The Tampa Bay fishery immerses anglers of all levels in bountiful fishing opportunities. Nestled along Florida's Gulf Coast, Tampa Bay offers diverse fishing opportunities, from inshore and offshore adventures to freshwater excursions in the nearby rivers and lakes. 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.
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:
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 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.
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.
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.
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:
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, 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.
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 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||Peak Fishing Seasons|
|Soeckled Sea Trout||Year-round|
|Snapper (excluding red snapper special season)||Year-round|
|Offshore Species||Typical Fishing Seasons|
|Grouper (most varietals)||Year-round|
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.
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:
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.
This popular beach in Tampa also features a fishing pier where families can fish and enjoying views of the bay and passing boats.
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.
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.
Families can explore the mangrove-lined waterways and go fishing from the boardwalks or kayak in this scenic nature preserve.
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.
A great fishing guide or charter captain will revolutionize your next fishing trip in Tampa Bay. Guides possess extensive knowledge of Tampa Bay's waters, fishing spots, fish migration patterns, preferred fishing gear, and tactics. Navigating unfamiliar waters can be challenging, especially for inexperienced anglers, but our AnyCreek Tampa Bay fishing guides are well-versed in all of Tampa's local waterways, tides, and hazards to ensure a safe and enjoyable fishing excursion. Your guide will also offer valuable instruction on techniques, helping all those involved to become better anglers.
Following the local fishing regulation and obtaining the correct licenses is an important part of a good day out on the water. These rules help keep the Tampa Bay fisheries sustainable. Refer to the official resources, such as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, for the most up-to-date detailed information on licenses and regulations, which may undergo yearly changes. To fish in saltwater, anglers must possess a Florida saltwater fishing license. If you are fishing with a licensed charter captain, you do not need to purchase your fishing license. Also, check the recreational season for whatever fish you hope to target.
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