Florida is a hugely popular tourist destination thanks to its beautiful beaches, coastline and the year-round sunshine, but it’s also a fisherman’s paradise, especially if you like saltwater fishing. It’s bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the east and the Gulf of Mexico on the west and has a number of lakes and rivers running through it. Whether you’re into offshore, surf fishing, fly fishing, pier fishing or spin fishing, Florida really has it all.
The stunning public beaches in Florida open from sunrise to sunset and a lot of them have great facilities for some family fun. There are tidal pools, picnic areas, and barrier islands to fish, as well as the open water surf. Most beaches in Florida allow fishing, but some do not, so be sure to check before you get casting.
You have to buy a fishing license just to cast a line in Florida and you’ll need a license and permit for both freshwater and saltwater fishing, depending on what you’re doing and this also includes catch and release. If you plan on taking any marine organisms from the ocean, you’ll also need a license for that. More information on the permit and licensing system for fishing can be found at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website. You can obtain a permit from the FFWCC via this link or from local sporting and hunting retailers.
Top Fishing Spots
So where to start? There are so many fishing options, it’s hard to know where to make your first cast. Here we have put together a review of some of the best places to fish in Florida.
Mosquito Lagoon is east of Orlando on the Atlantic coast of Florida and is part of the Indian River Lagoon system and the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. If you like inshore spin or fly fishing, this area will make your eyes goggle. It’s full of grass flats, deep basins, mangrove islands and shorelines, sandbars and a host of backcountry waterways that go on for miles. It’s an inshore dream of fishy features.
Mosquito Lagoon has a year-round population of big redfish and has gotten the reputation of being the ‘redfish capital of the world’. The big bulls can get up to 50 inches in length and are a fly fisherman’s dream. It’s not all about the redfish though, there excellent speckled trout fishing and black drum, tarpon, snook, and more species call the backcountry waterways home.
The best way to fish the area is on a flats boat with a professional guide, they’ll put you where you need to be and will know all the tidal changes that the fish follow.
Offshore fishing is also excellent from Mosquito Lagoon and you can rent a charter boat with the gear very easily. Depending on the time of year you can expect to catch King Mackerel, Mahi Mahi, Wahoo and Sailfish.
Marco Island is on the southwestern tip of Florida just next to the Everglades National Park. The island is home to the biggest southern-most beach in Florida and is a great place to stay and hang out with or without the family. There are some great places to stay and loads of bars and restaurants to spend the evenings in.
This is an amazing place for surf, offshore and inshore fishing. The water is crystal clear and the fishing goes all year round. From the beach, you can hope to catch cobia, flounder, jack crevalle, kingfish. ladyfish, permit, pompano and snapper. If you hire a guide and a flats boat, you can access areas around Marco Island and target tarpon, snook, redfish, black drum, snook, and bonefish.’
If offshore fishing is your poison, then Marco Island is a great spot to target wahoo, kingfish, mahi-mahi, and tuna. If you’re after some good eating fish, then try some bottom fishing to pull up some grouper, snapper, and amberjack.
Lake Okeechobee is in southcentral Florida and is the best bass fishing lake in the state. It’s home to some of the most renowned bass fishing tournaments in North America and if you love bass and want to catch giant largemouth bass, you have to visit.
There are local fishing guides, boat rentals, tackle shops and hotel options in the towns that surround the lake and if you want to pitch a tent, there are plenty of campsites close to the lake.
The lake is a world-renowned largemouth bass and black crappie spot but also has bluegill and redear sunfish. If you are going solo, hunt for bass around the edges of the lake near structure, as they wait in the shadows to ambush their prey. This is best done in the early morning and late evening. As the water gets hotter, the bass will move to deeper parts of the lake to find cooler waters.
The Florida Keys are a world-renowned inshore fishery and an angling paradise for anyone who wants to targets flats fish or offshore fish. Some of the best places to consider are Key West, Marathon, and Islamorada. The keys are home to huge sand and mangrove flats and islands. You can target bonefish, tarpon, permit and snook all with a fly rod or a spinning rod. You can try your chances from the shoreline but it’s best to rent a flats boat and go out with a professional guide.
The keys are a great place to get your kids into fishing too, there are tons of snapper which you can easily catch on light line and you can take the bigger ones home for dinner.
If you like deep-sea fishing, both the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico and just off the keys and you can easily hire a charter boat for a 1/2 or full day. You can hope to catch mahi mahi, mackerel, tuna, sailfish, and marlin. If you really want the big guys, it’s best to go all in and book a full day.
