Fishing in Tarpon Springs: All You Need to Know
Aug 30, 2021 | 8 minute read
Reading Time: 8 minutes

While its name might suggest otherwise, fishing in Tarpon Springs is as diverse as it gets. From Tarpon and Snook to Snapper and sponges (more on that later), there’s something here for almost every type of angler. In fact, you’ll be surprised by just how unique this little city is.

An aerial view of Tarpon Springs, Florida, during the daytime

For example, one of the first things you’ll notice is the Mediterranean look and feel of the whole place. This is because Tarpon Springs has the largest percentage of Greek Americans out of any other place in the States. Enjoy some next-level hospitality, try some excellent Greek food, and head on out for some top-notch fishing.

Top Catches in Tarpon Springs

Whether you scour the coastal mangroves for Redfish, hit the Gulf in search of Red Snapper, or anything in between – Tarpon Springs has you covered. While the possibilities are almost endless, we settled on these top five fish species you can have a go at in these waters.

Tarpon

Three anglers smiling as they hold a large Tarpon they just reeled in

When a city gets named after a fish, you can bet that’s the one we’re starting our list with. Naturally, the “Silver King” is the undisputed ruler of the inshore waters and he’s no pushover. Notorious for their acrobatics and dogged determination to break your line, these shiny beasts will make sure you break a sweat if nothing else.

Summer is peak Tarpon season, and that’s when you can expect a whole bunch of anglers from all over the country to drive down south and bow to the King. A word to the wise: stick with live bait like mullet, crab, or shrimp if it’s your first time going after Tarpon. When you get a feel for how they behave, you can try a fly fishing setup for the ultimate challenge.

Snook

An angler standing on a boat and holding a Snook he just caught

While not as flashy as its royal counterpart, Snook is one of Florida’s favorite game fish for a reason. Fun to catch, available year-round, and easy to find all over the local fishery – what more can you ask for?

As with Tarpon, fishing for Snook is catch-and-release only in this part of the country, all the way down to Venice and Cape Coral. They’re popular with fly anglers, but regular light tackle fishing with live bait or jigs works just as well. You can easily spook them if you’re not careful, so try to be as stealthy as possible.

Redfish

An angler sitting on a boat and holding a Redfish he caught while his dog curiously approaches it

You can’t really talk about inshore fishing anywhere on the Gulf Coast without paying respect to the good old Red Drum. Nothing brightens up a day like reeling in a big Bull Red first thing in the morning. The best time for going after these delicious fish is anywhere between March and November.

Redfish is a great option for anglers taking their first steps into the wonderful world of fishing. Head out into the shallows, bring some shrimp or crab, and make sure to use long casts so you don’t spook your future lunch away. When it gets cold in the winter, expect them to retreat into deeper waters of at least 4 feet deep until springtime.

Red Snapper

A tired angler holds up a Red Snapper he caught while holding onto his rod with his teeth

There’s a reason why so many anglers will pay good money for offshore trips where they can target this famous bottom-feeder. It’s one of the most delicious fish you’ll ever eat, and has strict regulations in place to prevent overfishing. If you find yourself fishing in Tarpon Springs at the right time – we highly recommend it!

To find these reef-dwelling superstars when the season opens, expect to travel at least 20-30 miles offshore. Some of the best spots are twice as far out, but you’ll find it well worth the trip. Red Snapper will jump all over bait like pinfish or sardines, so stock up before you head out.

Largemouth Bass

A father and son hold up the Largemouth Bass they caught on Lake Tarpon

Last, but certainly not least, we have the only freshwater species on our list. Even though the place isn’t named after it, Tarpon Springs has some of the best Largemouth Bass fishing in Florida. While 2–4 lb Bass are the norm, even 7–10 lb catches are nothing unusual.

Their spawning season runs from December through April, with February and March being the absolute best months of the year to go fishing on the lake. This is good old-fashioned Bass fishing, so no need to get flashy with your gear. Wild shiners are as useful as ever, but lipless crankbats and chatterbaits can get the job done just as well.

Types of Fishing in Tarpon Springs

The sheer variety of fishing in these parts means you have all the freedom you need to fish on your terms. Whether you’re looking for non-stop action aboard a charter or a more leisurely day of exploration on a kayak or on foot, you won’t be disappointed.

Charter Fishing

A center console boat floating on the water somewhere near Tarpon Springs

We’ll kick off with easily the most hassle-free way to fish – on a licensed charter boat with a captain who knows his stuff. For group trips with family and friends, nothing beats a spacious boat where you can relax, have a few drinks, and catch some fish for the cooler. There’s also no need to worry about logistics like getting the right gear, making sure the bait is fresh, or that you have the right license.

The same goes if you’re a fan of deep sea fishing and want to try your hand at fishing for the likes of Red Snapper or the various Billfish in the Gulf. There are plenty of charter captains around who specialize in those types of offshore trips and can show you an unforgettable time.

