Florida fishing charters have built up a serious reputation among anglers from around the world. Known as “The Sportfishing Capital of the World,” Florida is nothing less than an angler’s heaven. Choose between the warm water of the Gulf of Mexico, the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, or the state’s endless freshwater fisheries. Wherever you go, you’ll find gamefish galore and enough tasty table fish to feed an army. Florida, quite simply, has it all.
Where do we start? Over a million people visit Florida to fish each year, and every angler is drawn by something different. Flats, mangroves, reefs, wrecks, lakes, canals, deep-water trenches — you name it, Florida’s got it. It’s no wonder over 900 IGFA records currently stand in the Sunshine State — that’s around 7% of all records globally.
Florida has some of the largest and longest-running fishing tournaments in the world. West Palm Beach’s Silver Sailfish Derby has been going since the ‘30s, and the Destin Fishing Rodeo now draws over 35,000 anglers each year. There are also specialist tournaments for everything from fly fishing to bowfishing, and targeting anything from Catfish to Swordfish.
So it’s all hardcore sportfishing and competitive tournaments? Not at all! Family fishing trips are the backbone of most Floridian charter companies, and captains love helping little ones land their first fish. Whatever you’re after, you’ll find experienced guides willing and able to give you that trip of a lifetime.
Florida Fishing Spots
Wet your lines pretty much anywhere in Florida and you can head home with a trunkful of fish. If you’re looking to take things to the next level, a few places have earned legendary status for being good even by Florida standards. There’s a lot of ground (or water) to cover, so forgive us if we forgot your favorite fishing pier.
Where better to start than “The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village?” If you’re looking for great food fishing, you can’t beat the endless reefs which litter the Emerald Coast. Red Snapper steal the headlines on Florida offshore fishing charters with good reason. Grouper, Amberjack, and much more will fill your coolers here, though, and that’s just the reef fish. Head out to the bluewaters, and you’ll find Tuna, Sailfish, and even Marlin.
Sitting in the middle of Florida’s Gulf Coast, the Tampa Bay Area has some of the best inshore angling in the state. Redfish, Snook, and Spotted Seatrout can be caught 365 days of the year, and Tarpon
spend the whole summer here. The area is also known for its offshore reefs full of Snapper and Grouper. The sheer number of charters leaving from Tampa
, St Petersburg
, and St. Pete Beach
means you’ll find just the trip you’re after, whatever that may be.
Head south from Tampa, and you hit the sprawling shallows of Fort Myers and Cape Coral
. Between the rich waters of the Caloosahatchee River and the endless backcountry of Sanibel
and Pine Island
, you couldn’t ask for a better place to pole a skiff through. Nearby Boca Grande
is generally agreed to have the world’s best Tarpon fishing. The Silver Kings aren’t the only ones in town, either. Redfish, Trout, and Snook make the area a fly fisher’s paradise.
There’s not much you can’t catch in the Keys. This island chain divides the Gulf and the Atlantic, and has access to the full bounty of both. The sand flats are full of Bonefish, Permit, Snook, and Tarpon (AKA an Inshore Super Grand Slam). Head offshore, and you find the huge Marlin, Sailfish, and Swordfish which drew Hemingway to Key West
. If that’s not enough, the Everglades
are right on your doorstep from Islamorada
up. The area also has North America’s only natural coral barrier reef, and spot reefs line the length of the Keys.
Florida’s Gold Coast may be best known for its beaches and nightlife, but it also has some of the best deep sea fishing Florida has to offer! The infamous Sailfish Alley runs just a stone’s throw from shore. It earns its name each winter, funneling hundreds of Sails right past the beach. As if that wasn’t enough, the Gulf Stream comes within a few miles of land here. The deep waters make this a great spot for Swordfishing, and both daytime and nighttime trips are a local specialty.
If you love hooking monster King Mackerel (and let’s be honest, who doesn’t) Jacksonville has some of the best fishing in Florida for trophy Kingfish! Head out to the Gulf Stream, and you can add Marlin, Sailfish, and Blackfin Tuna to the list. Take a cruise down the Intracoastal Waterway to St. Augustine
, and you can also find world-class inshore action for Redfish, Trout, Flounder, and more. Don’t miss the spring Cobia and summer Tarpon migrations, they’re huge here!
Florida freshwater fishing can get you on incredible catches of Largemouth and Peacock Bass
, as well as some monster Crappie. Lake Okeechobee is Florida’s largest freshwater fishery, but even the canals have plenty of action. Nearby West Palm Beach
has become famous for its exotic invaders like Clown Knifefish and Snakehead
. The best part? The mix of fresh and saltwater means Bass and Snook are just a cast away from each other!
Need to Know
Florida fishing charters have had a long time to perfect their service, and usually provide all the important things for your trip. You don’t need to buy a license on a Florida saltwater fishing charter, although you will need to pick one up for freshwater fishing. All tackle and bait is normally provided, but you may need to bring your own fly fishing gear. The most important things for you to pack are sunscreen, a hat, shades, and several layers of clothing, just in case.
Many species have strict closed seasons which can change year on year. Fishing with a guide is the easiest way to stay within the rules while also catching a boatload of fish. Florida fishing seasons also vary depending on whether you’re in the Gulf or the Atlantic, and if you’re fishing in state or federal waters.
Red Snapper season usually opens in June, while Amberjack is often closed until August in the Gulf. Some species like Tarpon are catch and release only, while others like Snook are enjoyed for their game value even when they’re closed for harvest. If you want to keep Snook
, September onwards is the best time to visit.
There’s so much going on in Florida, it’s impossible to cover it all. We’ve done our best to highlight some of our favorite parts of Florida’s fishing scene, and you can find a month by month breakdown below. The truth is that the entire state has incredible angling, and each town can offer something unique. Discovering every aspect of Florida sport fishing would take a lifetime, but it would be a life well spent. There’s no time like the present, so come on down to the Sunshine State and start your fishing adventure!