Often overlooked for Daytona Beach and New Smyrna Beach, the Ponce Inlet fishing scene easily rivals that of its neighbors. “How?” you ask? Well, it sits on a barrier island that’s literally surrounded by water. The Halifax River, Indian River, and Atlantic Ocean all come together to create diverse inland fishing and plenty of bluewater opportunities.
Marked by notable landmarks, including a 1,000′ jetty and the tallest standing lighthouse in Florida, there’s no shortage of sites to see and spots to fish from. We’ve crafted this guide to give you the necessary know-how to take advantage of it all. From fishing seasons and tournaments to fisheries near and far, the details of your Ponce Inlet adventure await. Let’s dive in!
Ponce Inlet Fish Species
You could say that Ponce Inlet fishing has it all. It consists of a great mix of inshore grounds, easily accessible by boat or from shore, as well as opportunities to explore the Atlantic’s offshore playground. Whether you’re looking to fill the cooler with delicious fish or break a sweat reeling in a trophy, Ponce Inlet delivers.
Fishermen across the Daytona Beach area will tell you that Ponce Inlet is the place to go if you’re after trophy Redfish. Come October, big schools of Atlantic mullet start to move inland, luring Bull Reds into the inlet. These monster fish come in at between 20–50+ pounds and require some serious muscle power to reel in.
They aren’t picky eaters, either – both live and artificial bait do the trick here. Dragging whatever bait you’re using along the bottom is a proven tactic for success! Although catch and release is mandatory for Bull Reds over 27 inches, you’ll also hook into plenty of smaller specimens to take home.
Few reef fish are more delicious than Snapper and, while we don’t usually play favorites, Red Snapper has to be the tastiest of them all. Although the Atlantic season has gotten notably shorter over the years, the reefs in Ponce Inlet are consistently productive. Reeling in extra-large fish, weighing between 20–40 pounds, isn’t a rare occurrence.
There’s also Mangrove Snapper on the menu. What is lacks in size compared to its bright red counterpart, it makes up for in taste – and much more relaxed fishing regulations. Mangos residing in Ponce Inlet are abnormally large. You’re looking at hooking into 10-pounders in the nearshore and offshore reefs!
If you plan on staying inshore, you won’t miss out either. The Mangos may be smaller here but you can still hook into keepers around and from the jetties. Hook your limit of five per day and go home happy.
Sheepshead fishing in Ponce Inlet offers up something for everyone. These black and white fish start to roll into inshore waters in early winter and hit peak season in March. Did we mention they’re delicious? You can keep up to 8 fish per day, just make sure they’re over 12 inches.
There’s plenty of action around the docks and seawalls making these fish a great target – regardless of whether you’re on shore or aboard a boat. Sheepshead fishing is a great time to bust out your bottom sweeper jigs. Stick a fiddler crab on the end and watch the magic happen!
Mahi and More!
Most anglers who head to Ponce Inlet get their fill of action inshore and in the reefs. This doesn’t mean that great bluewater fishing opportunities don’t exist. You’ll need to travel about 40 miles offshore to reach the Gulf Stream but once you’re there, things get really exciting!
There are plenty of opportunities to troll and deep sea fish for Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, Blackfin Tuna, and even Sailfish! You’ll have your best shot at Mahi Mahi and Wahoo during the warmer months, while fishing for Sailfish and Blackfin Tuna is best reserved for the winter.
Remember that mullet we mentioned earlier? Redfish aren’t the only dinner guests at that feast. Jack Crevalle, Bluefish, and a variety of inshore Sharks come to dine in schools, giving you plenty of opportunities to hook into even more fish.
What’s more, the mangroves lining the Indian and Halifax Rivers are home to a healthy population of Snook and Spotted Seatrout. After a Florida inshore slam? This may be the place to get it done! If you didn’t find what you were looking for, check out our full fishing calendar here.
How to Fish in Ponce Inlet
It’s pretty obvious that there are a ton of different fish to hook into in Ponce Inlet’s waters. Here are a couple of methods you can use to get your hands on them!
If you’re looking to hit a few different spots and explore more than one diverse fishery, a charter boat is your best bet. Plus, you’ll have an experienced local guide with you to help make your day a success!
Hopping aboard a vessel is also your only option if you’re heading into the Gulf Stream for big pelagic fish. The same goes for hooking Red Snapper and other bottom-dwelling fish in the nearshore and offshore reefs. You can catch many inshore fish from shore, but your best bet for Bull Reds is launching out of a boat ramp in the Ponce de Leon Inlet.
