Fishing in St. Pete Beach: All You Need to Know
Aug 26, 2021 | 10 minute read Comments
4
Reading Time: 10 minutes

For some people, coming to west Florida means long sunny days and lounging on the beach. For avid anglers, it’s like coming to fishing wonderland. With bays, beaches, piers, and the Gulf of Mexico at your disposal, the biggest conundrum will be picking your location. If you’re looking for a spot that’s both diverse and beautiful, then fishing in St. Pete Beach could be just the thing for you.

An aerial view of St. Pete Beach

Inshore, nearshore, offshore, or deep sea fishing – St. Pete Beach has all fishing alternatives in spades.

Top Catches in St. Pete Beach

Where do we even start? With easy access to the Tampa Bay for inshore and nearshore action, and the Gulf of Mexico that hides just about every fish you want to catch, St. Pete Beach just keeps giving.

Head to grassy flats, bridges, and docks for a bit of family fun and a lot of good fish. Looking for a trophy catch? You’ve come to the right place. Further offshore, pelagics and massive bottom dwellers thrive. Here are just a few of the species that are local favorites.

Snook Is Always a Safe Bet

If we’re going to talk about the fantastic inshore bite, we have to start with the superstar of Tampa Bay – Snook. They’re excellent fighters available all year, which makes them perfect prey for just about anyone.

A charter captain and a child holding a Snook, close to the edge of the boat

These fellas might not have teeth, but they make up for it with strong headshakes and jumps, not to mention they can grow to be more than 40 inches long. Snook are also easily spooked, so getting one will require some stealth and patience. Because they come in all sizes, they’re a good fish to target if you’re out with your little ones.

Snook move around a lot, depending on the time of the year and tides. You’ll mostly find them around flats, mangrove shorelines, close to docks, and underwater structures. They’re not fond of heat, so in the middle of the summer, make sure to hit the water very early in the morning. You’ll also avoid the crowds!

Locals love going night fishing for Snook and if you’re up for a change of pace, you’ll like it too. This is an opportunity to land a lunker, especially from well-lit docks that attract baitfish and Snook with them.

Use light tackle to fight your prey and combine it with live bait such as shrimp and pilchard to attract Snook’s attention. After that, it’s fish on!

Nothing Fights Better Than Tarpon

Talking about fishing in St. Pete Beach without mentioning the almighty Tarpon just won’t do. Hundreds of anglers come to Tampa Bay to fight the “Silver King” during the peak season (May–July).

A man standing in crystal clear water holding a massive Tarpon

It’s not only in the summer that these impressive fish are available. Sometimes you can catch them as early as March, but that will be one of the “residential” Tarpon that sticks around in the local waters all year. With warmer weather come migrating Tarpon that can grow to be over 200 pounds, and these guys are the talk of the town.

They stop by Tampa Bay and St. Pete Beach, hungry and ready to fight, which is all any angler wants. Famous for their aerial acrobatics and headshakes that won’t quit, Tarpon are THE gamefish of the inshore waters. There are many charters that offer specialized Tarpon trips where you’ll spend a day on the flats of the bay, prowling for the catch of your life.

The number one priority for hooking the King is strong gear – because these fish don’t mess around. Fly fishermen are going to have a great time too, as long as they’re prepared for a good workout. Crabs and threadfin shad are by far the most productive live bait to attract a prized catch. If you’re not sure what to use, there are plenty of professional guides who will help you choose a winning setup.

So Many Snappers, So Little Time

Snappers are the belles of both inshore and offshore waters, and they’re a catch that everyone looks forward to. There are many Snapper species you can chase around Tampa Bay and in the open ocean – it all depends on where you’d like to go.

Six smiling anglers on shore, holding their catch of Snappers

Fishing is open year-round, which is one of many reasons why they’re so popular. In general, six species that are most commonly found are Mangrove, Mutton, Yellowtail, Vermilion, Lane, and of course, Red Snapper. All of them are fun to target, although some species like Red Snapper, have a strictly regulated fishing season.

If you’re sticking to the inshore waters, you have a good chance of catching Mangrove Snapper, along with the occasional Mutton and Yellowtail. Lane, Vermilion, and Red are more often found in deeper waters, around reefs and wrecks where they can ambush their food.

The good thing about Snappers is that some of them move around, and you can find them almost anywhere. Anglers looking for a bragworthy-sized Snapper will need to go further from the shore to find truly big specimens. They’re out there though, and ready to pounce.

And not only are Snappers beautiful and fun to catch, but they’re also delicious. When you’re done with fishing for the day, head home or to a restaurant and have the fruits of your work for dinner.

A Fieldtrip to Grouper Country

While Groupers might not be the most photogenic fish, they make up for that with their variety and tastiness. Plenty of Grouper species swim in the waters around St. Pete Beach and they’re one of the most popular catches over the year. Some fish like Gag and Black Grouper have closed seasons, but when you’re allowed to keep them, you won’t find a more scrumptious meal.

