Located on Florida’s beautiful Space Coast, the small waterside community of Cocoa Beach has all the ingredients for a classic Floridian adventure. Its white sands and multiple attractions mean you’ll never be bored here, while its diverse fishery makes it something of a fisherman’s paradise. Cocoa Beach fishing charters don’t just make for a fun day trip from Orlando — they are your key to some of the best saltwater fishing in the whole of Florida.
Known as “The Quintessential Beach Town,” Cocoa Beach is little over an hour’s drive from Disneyworld. Sometimes, it looks like the local waterways were made entirely with this in mind. From endless mangrove islands and untouched backcountry to some of the best offshore fishing in the state, Cocoa Beach fishing is blessed with an all-star cast of pelagics, bottom fish, and coastal cruisers. Come on the right day, and you’ll even be able to combine hooking one of these bucket list fish with watching explosive rockets launch from the nearby Space Centers. Who needs a rollercoaster, anyway?
Cocoa Beach fishing spots
The city of Cocoa Beach consists of six miles of sandy beaches, a huge pier, and water — lots of it. Out of a total area of 15 square miles in the city limits, under 5 square miles are on dry land. Safe to say, if you like fishing, this is a good place to come. Come to try out the charter fishing Cocoa Beach is proud of, and you’ll be spoilt for choice.
The Banana River
Cocoa Beach backs onto the Banana River, part of the the Indian River Lagoon system. These waters provide the perfect playground for fish and anglers alike. From shallow seagrass flats to oyster bars, salt marshes, and swamps, there’s somewhere for fish to hide whatever the weather. This area is famous for its healthy population of big ‘Gator’ Trout, Redfish, Snook, and Tarpon, as well as other regional favorites such as Mangrove Snapper, Black Drum, and Jack Crevalle.
If you want to know what fishing was like 100 years ago, take a kayak and explore the Banana River No Motor Zone. This unspoilt waterway is only accessible to boats without a motor and, unsurprisingly, has very little fishing pressure. There aren’t many other places in Florida with such a balanced eco system as this one. It’s worth fishing here with someone who knows the area, though, as some parts are within the ‘Security Area’ of Kennedy and Cape Canaveral Space Centers.
The Thousand Islands
The 338 acres of mangrove islands in and around Cocoa Beach are the perfect playground for young saltwater fish. Despite their name, there are roughly 100 hundred islands here, constantly shifting, conjoining, and separating according to the water levels and the season. Snook, Trout, and Ladyfish are just some of the fish you can catch in these waters. But there’s a catch — almost all the islands are only accessible by boat. Luckily, Cocoa Beach fishing guides are perfectly positioned to take you exploring these magical waters, which are also home to manatees, dolphins, and a huge variety of bird life. It doesn’t get much better than this for escaping the crowds and the bustle of Orlando, believe us.
The Atlantic Ocean
If you thought the local inshore opportunities sounded almost too good to be true, just wait until you look east out of Cocoa Beach. The ocean waters that lap these sandy beaches are home to Cobia, Spanish Mackerel, King Mackerel, Pompano, and Jack Crevalle… and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Many of these species can be caught from Cocoa Beach Fishing Pier, if you come at the right time of year. But if you want a chance at reaching your bag limit, nothing beats the flexibility and range of a charter boat.
Cocoa Beach is just a few minutes’ drive from Port Canaveral, where most of the local charter boats are docked. Fishing out of this bustling port will take you past navy vessels, cruise ships, and local wildlife, and the huge local charter fleet is expert at navigating its way past the hustle and bustle out into the open ocean. Here, you only need to travel 25 - 40 miles offshore to be in with a chance of catching Mahi Mahi, Blackfin Tuna, and Sailfish.
That said, it’s full day trips that give the real Cocoa Beach charter fishing experience. This will give you the time to head to the ‘Other Side’ — the Gulf Stream. This is the migratory highway for sportfishing heavyweights such as Yellowfin Tuna and Marlin. Daytrips from Orlando really don’t get any better than this.