Party Boat Fishing
A party boat is a great choice for anglers on a budget or anyone looking forward to meeting other passionate fishermen/women. Much like fishing aboard a charter boat, you’ll have the option to change locations with relative ease.
That said, you won’t have as much freedom or 1-on-1 attention as you would on a private charter. However, it’s still a great way to explore the many productive reefs surrounding Ponce Inlet.
Home to a 1000′ jetty, as well as many public docks, Ponce Inlet offers shore fishing that easily measures up to fishing from a boat. Set up on the inlet or surfside and you’ll have a whole host of targets on your hands.
You’ll find Black Drum, Pompano, Sheepshead, Flounder, Snook, and even Tarpon on the other end of your line. Like with most fishing that happens around structures, it’s important to follow the baitfish your targets are after. Get out to the jetties at dawn or dusk, when big schools of mullet tend to make a push, for your best shot at success.
Fishing Spots in Ponce Inlet
Now that you know what you’re after, it’s time to set up in the perfect spot. From inshore fishing to deep sea drops, we’ve singled out a couple of areas you might want to consider exploring.
- The Ponce Inlet Jetty: Located within Lighthouse Point Park, this 1,000′ jetty is an incredibly popular spot among anglers. You’ll hook into Black Drum, Flounder, and Bluefish, here. If you’re fishing surfside be sure to bring plenty of tackle – many fishing lines have fallen victim to the rocky landscape!
- Ponce de Leon Inlet: This is where all the inshore action happens. Hop on a charter and start for your search for Bull Redfish, Sheepshead, Mangrove Snapper, Sharks, and more. There are also plenty of public docks suitable for shore fishing.
- Inlet Harbor: The epicenter of fishing in Ponce Inlet. Facing the Halifax River, it’s home to several marinas and restaurants. If you’re heading on an offshore trip, this is likely where you’ll launch from. The Inlet Harbor Marina also hosts the annual King of the Inlet Offshore Fishing Tournament.
- Party Grounds: Located about 35 miles offshore, the Party Grounds offer unparalleled reef and bottom fishing. Come July and August this natural ledge becomes a hotspot for big Red Snapper, Grouper, and Sharks. On your way there, it’s also worth spending some time at the “Mango Hole.”
- Rolldown: If you’re after big game fish, look no further than the Rolldown. This system of natural ledges requires significant travel time, it’s about 40–55 miles offshore, but the journey is well worth it. The seafloor plummets from 200 to 2000 feet and is home to Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, and Kingfish.
Annual Events and Local Regulations
One of the best things about fishing in Florida is the great year-round weather. Ponce Inlet is no different! The bite is consistent throughout the seasons and the town hosts a few notable annual events. There are, however, some important regulations and fishing seasons to bear in mind before you head out.
If you’re an avid offshore angler you won’t want to miss the King of the Inlet Offshore Fishing Tournament. Consisting of three one-day tournaments, it’s hands down the biggest fishing event in the area and runs annually between May and June. Each tournament can be fished individually or you can try to claim all three, earning yourself the title of “King of the Inlet.”
The Lady Angler Tournament gives fisherwomen a chance to shine! The winners of this one-day tournament, taking place in June, will reel in a Bull or Cow Dolphin (Mahi Mahi) and be rewarded with a handsome cash prize.
Fishing Regulations and Seasons
If you’re fishing aboard a saltwater charter or party boat, the captain will cover your license. Heading out on your own? You’ll need to go online or visit a local FWC vendor to purchase a license for anglers between the ages of 16–64. If you need more details, we’ve got a whole article dedicated to Florida fishing licenses.
In terms of regulations, most Atlantic Grouper is off-limits until May 1. Fishing for Snook is also forbidden from Dec 15–Jan 15 and June 1–Aug 31. However, these seasons may change and the Red Snapper season varies from year to year so it’s important to stay informed. You’ll find more information on bagging and seasonality for different species here.
Fishing in Ponce Inlet: It’s Got It All
Ponce Inlet is a hidden gem. While often overlooked for larger destinations like Daytona Beach, this little fishing town really has it all. Whether you’re embarking on an inshore adventure, fishing from the incredible jetty, or going deep, Ponce Inlet gives you access to some of the most versatile fisheries around. What are you waiting for? The secret’s out!
What are your experiences of fishing in Ponce Inlet? Do you prefer fishing inshore or heading offshore? Drop us a line in the comments and share your tips. We’d love to hear from you!