A fisherman in sunglasses holding a nice Gag Grouper with water in the background

Offshore, you’ll find Goliath, Red, and Scamp Grouper in all shapes and sizes, hanging around reefs, wrecks, and rocks. The same rules that go for Snappers apply to Groupers as well – the deeper you go, the bigger the fish will be. You can even find Snowy Grouper, but mostly in waters that are more than 500-feet deep.

Because these fish vary so much in size, practically anyone can go after them. Popular Gag and Black Grouper love to hang out in estuaries and bays, especially young females, where they’re available all year. You can find different Groupers in anywhere from 50–300 feet of water, and the depth will depend on the species you’re targeting.

Deep sea fishing trips out of St. Pete Beach are mostly reserved for bottom fishing, where you’ll go after the giants of the deep. This is where you can find some real monsters. Bottom fishing in federal waters is so popular here, that standard pelagic prizes like Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, and Tuna are considered “bycatch.”

Wherever you go decide to go, you’ll enjoy having a Grouper on the line and on the table later that day.

And So Much More…

Just looking at this list is enough to have you reaching for your rod, but this is just the best of the best. There’s so much potential when you go fishing in St. Pete Beach, that you’ll hardly know where to start.

A very happy fisherman standing on a boat, holding a massive King Mackerel

Inshore, Redfish, Bonefish, Spotted Seatrout, and Flounder are abundant. King and Spanish Mackerel have spring and fall runs when they swarm the beaches on their migration route, and this is where you can get your fill of excellent Mackerel action.

Nearshore, especially around reefs and wrecks, you’ll find Cobia, Sheepshead, Tripletail, Hogfish, Permit, Porgy, Grunt, as well as a wide array of Sharks. Much further out (30 miles or more), you can troll for Mahi Mahi, Sailfish, and Blackfin Tuna on your way to the best bottom fishing grounds.

Just as the old song goes, “Anything you want, you got it!” Come to St. Pete Beach and you can tick off almost all the fish on your bucket list.

Types of Fishing in St. Pete Beach

Wherever you cast your line in and around St. Pete Beach, you’ll probably have a good catch to show for it. It’s strongly recommended for newcomers to find a guide to show them around and find the best bite. Here’s what you can do while you’re here.

Surf Fishing

Three fishermen standing and fishing in the surf

If you don’t want to leave the land to catch yourself something good, you’ll have a lot of fun surf fishing. Locals also call it wade fishing, because it includes walking along the beach, kneehigh in the surf, casting as you go.

This is a good choice for solo anglers looking to enjoy the solid bite of Snook, Redfish, Trout, and Flounder. You don’t need any special equipment either, a spinning rod with a simple jig setup will do the trick. If you need a one-size-fits-all bait, you can’t go wrong with using live shrimp.

Considering the name of the town, it’s hardly a surprise that beaches here are incredible. They make for perfect spots to get your fill of light fishing, which might just as well bring you dinner.

Pier Fishing

An elderly woman and man looking happy, fishing from a pier

Anglers who don’t have a boat spend their days on piers, that allow better access to deeper waters and a more varied catch. Piers are easily reachable by car and usually have everything you need right there. From directions and bait to tackle rental and lunch, local piers are the place to be.

Merry Pier is one of the better-known piers in St. Pete Beach, and it’s very convenient for beginners and pros alike. Spotted Seatrout, Sheepshead, and Flounder are all on the menu, as well as Bonnethead Sharks and Cobia. If by some chance you don’t catch anything, head to the pier’s fish market and treat yourself nevertheless.

Another famous location is Skyway Fishing Pier State Park, also known as the longest fishing pier on the planet. Open 24/7 and perfect for people with a car, Skyway Pier is a longtime favorite among St. Pete Beach locals and visitors alike. From here, you can fish for Tarpon, King Mackerel, Snapper, Grouper, and more.

Fishing with a Charter

Two toddlers fishing from a boat with their backs turned to the camera

No matter how much you know about fishing, going out with a skilled charter captain will always be a learning experience. Guides around St. Pete Beach are masters of the local waters, so their advice and knowledge of the best spots are invaluable.

Don’t forget that you can reach more fishing grounds from a boat and target more species. The calm, shallow waters of Tampa Bay are ideal for family fishing trips. Tarpon hunters should bear in mind that specialized Tarpon trips are always sought after, so if you’re coming during the peak season, make sure to book well in advance.

Serious anglers can book 10–12-hour expeditions deep into the Gulf and fish for giants 70–100 miles from land. You can also join a shared charter (party boat), that is ideal for casual anglers looking to cast a few lines, typically within 20-30 miles of shore.

Whatever you’re in the mood for, there will be a charter to help you make the most of your time on the water.

