As an angler, there’s a lot to love about Naples. The town is surrounded by mangroves and shallow flats. Head offshore, and you find endless reefs and wrecks teeming with life. Add in white sandy beaches perfect for surf fishing and inland canals full of exotic game fish, and you start to see why people love fishing in Naples so much.
There are a hundred ways to fish the Paradise Coast. Dozens of game fish to target. But which one is right for you? In this article, we break down everything that makes Naples such a great place to fish, with practical tips on what to catch, where to find them, and much, much more.
Top Fish Species in Naples
Naples is a true year-round fishery, where every month brings a new cast of characters. Spend the winter reeling in tasty Grouper. Spend the summer locked in battle with monster Tarpon. Whenever you visit, something will be biting hard. Here are a few of the top targets, and when you should visit to catch them.
This is Southwest Florida’s signature species. Huge, wary, incredibly tough – these guys have become the obsession of many seasoned anglers. The most famous Tarpon hotspots are up the coast around Boca Grande, but Naples also sees plenty of Silver Kings weighing well over 100 pounds.
Tarpon explode onto the scene in spring and stick around well into summer. April and May are great months to fish for them, before the crushing humidity of summer sets in. Once it does, fish at night – Tarpon are more active after dark, anyway.
Snook need no introduction among inshore anglers. They’re one of the true superstars of Florida’s shallow-water scene, famous for inhaling lures and doing their very best to never give them back. Unsurprisingly, they’re a local favorite in Naples.
You can catch Snook all year round on the Paradise Coast. However, they do tend to be less active in the winter. The best time to target them is March through October. The warmer the water gets, the more aggressive they become.
If you’re visiting in the winter (which most people are) some of the best fish to catch are Grouper. Black, Red, and Gag Grouper swarm the offshore reefs during the cooler months, making for a tough battle and a delicious dinner.
As well as the table fare, you can also take on a very different type of Grouper in Naples: monster Goliath Grouper. These guys can top 800 pounds, making them one of the biggest fish in the Gulf. Even so, they show up in surprisingly shallow water – people have even caught them from Naples Pier!
Freshwater enthusiasts, we haven’t forgotten you. The canals around Naples are home to both Largemouth and Peacock Bass. If you want to escape the crowds of beach-goers and enjoy a couple of hours of world-class angling, this is a great place to do it.
It doesn’t matter when you’re around, either. Largemouth and Peacock Bass tag each other out over most of the year. Peacocks like the water as hot as possible, so they’re at their best in summer. Largemouth are around most of the rest of the year, although they’re a little less active in the middle of winter.
Naples is home to a wide variety of Sharks. From Blacktips and Bonnetheads to Bulls and Tigers, these waters are the perfect place to take on the terrors of the sea. Smaller Sharks are a huge hit among kids. On the other end of the scale, nothing gets the adrenaline pumping like taking on a 12′ Tiger Shark.
Sharks are around all year in Naples. The bigger ones are more active in the summer, especially after dark. But if you just want to catch a couple of Bonnetheads with the family, you can reliably do so any time of year.
Best Ways to Fish Around Naples
You have three main ways to enjoy these waters. They vary based on your budget, the fish you want to target, and how many of them you want to catch. Here’s a run-down of the pros and cons of each style.
Boat and Charter Fishing
Fishing from a boat gives you the greatest flexibility on you trip. You can cover more ground, fish better spots, and carry much more equipment than you could fishing on foot. It’s also the only way to get at deeper-dwelling species like Grouper and Kingfish. Well, almost the only way, but more on that later.
Renting a fishing boat can be an effective way to explore the local area if you really know your stuff. If not, going on a fishing charter makes life a heck of a lot easier. Your captain will already know all the best spots and how to work them. They’ll provide you with fishing licenses, quality tackle and fresh bait, and will be on hand to help and advise you during your trip.
The obvious downside to renting a boat or going on a charter is the cost. Fishing charters cost several hundred dollars for a trip, and boat rentals don’t work out any cheaper once you factor in equipment, bait, and fuel. It can be well worth the money if there’s a group of you. If not, you can usually find a spot on a shared trip for less money.
If you have all your own equipment, the cheapest and simplest option is shore fishing. Naples has tons of beaches, bridges, and canals just begging for a cast. This is also a great option if you’re the only angler in your group. You can have a fun day at the beach without missing out on some awesome hookups.
Of course, this assumes that you have all your own equipment, and that you’ve brought it with you. Traveling with fishing gear can be problematic, but it’s completely doable. If you don’t bring your tackle, you’ll need to pick it up locally. This usually means buying a cheap combo from Walmart, which you’ll have to leave behind at the end of the trip.
