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Tampa Bay Fishing Charters

Find the top fishing guides and fishing charters in Tampa Bay, Florida

Best fishing guides near Tampa Bay, Florida

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Fishing Charters in Tampa Bay

Whether you're interested in inshore fishing, venturing offshore, or relaxing by the serene rivers and lakes, Tampa Bay has it all. With its rich marine life and picturesque landscapes, anglers can cast their lines for prized species like snook, redfish, tarpon, and more. Whether you are a seasoned angler or a beginner eager to learn, Tampa Bay promises an unforgettable fishing experience filled with thrilling catches and the chance to create lasting memories amidst the beauty of the Florida coastline. When you're ready to experience this gem for yourself, find a trusted Tampa Bay guide with AnyCreek.

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Capt. Court Douthit's flat's skiffs in Tampa Bay's inshore waters. Courtesy of Recreation Specialist.

Fly Fishing in Tampa Bay

For fly fishing in Tampa Bay, our guides recommend a 7-9 weight rod is ideal for handling larger inshore species like snook and redfish. Pair this with a sturdy reel featuring a smooth drag system to manage the powerful runs of these fish. Weight-forward floating lines, especially those with a saltwater taper, work best for snook and redfish. Effective fly patterns include Clouser Minnows, Deceivers, and shrimp imitations, tied in colors that match the local baitfish and crustaceans. Use a tapered leader ending in a 20-30 pound test fluorocarbon tippet to ensure abrasion resistance against sharp gill plates and snags. Find the perfect fly fishing guide in Tampa Bay with AnyCreek.

Light Tackle Fishing in Tampa Bay

Light tackle fishing is popular for inshore species such as trout, snook, and redfish. This technique uses lighter rods and lines, making it ideal for catching smaller fish in the bay's estuaries and mangroves. A medium-light to medium power, 7-foot spinning rod paired with a 2500-3000 size reel is versatile for various inshore species. Using a 10-15 pound test braided line for strength and sensitivity, along with a 20-30 pound test fluorocarbon leader to prevent line detection, is effective. Popular lures include soft plastic swimbaits, jerkbaits, and topwater plugs in colors like white, silver, and chartreuse to imitate local baitfish. For hooks and terminal tackle, circle hooks or J-hooks in sizes 1/0 to 3/0, paired with split shot weights or jig heads, match the depth and current conditions well.

Popular Inshore Fish Species in Tampa Bay

Fly fishing and light tackle anglers have a plethora of amazing gamefish to choose from when planning to fish inshore around Tampa Bay. Here are some of the most popular inshore species:

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Massive tarpon shooting out of Tampa Bay waters. Courtesy of Recreation Specialist.

Tarpon

Tarpon are Florida's most iconic saltwater fish, renowned for their size, strength, and acrobatics. Tarpon, also known as the "Silver King," migrate along Florida's coast each season, and are seasonally abundant in Tampa Bay. Tarpon offer some amazing sight fishing opportunities in clear water around the bay and surrounding beaches. Tarpon fishing near Tampa is typically best from late May until late July. Check out our recent article for more on effective techniques and tips for tarpon fishing in South Florida.

Snook

Snook have large mouths, a protruding lower jaw, and a prominent black lateral line on both sides of their bodies. They can grow up to 48 inches and 50 pounds and are found in coastal waters like mangrove shorelines and seagrass beds. They typically feed on fish and large crustaceans. They're known to be agile jumpers and fierce runners, often lured with live bait or various lures. Be cautious of their razor-sharp gill covers while handling them.

If you are a fly angler, check out this recipe for an effective tapered leader for snook fishing, or get a crash course on fly fishing for snook here.

Redfish

The redfish, also called red drum, have copper-bronze bodies that lighten in color towards the belly. They grow up to 61 inches, and during spawning season, these fish make "drum" sounds during spawn, which takes place from August to December in estuaries. They eat smaller fish and invertebrates and are prized sport fish in Florida's estuarine environments.

For more on how to target redfish around Tampa Bay, check out our Ultimate Guide to Florida Redfish.

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 Capt. Court Douthit removing fly from healthy Tampa Bay redfish. Courtesy of Recreation Specialist.

Sheepshead

Sheepshead, also known as the convict fish, has a light-colored body with vertical black bars along its sides. They can be found near structures like oyster bars and tidal creeks. Sheepshead can be as big as 36 inches but are commonly around 13 inches. To catch them, common baits include live shrimp, sand fleas, or fiddler crabs on a small hook.

Tampa Bay Deep Sea Fishing Charters

Offshore fishing off of Tampa Bay can offer blue water anglers shots at a number of amazing offshore species. Here are some of the most popular Tampa deep sea fishing targets:

King Mackerel 

Have large, sharp teeth and are extremely speedy swimmers. They reach 72 inches and thrive in coastal and offshore waters where bait is prevalent. They predominantly consume small fish and squid. When fishing for them, use flashy sub-surface lures or large swim plugs on line of at least 20-pound test.

Mahi mahi 

Mahi mahi, also known as dolphin or dorado, have bright greenish-blue backs and yellow sides. Their distinct features include a single colorful dorsal fin extending from above the eye to the tail. They are found offshore in warm waters and are fast swimmers that thrive in oceanic currents and feed on flying fish and squid. They are quite acrobatic when hooked, and are also a delicious and sustainable option for seafood lovers. They are often abundant when deep sea fishing off of Tampa Bay.