Miami, well we all know where that is. More known for its buzzing nightlife and sexy beaches, there is actually a huge amount of fishing options to be had. The main attraction from a fishing perspective is offshore. Miami is famous for its run of sailfish and the amazing photos of landing them with the Miami skyline in the background. There are also wahoo, mahi-mahi, amberjack and tuna that can be caught on a half or full-day. There are loads of charter boats to choose from and you can book one at any of the harbors around.
If you’re looking for some urban night sky fishing, head to the bridges in Miami where the tarpon lurk and use the lights to feed. Hooking a tarpon under a bridge at night is a rush, and landing it is hard. But it’s fun regardless.
The best bit about fishing in Miami is actually Biscayne Bay, known for some of the best inshore fishing on the east coast of Florida. If you’re a fly or spin fisherman you can enjoy your day on the sand flats chasing permit, bonefish, and tarpon.
Cocoa Beach is just east of Orlando and south of Mosquito Lagoon. It is known for its huge numbers of spotted seatrout and they are often referred to as “gator trout”, they are big and strong at Cocoa Beach. Targetting these will give you a lot of all-day action and that’s why there are so popular. There is a lot of shorelines to explore and it’s easily done on a half-day. You can expect to see mangrove snapper, black drum, snook, and sheepshead as you go too.
The Banana River is full of grassy marshes and oyster beds make a rich environment for fish to hang out in. You will get a lot of chances to target tarpon, redfish, jack crevalle and mangrove snappers. It’s best to hire a guide to get the best out of your day, but it’s pretty easy to go solo if you want to.
There are some great offshore options too, chartering a boat and heading out in the deep is very easy to do and you can hope to catch dorado and even marlin.
Mangrove Islands, Fort Pierce Inlet State Park
The mangrove islands in Fort Pierce Inlet State Park are an awesome place to walk the shoreline looking for wildlife like turtles, fiddler crabs, and bald eagles as well as snook and snapper. Take a boat to the island and beach it to spend the day exploring the islands with the family. It’s a great place to teach the kids how to fish thanks to the huge shoals of snapper.
The snapper are shy and you will need to use small hooks to catch them with and they are great eating fish too. Once you have caught a few, head over to the surf to target some snook.
Lake Tohopekaliga is near Orlando and has some amazing fishing. The lake is 23,000 acres and is split into a couple of sections, West Lake Toho and East Lake Toho and is part of the Kissimmee chain of lakes.
The lake is known for black crappie and massive largemouth bass. The best parts of the lake for bass are along the shorelines east and west of Lanier Point and Goblets Cove and at the mouth of Shingle Creek.
Between April and June around the new and full moon, bluegill spawn in the lake and they like to hang out at on sandy bottoms and around lots of vegetation.
You can fish from the shore, pier or by boat, the choice is yours. It’s a very easy to day trip from Orlando but there are campsites if you want to stay close to the lake.
Fort Myers is famous for its inshore fly and spin fishing and anglers the world over, come to get a backcountry slam, landing a redfish, spotted sea trout and snook in one day. It’s full of grass flats, mangroves and deep channels where the fish like to hideout.
Fort Myers is also on the tarpon migration route and they pass by in spring. They come in their hundreds, overtaking the channels and inlets, and there are giants to be caught. If you like tarpon and let’s be honest, who doesn’t, it’s a great place to be. It’s best to hire a flats boat and guide to make the best of the inshore fishing here.
There’s also some amazing offshore fishing from Fort Myers and charters are easily found. Oh, and if you want a day away from the water, they also have some amazing golf courses in Fort Myers.
Panama City Beach
Panama City Beach is a great inshore fishing destination and you’ll find expansive flats to explore and discover all kinds of fishing opportunities. The waters are home to huge sharks, redfish, flounder, speckled trout, sheepshead, and tarpon. There are also artificial and natural reefs to explore where you can target Spanish mackerel. Hundreds of anglers travel here every year to get their inshore fix.
The Gulf Of Mexico is just off of Panama City Beach and it’s an excellent spot to head offshore and catch some sailfish, wahoo, grouper, snapper, dorado, and mackerel.
There probably isn’t another place in the world that is as well set up for fishing as Florida. There are so many species to target across such a diverse set of environments. You could be catching bass one day, tarpon the next and marlin on the last. The variety is dazzling. This is coupled with some of the best fishing operations in the world. The guides and skippers in Florida live and breathe their profession and you’re going to be given world-class equipment and instruction from them and an amazing experience.
Florida is also a great family vacation and it’s often tricky to merge the two, usually, it has to be one or the other. there are great places to stay, eat, drink and a whole host of activities for the family to enjoy outside of fishing.