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What are the Best Saltwater Fishing Spots in South Florida?

Head To These Fishing Hotspots!

Florida saltwater fishing tarpon

To answer the question of what are the best saltwater fishing spots in south Florida we have to define what south Florida is to the traveler. We will consider south Florida to mean everything south of Tampa.

Florida Travel Blog will answer this question by regions. South Florida covers more than a thousand miles of shoreline.

See our other post on Florida Saltwater Fishing for more information.

Best Offshore Saltwater Fishing in Florida versus Best Inshore Saltwater Fishing in Florida

When talking about the best saltwater fishing spots in south Florida, we have to break down the two general areas of offshore and inshore fishing. The methods, bait, tackle, and structure vary greatly. We will address both in our analysis.

The easiest way to discuss the best saltwater fishing spots in south Florida is to highlight the areas where people commonly travel in Florida. Then the species that are targeted commonly in that general area will be discussed.

The Best Saltwater Fishing Spots in South Florida

Clearwater Saltwater Fishing

best saltwater fishing spots in south florida red snapper
Red snapper and mangrove snapper are popular fish to target offshore from Clearwater.

One of the largest fleets of saltwater fishing vessels is located around Clearwater. Most are offshore boats that target grouper, cobia and various types of snapper. Clearwater Beach Marina has a couple dozen charter captains that specialize in targeting king mackerel, grouper, snapper and Spanish mackerel.

Inshore fishing (within 3 miles of shore) includes seasonal fishing for tarpon, redfish, snook, spotted seatrout, flounder, sheepshead and Spanish mackerel.

Just north of Clearwater is Crystal River which boasts one of the best inshore flats fishing spots in the state.

Bradenton/Sarasota Saltwater Fishing

Some 50 miles south of Clearwater, the Bradenton and Sarasota fishery is alive and well. Species are the same as the Clearwater area. Both offshore and inshore fishing are popular.

There is a couple of offshore springs 30 to 40 miles out that have produced some of the best catches of fish we have seen on the west coast of Florida.

The docks at Cortez in Bradenton and all the marinas around Sarasota have charters available.

Boca Grande

what fish are in season in Florida right now tarpon
They call this the Tarpon Tango as tarpon come into Boca Grande Pass.

While offshore fishing is similar, we would be amiss not to mention one of the most famous Tarpon fishing spots in the world.

things you need when flying

Boca Grande Pass is the superhighway of tarpon in May and June annually. Fishermen from around the world come here to tangle with monster silver kings. Boca Grande is known as the Tarpon Capital of the World.

This seasonal fishery is unmatched for the size and number of tarpon. Yes, tarpon are caught in many places around the world including the Florida Keys. Boca Grande still ranks number one for spring tarpon fishing.

Punta Gorda

Best Saltwater Fishing Spots in South Florida punta gorda
Big spotted seatrout are common when fishing Pine Island Sound out of Punta Gorda.

The sleepy little town of Punta Gorda has become one of the best saltwater fishing spots in south Florida for inshore species. Spotted seatrout, redfish, and snook highlight the backcountry shores around Pine Island and other islands in Pine Island Sound.

One of our recent trips out of Punta Gorda saw all-day action for spotted seatrout and redfish. On light tackle, there is no limit to the fun.

Marco Island

This upscale island has a reputation for both offshore and inshore fishing. However, since Marco Island is on the threshold of the Everglades, inshore fishing around the brackish waters will produce big redfish and their share of snook.

Charters out of Goodland on the edge of the island is a great way to fish the Everglades.

The 10,000 Islands

saltwater fishing in Florida sight fishing
Sight fishing in the islands at sunrise is the way to start the day!

We have fished out of many places around Florida. In our humble opinion, fishing in the Ten Thousand Island region of Florida is one of the best saltwater fishing spots in south Florida and the world.

The number of species that breed in and around the islands is amazing. There are plenty of bull redfish and snook, but the occasional grouper, snapper and even sharks are caught on a regular basis.

This area is a great place to do sight fish and fly fishing. The thrill of casting to a big snook under some mangrove branches can’t be beaten. If you are a beginning saltwater fisherman. The Ten Thousand Islands on the edge of the Everglades will make or break you!

A Captivating Journey Through the Everglades

The Florida Keys

For time and space reasons, we are lumping the many islands of the Florida Keys together and highlighting some unique experiences. We can say that, literally, every opportunity in saltwater fishing is available from Key Largo to Key West.

Here are some of our best saltwater fishing spots in south Florida Keys:

  • Key West – while Key West has a ton of
    fish you can catch in Florida headboat
    Headboat offshore charter fishing is a great way to take kids fishing or to learn how to fish. Pay attention to the tackle, bait and techniques.
    offshore opportunities that will be mentioned when talking about Islamorada, there is one special trip you must take.

There are some inshore guides that specialize in taking the short run to the Marquesas Keys 20 miles west of Key West.

This remarkable group of uninhabited islands are covered with mangroves. They offer some of the same breeding opportunities as the Ten Thousand Islands.

You can catch everything including mangrove snapper, permit, tarpon and many more species. Much of it will be from sight fishing. There seems always to be something to make your day of fishing an adventure.

Guide fishing out of all the Keys is excellent, but Key West probably has more charter boats than any other location in Florida.

Islamorada – Islamorada is rightfully called the “Sport Fishing Capital of the World”. Few places offer the combination of world-class inshore and offshore fishing.

The reefs just a couple miles offshore hold yellow tail snapper, grouper, lane snapper, grunts, and all kinds of colorful fish.

Offshore, mahi, sailfish, marlin, tuna, wahoo, kingfish and the occasional swordfish highlight the surface action. Bottom fishing will produce grouper, big amberjack, monster mutton snapper and many more.

Inshore on the flats you will find bonefish, tarpon, permit, barracuda and others. Fly fishermen love the shallows.

Literally, all of the Florida Keys from Key Largo to Key West produce both offshore and inshore spectacular fishing.

Remember that the Keys are a chain of islands. Just south of the islands is the “Gulf Steam” that offers every imaginable pelagic fish. If you fish out of any of the Keys, you may be fishing in the same area as someone based on another Key.


The South Florida East Coast Inlets

fish you can catch in florida yellowfin
Yellowfin tuna are fun to catch. This one came off Florida’s southeast coast.

The southern Florida Inlets from Biscayne Bay to Stuart, Florida have a unique fishing advantage. Florida’s east coast has a deep-water drop-off as close as 10 miles offshore. While it varies, water depths are in the hundreds of feet.

On Florida’s southwest coast, 10 miles offshore may only be 40-50 feet deep. That means deep water pelagics are in excess of 35 miles offshore for the west coast angler. Longer travel time and expensive trips.

East coast anglers can be catching billfish in 20 minutes in the Atlantic Ocean while Southwest Gulf Coast fishermen need an hour or more to find deep-water fish.

You can’t go wrong with any fishing adventure out of east coast marinas. One of the best saltwater fishing spots in south Florida is any inlet along Florida’s southeast coast.

Saltwater Fishing in Florida

Florida has more registered boats than any other state in the union. Many of these are primarily used for fishing. The sport of saltwater fishing in Florida adds 9.2 billion dollars annually to the state’s economy.

Even without a boat, fishermen line the banks for surf fishing all along the coast. Others fish from jetties and bridges. One of the up-and-coming methods to fish is kayak fishing. There are tournaments that allow only kayaks. Recently some jet skis are now being fitted specifically for saltwater fishing in Florida.

All in all, What Are The Best Saltwater Fishing Spots in South Florida? It may be wherever you can find the time and place to wet a line.

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