South Florida Fishing: All You Need to Know
Sep 28, 2020 | 9 minute read
Reading Time: 9 minutes

If you’re looking to venture out of the city and away from the hustle and bustle, we’ve got just what you need! The wilderness of the Sunshine State is calling out to be explored, and a South Florida fishing adventure is one of the most sought-after experiences in the country. Surrounded by nature on all sides, you’ll get to unwind and let your hair down while having the time of your life.

Boats on the sandbar in the Florida Keys in South Florida

If you want to stay in the city and still find peace of mind by casting a line, it’s got that as well. Some of the major cities, like Miami and Fort Lauderdale, have amazing fishing opportunities right on their doorsteps. You can have a great city adventure while also reeling in some prized fish.

South Florida is known for a lot of things – stunning beaches, beautiful subtropical landscapes, winter resorts, and unique wildlife. But fishing here stands out as a beloved activity, making for one of the best ways to spend time in nature. This part of the state is a real mix of what Florida is all about, the old and the new, the laid-back and the fast-paced. Everyone can easily find themselves here, so read on and see where you fit in!

What to Catch

With such a rich ecosystem, it’s no wonder that South Florida offers some of the most exciting fishing opportunities. You’ll find every type of habitat imaginable, with easy access to prolific waters. Flats, backcountry, mangroves, as well as reefs, wrecks, and the open waters – there’s really something for everyone!

An infographic showing the top fish targets in South Florida, including Snook, Tarpon, Redfish, Trout, Largemouth Bass, Red Snapper, Grouper, Mahi, Marlin, Sailfish, and more

Tarpon

The “Silver King” has a long-standing reputation of being the most sought-after fish in Florida. This is the game fish on everyone’s lips, and it just so happens that South Florida is the best place to go after it. And if you’re wondering why, it’s simple. It’s nestled right in the middle of their migration path, so you get unique access.

A man holding a Tarpon on a boat in Islamorada

The “Tarpon Capital of the World” is Boca Grande, a fishing village on Gasparilla Island. Every year, it attracts thousands of tourist anglers from all over the world, all looking to break some Tarpon records. The Keys are another must-visit place if you’re looking for big Tarpon. The fight this stunning fish puts up is considered the challenge of a lifetime, so get ready for sore arms!

Snook

Easily the most recognizable Florida inshore game fish, Snook has long been a beloved creature among locals. Why do they enjoy it so much? For starters, its rich, tasty meat will have your mouth watering in seconds. Combine that with great game qualities, and this one will leave you wanting more.

A man holding a big Snook on a boat in Jupiter, Florida

Snook fishing in South Florida is a memorable adventure. With so many shallow flats, rivers, and structure, you’ll have no issue finding the perfect spot to sink your line. This fish prefers warm waters, so Marco Island and the Ten Thousand Islands, as well as the Everglades and the Keys are ideal places to visit.

Redfish

Our list of Florida’s most iconic species wouldn’t be complete without Redfish. What makes it special? Well, it’s the perfect target for both newbies and more experienced anglers. It’s feisty, so reeling it in is fun, and it’s tasty, so a delicious meal is reward enough for your efforts.

A man holding a big Redfish in the waters of Port Charlotte

And if you’re wondering where to go, the Ten Thousand Islands and the Fort Myers/Cape Coral area are a great starting point. The shallow flats and mangroves hold great numbers of big Red Drum, and you’ll find them in the nooks and crannies of these areas. The Everglades and the Keys are also worth visiting.

Spotted Seatrout

This list is turning into a Florida favorites compilation, and with good reason. While all of the above-mentioned fish are great targets, none of them are more beginner-friendly than Spotted Seatrout. If you’re out and about, exploring the wilderness with your family, don’t hesitate to test the waters. Kids have a great time targeting Trout, and you’ll have amazing memories to look back upon.