Top Fishing Spots in St. Pete Beach

An aerial view of the Pass-A-Grille Beach

Finding a fishing spot on St. Pete Beach won’t be hard. The town is surrounded by productive waters that are the playground of a slew of gamefish. Here are just some of the destinations to visit while you’re here.

  • Pass-A-Grille Beach. If you’re interested in shopping, relaxing, and surf fishing, this is a place for you. A variety of inshore species is there for the taking, not to mention you get to enjoy awe-inspiring beach sunsets.
  • The Gulf Pier. Located in Fort De Soto Park, this pier is over 1,000-feet long, and famous for its good fishing. Here, you can look forward to catching Pompano, Mackerel, Permit, and Ladyfish.
  • Fred Howard Park. An excellent spot for wade fishing, where you could actually land a Tarpon without leaving the shore. Other inshore gamefish like Redfish, Snook, and Trout are also on the cards.
  • Sunshine Skyway Fishing Pier. Even though we already mentioned it, we simply can’t skip the Skyway Pier, as it is one of the most popular fishing destinations in St. Pete Beach. Come to the pier for a variety of nearshore species and stay for its beauty and peace.
  • Weedon Island Preserve. If you love kayak fishing, you’ll love it here – there’s a kayak launch and a 4-mile trail where you can fish for Trout, Spanish Mackerel, and Ladyfish. Fishing from the mangrove-lined shore and bay boats are also possible.

Fishing Licenses and Regulations

A sign showing that fishing license is required

Just like everywhere else in Florida, you’re going to require a valid Florida fishing license before you set out to fish. St. Pete Beach fishing charters include all the necessary licenses into the price of your trip so that you don’t have to handle that part. However, if you plan to keep a Snook, you’ll need a special stamp that you should buy even when you’re fishing with a charter.

It’s also important to consider local fishing regulations. Species such as Red Snapper and Gag Grouper are closed to harvest during certain periods, which can change yearly. Your captain will help you follow the rules and fish responsibly.

Fishing in St. Pete Beach – An Adventure You’ve Been Waiting For

A view from the water of a marina in St. Pete Beach

In St. Pete Beach, there’s nothing you can’t catch, if you know where and when to go. This is a captivating lively town that combines the best of what the Sunshine State has to offer – stunning beaches, inspiring views, and fishing action that you’ll never forget.

For passionate angling souls, this is about as good as it can get. Try it for yourself and leave space to be wowed!

What are your experiences of fishing in St. Pete Beach? Do you have a special hotspot you like? Any advice or stories you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below.

Comments (4)
  • Big Daddy of Twin Daughters

    May 12, 2021

    So, I am planning on doing some fishing this coming June 17th through the 20th out in the St.Pete Beach area as part of my family’s annual Fathers Day week celebration. So, here is my question, so long as you have the required fishing license, can you surf fish at night along St. Pete Beach/ Clearwater area? And can you fish at night at JOhn’s Pass? I remember our last vacation to the St. Pete Beach/Clearwater area we saw a lot of people fishing during the day from the docks other places a long John’s Pass, I just did’nt know if they allowed night fishing, I am trying to save money from not having to pay to fish on that Pier 60 at night……

    Leave a reply
    NameRequired *
    Your comment Required *

    • Reply icon

      Iva

      May 14, 2021

      Hi there,

      Thanks for your comment! As far as I can tell, surf fishing at night along St. Pete Beach/ Clearwater is not a problem. As for John’s Pass, it’s probably best to consult with the locals when you get there. It should be fine, but no clear information is available online. Hope I was able to help!

      Enjoy your family trip and tight lines!

      Leave a reply
      NameRequired *
      Your comment Required *

  • Ray

    Feb 21, 2021

    i like to fish from shore under bridges. (when not on a boat).
    where can you access bridges or piers from st pete up to say Homosassaa.?

    Leave a reply
    NameRequired *
    Your comment Required *

    • Reply icon

      Andriana

      Feb 22, 2021

      Hello Ray,

      There are plenty of bridges that offer solid fishing opportunities, whether you fish from the bridge itself or under it. The first choice would be Sunshine Skyway Bridge, of course, known for its top-notch fishing. There’s also the Fishing Bridge in St. Petersburg and you can find a decent bite in these parts of the city in general.

      If you take US Route 19 to Homosassa, you’ll find several bridges on the way, most of them suited for casting a line. Bayside Bridge and bridges over the Old Tampa Bay are good options. Further north, you’ll find bridges over Anclote and Pithlachascotee Rivers, and countless productive lakes all the way to Homosassa. Basically, a smorgasbord of fishing spots for you to pick and choose.

      I hope you have a great time exploring these gorgeous areas.

      Tight lines,
      Andriana

      Leave a reply
      NameRequired *
      Your comment Required *

    Leave a reply
    NameRequired *
    Your comment Required *