Amberjack  

The greater amberjack has an olive green or brownish hue on its back and silver sides, with a dark stripe from its nose to the front of its dorsal fin. They can reach sizes of over 60 inches and over 100 pounds. The species thrives in offshore rocky reefs, debris, and wrecks within depths of 60 to 240 feet. Amberjack feed on squid, fish, and crustaceans. When fishing for amberjack, use almost any type of lively baitfish. You will need heavy offshore fishing tackle for amberjacks, as they are extremely powerful fighters.  

Cobia 

Cobia have coloration that transitions from brown on the upper side to a whitish belly, with a pronounced dark lateral line extending from the eye to the tail. They can grow up to 6 feet long and weigh as much as 100 pounds. Tampa cobia usually range between 10 to 50 pounds. They swim in nearshore and offshore waters around inlets, bays, and structures such as buoys and wrecks. Live crabs and baitfish are effective baits for cobia, preferably presented near the surface. Cobia fishing requires medium to heavy tackle due to their strength.

Inshore Species Recreational Fishing Seasons in Tampa Bay (2024)

Inshore SpeciesPeak Fishing Seasons 
Snook   Mar-Apr, Sep-Nov
Redfish Year-round
Soeckled Sea TroutYear-round
SheepsheadYear-round
Snapper (excluding red snapper special season)Year-round
Flounder Dec-Oct 15

Offshore Species Recreational Fishing Seasons in Tampa Bay (2024)

Offshore SpeciesTypical Fishing Seasons 
Grouper (most varietals)Year-round
King MackerelYear-round
Mahi-Mahi (Dolphin)Year-round
AmberjackAug-Oct
CobiaYear-round

Family-Friendly Fishing in Tampa Bay

There are fishing charters within Tampa Bay that are designed to be family-oriented and accessible for all ages.  Shorter trips, lasting 4 to 6 hours, are typically recommended for families and first-timers. If you hire a guide, message them about your family's expectations and needs to help make your trip successful.

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Tampa Bay's prolific inshore waterways. Courtesy of Recreation Specialist.

If you don't have time to book a charter, but still want to wet a line with your family while visiting Tampa, check out these great locations for family fishing around Tampa Bay:

Picnic Island Park

Located in South Tampa, this family-friendly park offers a fishing pier with easy access for kids and beginners. The bay's calm waters make it an ideal spot for fishing and picnicking.

Ben T. Davis Beach

This popular beach in Tampa also features a fishing pier where families can fish and enjoying views of the bay and passing boats.

Fort De Soto Park

Known for its beautiful beaches and fishing opportunities, Fort De Soto Park has fishing piers, jetties, and shoreline fishing spots that are perfect for families looking to catch a variety of inshore fish.

Ballast Point Park

Situated in South Tampa, this park has a fishing pier with benches and shade, making it a great spot for families to relax and fish together.

Weedon Island Preserve

Families can explore the mangrove-lined waterways and go fishing from the boardwalks or kayak in this scenic nature preserve.

Safety Harbor Pier

Families can enjoy fishing off the pier while viewing the water and marina. The shallow waters and calm conditions are suitable for beginners and children.

Tampa Bay Fishing Report

Here you can find an updated fishing report to discover which fish are biting best. This summer fishing report provides all the details you need about Tampa Bay's summer fishing season.

Tampa Bay Summer Fishing Report

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Silver King making one last breach before being set free. Courtesy of Recreation Specialist.

Tarpon

Tarpon are rolling around the bridges and moving through the pass, offering thrilling opportunities for anglers. Early morning is the ideal time to find tarpon along the beaches before the crowds arrive. Live crabs and mullet are effective baits for these powerful fish.

Snook

Snook fishing in Tampa Bay is fantastic, especially around Johns Pass. These prized fish are most active from dusk until dawn, patrolling the beaches and passes. Daytime snook fishing can be challenging, but targeting deeper waters and shaded areas like docks can still yield results. For the best success, try night fishing around dock lights.

Redfish

Redfish are thriving around the mangrove islands and shorelines of upper Boca Ciega Bay. They're biting well on cut threadfins, pinfish, and mullet, particularly during high tides when cooler waters move in. Early morning or low light conditions are also prime times to target redfish with live white bait.

Spotted Sea Trout

Trout fishing is excellent, especially around the deeper flats and edges inside Johns Pass. These fish are most active at night around bridge lights and jetties. During the day, deeper flats and beaches are your best bet. Recent cooler temperatures and rainfall have boosted trout activity significantly.

What to Do Shoreside in Tampa Bay

Outside of fishing, Tampa Bay has a range of activities and offerings to satisfy every traveler. Catch a Tampa Bay Buccaneers game for the excitement of NFL football, or explore local attractions such as the Florida AquariumBusch Gardens, and the historic Ybor City district. Relax on the beautiful beaches of Tampa Bay, including Clearwater Beach and St. Pete Beach, known for their stunning views, soft sands, and warm Gulf waters. Whether you're angling for snook or cheering for the Buccaneers, Tampa Bay has something for everyone.

Planning your Tampa Bay Fishing Trip

Plan ahead. Set some dates aside, check the weather, and pack accordingly for the time of year. Consider the fish species that you’re most interested in, and investigate their seasonal availability to ensure you’re there when they’re there. You can always consult your guide. They’re here to take care of the gear, the licensing, logistics, and planning for an unforgettable experience in Florida’s beautiful Tampa Bay.

Frequently Asked Questions about Fishing in Tampa Bay

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