A man holding a Speckled Trout on a boat in the waters of Miami in the fall

And once again, the Ten Thousand Islands come through! These mangrove-filled waters are the perfect Trout habitat, and you might even find big “Gator” Trout to break some personal records. Head out and get some nice family time in, while enjoying the stunning scenery of the area.

Snapper and Grouper

What do Snapper and Grouper have in common? They all make for mouthwatering table fare. And if you think these creatures aren’t that exciting to reel in, think again! They put up a surprising fight at the end of a line, trying to break out and escape. Head on over to the Gulf Stream and the Atlantic to target some big ones.

A man holding a big Red Snapper on a boat in Florida

And with the reef-rich Gulf waters kissing the shores of Southwest Florida, as well as a bunch of mangrove-filled shallows, you’ll be able to find them in a variety of habitats. Yellowtail, Mangrove, Red, and Vermilion Snapper are all in the cards, as well as Red, Gag, Black, and the mighty Goliath Grouper.

Bass

Here’s one for you freshwater enthusiasts out there. There’s no Florida fishing without the signature Largemouth Bass. Where do you find it? Well, Lake Okeechobee, “Florida’s Inland Sea,” is a great starting point. It’s big and rich, so you’ll have no issue finding a good spot.

A man holding a Largemouth Bass in Florida

Lake Okeechobee actually feeds all of Everglades with fresh water, so heading down to explore this national park is another great adventure to take. You’ll find great spots to sink a line on the way, and big Bass will prove to be a nice end to a day in nature. If you’re looking for colorful Peacock Bass, head on over to the west side around Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

And More!

With so much water in South Florida, there’s no end to what you can run into. The deep offshore waters are worth visiting, as you’ll end up reeling in Mahi Mahi, Tuna, Sailfish, Marlin, Amberjack, Cobia, and many more. The shallows are just as prolific, holding Bonefish, Sharks, Sheepshead, Pompano, Permit, Flounder, Jacks… and you’ll have to come and discover the rest on your own!

A man and a woman holding a big Mahi Mahi on a boat in Florida

How to Fish

So now you know what you want to go after. But how do you go about it? Depending on your targets, there’s a variety of ways you can get out on the water in South Florida. Keep on reading to find out what your fishing adventure will look like.

Charter Fishing

Probably the king of fishing, charter fishing is hands-down the most productive way of exploring South Florida. Heading out on a boat gives you a lot of freedom as you can cover a lot of ground in little time, and you can visit some of the hard-to-reach spots. A flats boat is a great choice if you’re enjoying a day of shallow-water fishing, while a powerful sportfishing boat will quickly take you to the deep offshore waters.

A typical waterfront community in South Florida with docked fishing boats on the water

Another advantage of booking a charter boat is the fact that you’ll get to go out with a professional charter captain. A local captain is a great asset to have if you’re not familiar with the area. They have experience and knowledge, and they’ll make sure you’re fishing within the law. They’ll also make sure your bags are filled!

Party Boat Fishing

One of the most popular ways of exploring South Florida is by hitching a ride on a party boat. The locals love it, and for good reason. It gives you all the advantages of booking a charter boat, but without breaking the bank. This affordable alternative is basically a shared fishing charter where you can go out and have fun with fellow anglers.

A white sportfishing yacht fishing in South Florida

The only downside to this experience is the fact that the captain will have less time to dedicate to you, but your new angling buddies can more than make up for that. You can cover a lot of ground and fill the bags, all while having a great time making new friends and sharing your knowledge and experiences.

Kayak Fishing

If you’re looking for a true Florida adventure, hopping in a kayak and heading out to the shallows is a great idea. The waters of South Florida are made to be explored by kayak – the abundance of calm inshore flats and mangroves make this an amazing experience. You’ll get up close and personal with the stunning untamed nature, and you’ll never be the same.

Man fishing on a kayak in the sea with clear turquoise water

Everglades City is a great place to visit if you’re looking for an exciting kayak fishing adventure. You’ll find a variety of rental places and exploring the Ten Thousand Islands is best done this way. Not to mention the Keys! These stunning tropical waters are a feast to enjoy by doing some kayak fishing.