How much does it cost?
Most Cocoa Beach fishing charters charge around $350 - $450 for a half day trip inshore. These trips will take place in and around Cocoa Beach itself, maybe taking you to the Port Canaveral jetties, the Canaveral Bight, the Indian and Banana Rivers, and/or the beaches. Four hours will give you enough time to look for Snook, Tripletail, Redfish, Flounder, Shark, and maybe even Tarpon inshore. Fish the ocean waters nearshore, and you could catch Jack Crevalle, Pompano, Snappers, Cobia, Tripletail, and King and Spanish Mackerel. Most guides will be able to extend the trip length at approximately $100 per hour.
As inshore trips take place in protected, shallow waters, they are great for beginners. At the same time, the sheer variety of terrains and species available means experienced anglers can happily spend hours practicing more advanced fishing techniques here, too.
Nearshore trips can be a good choice for more adventurous anglers who want to get a taste of sea fishing. They usually take place within a few miles of the coastline, where the fish are larger but the waters are not too wild. Some charters even run specialized Shark fishing trips in Cocoa Beach. These are the ultimate adrenaline rush. With big Bull Sharks, Blacktip Sharks, Lemon Sharks, and Sand Sharks patrolling these waters, this is a trip you won’t forget!
Offshore charters near Cocoa Beach usually depart from Port Canaveral (5 miles away from Cocoa Beach). Half day offshore trips usually cost between $600-$800 and will take you up to about 20 miles from the coast, where your main targets will be King Mackerel, Sailfish, Mahi Mahi, and Cobia according to the season. While these trips can cater to people who are short on time, they rarely give you much time to fish the deeper waters due to the long ride out.
Most charter boats charge $800-$1000 for a full 8 hours. This will give you enough time to fish 20-40 miles offshore, targeting Wahoo, Mahi Mahi, Sailfish, Cobia, and Blackfin Tuna, as well as Snapper and Grouper. Extended trips to the Gulf Stream will take at least 10 hours and cost upwards of $1100. The extra expense is well worth it, though, because these trips take you to areas with less fishing pressure and pelagics such as Blue Marlin and Yellowfin Tuna.
Offshore trips are usually recommended for people who have been fishing in the ocean before. As they take place in open waters, it’s important to take seasickness medication if you don’t have your sea legs yet!
How to prepare for your trip
All licensed fishing charters in Cocoa Beach and Port Canaveral cover fishing licenses for everyone onboard. So, all you need to bring with you is some suitable clothing (remember, temperatures can change quite dramatically out at sea), sunblock, sunglasses, a hat, shoes with non-marking soles, and some snacks and drinks.
Types of Fishing
Inshore, the highlight of Cocoa Beach fishing is sight fishing in the grass flats. These waters are about four feet deep, and it’s common to spot the tips of Redfish’s tails breaking up the water surface in the spring and the fall. Spotting ‘tailing’ Redfish is a highlight of Florida saltwater sportfishing, and is best experienced with 6-12 lb spinning gear or 6-9 wt fly fishing equipment.
Another inshore favorite is the Spotted Seatrout, which grows to immense sizes in these parts. ‘Gator’ Trout can be targeted on similar gear to Redfish and peak from October to May. These tasty sportfish will go crazy for topwater plugs.
If you want to catch something bigger without losing sight of the land, come in Tarpon season. These prestigious fish visit Cocoa Beach from April to November, with the biggest ones usually being caught in mid summer. You will need 15-30 lb tackle to stand a chance against one of these 100 lb plus monsters. Target them as they swim past the beaches by slowly trolling through the school with menhaden, mullet, or pinfish.
Offshore fishing is good all year round, but if you want to get the best of the Gulf Stream, you should visit Cocoa Beach from May. This is when you’ll have a chance of catching Mahi Mahi and Blue Marlin. Most offshore fishing is done by trolling. Kite fishing is particularly popular in these parts when targeting Sailfish.