Kayak Fishing

A pair of anglers paddling on their two green kayaks

With flats and backcountry waters being so widespread in Tarpon Springs, a kayak is a convenient way to move around. You’ll find the local parks and docks to be kayak-friendly areas for that very reason. With easy access to Redfish, Trout, Snook, and other inshore species, it’s a fun option for beginners and experienced anglers alike.

If you don’t have your own, you can find several rental services that offer both regular and tandem kayaks. For a more thorough approach, you can also hire a guide to show you the local honeyholes and places of interest.

Surf Fishing

Two boys fishing from a wooden bridge

Nobody said you actually have to head out on the water if you want a good time fishing. Having solid ground under your feet works just as well. You can take your pick from parks, causeways and beaches, with some scenic views to boot. Of course, if you’re more of a freshwater angler, Lake Tarpon is big, productive, and easy to reach from the city center.

For a truly memorable surf fishing experience in Tarpon Springs, we’d recommend you check out Honeymoon Island. With miles of open beachfront, you can get away from all the hustle and bustle of city life to cast your line in peace.

Sponge Fishing

Natural sponges displayed on a Tarpon Springs sponging boat

Before you get the wrong idea, sponge fishing does not involve using sponges to catch fish (as cool as that might sound). Rather, this million-dollar business is one of the bedrocks of the local economy. Also known as sponging, it first started out with boat crews using long poles to hook sponges from the bottom.

Fast forward a few decades and you have professional divers going down to harvest sponges much more effectively than before. Today, you can take part in this cherished tradition yourself – albeit as an observer. Even so, watching sponge divers in action with their brass helmets and air pumps is something you can only see in Tarpon Springs.

Where to Fish in Tarpon Springs

An aerial shot of the Tarpon Springs docks area

The main fishing locations in Tarpons Springs are as clear cut as can be. To the east, you have all the freshwater fishing you could want thanks to Lake Tarpon and a network of smaller creeks and rivers. The saltwater is to the west, with the bayous and flats eventually opening up to the blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Great fishing opportunities are abound, so let’s take a look at some of our favorites:

  • Saint Joseph Sound. St. Joseph Sound and its plentiful bayous make up the bread and butter of the local fishing scene. From Redfish and Flounder to Tarpon and Snook, you’ll find something to do here all year long. Fly anglers will especially find this network of flats irresistible for casting flies day in and day out.
  • Fred Howard Park. Located at the northern edge of the sound, you have an excellent surf fishing location in the form of Fred Howard Park and beach area. The two are separated by a mile-long causeway, with the surrounding waters being popular kayak fishing hotspots.
  • Pop Stansell Park. If you’re into kayak fishing, Pop Stansell Park is another good pick to launch from. The launch area is big and easily accessible, so you can be out on the water in no time. To start off, paddle out and hit the mangroves near the docks, making your way south as you see fit.
  • Middle Grounds. When people talk about how good deep sea fishing in Tarpon Springs is, they’re likely talking about the Middle Grounds. Located some 80 miles into the Gulf, this is where you’ll find some big Red Snapper, Amberjack, Gag Grouper, Blackfin Tuna, and much more. A definite must for any self-respecting offshore enthusiast.
  • Lake Tarpon. Talk about misleading! Contrary to its name, Lake Tarpon is a first-class Largemouth Bass fishery. In fact, the FWC considers it among the best in the entire state of Florida! Do yourself a favor and check out these 2,534 acres of freshwater fishing goodness.

Fishing Licenses and Regulations

An infographic that says Tarpon Springs Fishing Regulations - What you need to know on a blue background with the Florida state flag above and the image of a boat below the text

Before you can actually start reeling some fish in Tarpon Springs, you’ll need to make sure you’re familiar with the local rules and regulations. When going out on your own, whether on foot or using a boat or kayak, you’ll need a fishing license. If you booked a trip with a saltwater charter, the required licenses will be included in the trip price.

Keep in mind that there are fish species that either have strictly regulated seasonality (like Red Snapper) or are catch-and-release only unless you have a special permit (like Tarpon and Snook). For more info on state-wide fishing regulations and changes, it’s always a good idea to consult with the FWC website.

Tarpon Springs – Sponges, Souvlaki, and Snapper

A statue of a sponge diver in Tarpon Springs, Florida, with docked boats in the background

What happens when you take a city bustling with Greek cultural heritage and add some fantastic fishing into the mix? For starters, you get an unforgettable summer holiday destination. And if you’re lucky, some big tasty fish to boot. Drive down to Tarpon Springs and see for yourself why the name has stuck since the beginning.

Have you ever been to Tarpon Springs? Any luck reeling in a Silver King? Let us know about your experience in the comments below!

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