Shore Fishing

Surf fishing is an unmissable experience when you’re in South Florida. And with beaches like that, why wouldn’t you try it out? One of the best surf fishing spots is the iconic Fort Myers Beach, where you’ll find fellow anglers dotted along the shore. Also, don’t forget the bridges! With water everywhere you go, you’ll find great action (Tarpon fishing anyone?) under bridges all across the area.

Beautiful Crandon Park Beach located in Key Biscayne in Miami

If you’re just looking for a day of relaxing and soaking up the sun, it’s easy to find a spot to sink a line wherever you go. Visit the Everglades to let your hair down, open a cold drink, and wait for all the prized fish to bite. But don’t get too relaxed – when they bite, they mean business! You’re in for a fight, but also a treat.

Where to Go

You already got a glimpse of some of the great places to visit, but let’s elaborate on that. With such a vast area, fishing opportunities are abundant, so narrowing it down to a few wasn’t easy. But we’ve tried! Keep on reading to find your next fishing spot.

An infographic showing a map of South Florida with top fishing spots, including the Keys, Boca Grande, Fort Myers/Cape Coral, the Everglades, Lake Okeechobee, and Miami
  • The Keys: Starting big, the Florida Keys are a unique adventure every angler should experience. This tropical paradise will have you reeling in every species imaginable, all while enjoying a beautiful, relaxing vacation.
  • Boca Grande: This one’s famous! Seriously, anglers from all over the world come to Boca Grande in the summer to go after big Tarpon on their migration route. This is why it’s known as the “Tarpon Capital of the World.”
  • Fort Myers/Cape Coral: This is an interesting area you can explore if you’re looking for a relaxing holiday with exciting fishing. The Caloosahatchee River and the canals are abundant, and Fort Myers Beach is a tropical fishing haven.
  • The Everglades: The last true wilderness of Florida is waiting for you to explore it. Head on down to this unique ecosystem, and you’ll get a rich natural experience, all with a rod in your hand and prized fish like Snook, Redfish, Trout, and Bass at the end of your line.
  • Lake Okeechobee: This mighty lake probably has some of the best freshwater fishing in Florida. Feeding all of the Everglades, the “Big O” is a major Largemouth Bass destination, with Crappie and Bluegill also biting.
  • Miami: For deep sea fishing enthusiasts, there’s hardly a better place to head out from. Visit the famous Sailfish Alley and reel in monsters like Sailfish, Wahoo, Tuna, and Mahi Mahi, all with the city’s skyline as the backdrop!

Considering the size of South Florida and all the fishing opportunities it offers, this is just a brief overview. Feel free to check out the matching blog posts to find your perfect spot!

Seasons and Regulations

The best part of fishing in South Florida is that you can literally do it whenever! The favorable climate, the stunning nature, and its convenient position make it a great year-round fishery. With that in mind, you’ll find fishing opportunities throughout the year, but summer tends to be the peak season for most prized game fish.

White "fishing prohibited" sign on a wooden fence overlooking the water in Florida

Keep in mind that while the fishing is great all year round, it’s not always allowed. We recommend following the FWC website for information on specific rules and regulations. Some species like Tarpon and Red Snapper have different seasons depending on the year, so it’s always a good idea to double-check and make sure you’re fishing within the law.

Why South Florida? It’s the Laid-Back Fishing Haven!

What makes South Florida such a big fishing destination? For starters, it has amazing weather throughout the year. Another reason is the abundance of nature and the lack of urban development, making it a secluded natural gem. And if you need more convincing, the fishing is unparalleled, with an abundance of species and rich wildlife. You have to see it to believe it!

Aerial view of the Ten Thousand Islands in the Everglades National Park

Have you ever been fishing in South Florida? Are you planning a trip there in the future? Tell us all about it in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

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