fish them from the shore or jump on a kayak to reach the very best fishing grounds.

The Peacock Bass aren’t alone here. During the colder months, Blue Lagoon is a productive Largemouth Bass fishery, too. You can also find exotic invaders like Clown Knifefish, and Snakehead if you want some real South Florida flair.

Miami Fishing Tournaments

With so many game fish swimming around these waters, you’d expect a rolling calendar of sportfishing tournaments. There are certainly some, but not as many as you might think. The biggest event of the year is Jimmy Johnson’s Tournament Series. This is real big bucks stuff. Entry starts at $5,000, and there’s a guaranteed purse of a staggering $1.75 million.

Fancy something a little less extreme? There are several competitions organized by local universities. The University of Miami Canefish Tournament and Florida International University Fishing Tournament both offer an offshore challenge that won’t break the bank to enter. These tournaments also raise money for several local charities.

Finally, the Miami Dolphins organize the Fins Weekend Fishing Tournament each year. This consists of a golf tournament and a fishing tournament. Don’t worry, you don’t have to enter both. The money raised goes toward scholarships and mentoring for South Florida students.

Getting a Fishing License in Miami

You should now have an idea of where you want to fish and how you want to do it. You might even have signed up for a tournament. All you need now is a fishing license – unless you don’t.

If you’re fishing on a charter, saltwater licenses are covered by the boat. If you’re fishing from shore, on a kayak, or in freshwater, you’ll need a fishing license. You can find full details on how much they cost and where to buy them in our Florida license guide.

Fishing in Miami: A World of Opportunity

An aerial view of Miami looking out towards the sea

Miami really does have something for everyone. From its inland lakes to its offshore reefs, the city is surrounded by fish. Better still, you have a variety of ways to enjoy many of Miami’s fishing spots. So what are you waiting for? Head down to South Florida and see what the magic’s all about!

Have you ever been fishing in Miami? What did you catch, and how did you do it? What would your dream fishing trip look like? Let us know your plans and stories in the comments below!

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