Want to fish farther out but not big on boats? Head over to Naples Pier. At around 1,000 feet long, it’s the place to take on species that you couldn’t hope to catch from shore. People have been known to hook everything from Sheepshead and Redfish to Goliath Grouper and Sawfish here in the past!
You don’t need to pay to fish on the pier. In fact, you don’t even need a fishing license. You’ll need to bring all your own tackle, of course, but you can buy bait there. The pier also has places where you can clean your catch before taking it home. You won’t get the same action or quality that you’d find on a charter, but it’s as close as you can get for free.
Fishing Spots in Naples
You know what you want to catch. You know how you want to do it. Now you just need to know where to go. The truth is that you can’t go wrong wherever you drop your lines. At the same time, the best honey holes are closely-guarded secrets. That being said, we’ve put together a few good spots to point you in the right direction.
Boat Fishing Spots
- Dollar Bay: Just a stone’s throw south of town, Dollar Bay is a sprawling mess of shallow shoals and winding mangroves. This is real backcountry fishing. Spend a morning here to escape the crowds and fight big Snook, Sheepshead, Redfish, Flounder, and more.
- 10,000 Islands: This is where the Everglades meets the sea. It’s honestly one of the best inshore fisheries in Southwest Florida. Big Snook, Redfish, Tarpon, Trout, and so much more live here. It can be difficult to navigate if you don’t know the area, though.
- The Kidd: “The Kidd Wreck” is a sunken barge roughly 15 miles offshore from Naples. It’s a good spot for small Snapper and Barracuda. You can also find Goliath Grouper swimming around here if you fancy taking on something bigger.
- R Tower: Thirty miles west of town is a decommissioned radio tower which has become a thriving artificial reef. Permit, Kingfish, Cobia, Snapper, and Grouper all show up here. If nothing’s biting, work the waters around the tower looking for structure on your sounder.
Shore Fishing Spots
- Naples Pier: As mentioned above, Naples Pier really is one of the best places to fish for saltwater species. You can tailor what you target just by walking down to the other end of the pier. Expect Seatrout, Sheepshead, Pompano, Tripletail, and much more.
- The Posts: Don’t fancy fishing on a pier? How about casting around the ruins of one! “The Posts” are a set pilings left over from a previous pier. They hold Snook, Trout, and Reds. You might even find some Tarpon if you visit during the summer.
- Gordon’s Pass: If you don’t mind walking, this is one of the most beautiful fishing spots you could ever ask for. The jetties down near the pass hold Snapper, Snook, Jacks, Redfish, and Sharks. It’s a good mile from the nearest parking spot, though.
- Golden Gate Canal: Fancy trying out Naples’s famous canal fishing? A good place to start is around Golden Gate Community Park. There’s a boat ramp here, and a path running near the canal so you can try a few spots until you find the fish. Largemouth and Peacock Bass are the main targets, but you can also find various Panfish.
Naples Fishing Tournaments
All this fish talk got you feeling competitive? You’ll be pleased to hear that there are several fishing tournaments held throughout the year in Naples. They can be a great way to meet local anglers and maybe even bag a prize in the process.
The two main events in the Naples tournament calendar are the Spring Classic in April and its October counterpart, the Fall Open. The Spring Classic focuses entirely on Snook, while the Fall Open targets both Snook and Redfish. You can also take on Snook and Redfish while supporting local conservation at the RedSnook Charity Fishing Tournament in November.
Don’t want to limit yourself to the shallows? Head to Naples in June for the Inshore Offshore Wars. This event lets you sign up as either an inshore team, targeting Redfish and Snook, or an offshore one, going after Mangrove Snapper and Red Grouper. There’s a winner for each group, and an additional prize for the biggest fish relative to the species average.
When and How to Get a Fishing License
We won’t keep you off the water much longer, we promise. The last thing it’s important to cover is when you need a fishing license, and where you can get one. You don’t need a license if you’re fishing on a saltwater fishing charter, or from Naples Pier. Other than that, you do.
We have an entire guide to getting a Florida fishing license, where you can learn all the details. In short, you’ll need either a saltwater or freshwater license, depending on where you’re fishing. You can buy these from tackle shops, hardware stores, or licensed chains like Walmart. You can also buy one directly from the FWC by phone on 888-347-4356.
Fishing in Naples: A World of Opportunities
Naples has everything you could ask for on a fishing trip. Where else can you reel in huge Grouper in the morning, battle Bass in the afternoon, and still have plenty of time to fight Snook as the sun goes down? All this, in one of the most stunning parts of the country. When they named it the Paradise Coast, they weren’t kidding!
Have you ever been fishing in Naples? What did you catch, and how did you do it? Do you have any fishing spots to share? Let us know in the comments!