What fish can you catch in Florida?

florida fishing

If you are from Florida, consider yourself a lucky angler! Why? Well, Florida fishing is regarded as one of the best ones in the US, if not in the whole world! That’s why we have created this article to give you some tips about what fish you can catch in Florida. The Fishing capital of the world has actually some of the most emblematic and popular fishing spots known by anglers from all around the globe. For sure you’ve heard about The Golf of Mexico, right? That’s why Florida fishing is so exciting!

We have talked already about all the perks of being a Floridian angler here in our blog. Take another look at that article if you’re interested in that and would like to know more about how the Sunshine State has earned its fame. For sure you’ll find some interesting information! Oh, also, if you already live in Florida and would like to get some advice on the best fishing times in the state, check this one out! We’re always happy to give you the best tips, especially on Florida fishing – we love Florida!

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Today we are not talking about the perks of being a Floridian angler, nor advises on fishing spots, though. Today, we are going all-in with the top 5 saltwater and freshwater fish you can find while fishing in Florida, so listen up!

Freshwater Florida fishing – Top 3 species

As we’ve previously stated, Florida is the fishing capital of the world. That means not only saltwater fishing is known. Truth is, freshwater fishing is also one of Florida fishing’s great angler’s attractions. Florida’s freshwater fisheries comprise 3 million lakes, ponds, and reservoirs. When it comes to rivers, Florida won’t run short either! It has 12,000 miles of fishable rivers, streams, and canals with no closed seasons.

How can we anglers resist this? We probably can’t! That’s why these recreational fishery resources more than 1.2 anglers annually! There are dozens of species of freshwater fish in Florida. If you know what they feed on, what they are, and their predators, it will help you improve your chances of catching a big one will grow! let us lend you a hand with that.

Largemouth bass

Florida fishing largemouth bass
Largemouth bass caught cork fishing.

You may have heard of this boy! Florida fishing wouldn’t be a thing without its most popular game fish! They prefer clear waters with aquatic vegetation, also non-flowing, where they can find good food and cover. However, they can tolerate a wide range of water clarity and bottom types. You can find them almost in every body of freshwater in Florida, including upper ponds, lakes, reservoirs, rivers, and ponds.

When it comes to its size, the Largemouth Bass can grow up to 24 inches, but it’s normally around 12. This bass feeds on snails, frogs, snakes, dishes, crawfish, salamanders, bats, and other water birds, baby alligators, and mammals. To catch them, remember to use live bait, such as night frogs or crawfish, for example.

Be careful, though! Although the Largemouth bass are keenly sought after by anglers, they are known for the excitement of their ‘fight’. They resist quite a lot being hauled into the boat after being hooked!

Blue catfish

Florida fishing blue catfish
Blue catfish caught by the WeFisher lucastobar81.

Have you ever wondered what’s the largest catfish in America? Yes, it’s this – the Blue Catfish. Another important and native fish when it comes to Florida fishing! It can weigh as much as 100 pounds and grow 5 feet long! However, the average catfish grows up to around 20 inches and weighs 60 pounds. These native fish can be found in clear backwaters, but also in large channels that lead to large bays. They prefer sandy bottom waters and also they like a good current. Also, the Blue catfish doesn’t really like the cold and prefer 70 to 80 degree water.

You can find them in Northwest Florida in the Suwannee, Yellow, Apalachicola, and the Escambia rivers. They are known for being predators that eat any species plus freshwater mussels, crayfish, and frogs. The best baits you can use to catch them are cut fish, live fish such as nightcrawlers, herring, or shad.

Black crappie (Specks)

Florida fishing black crappie
Black crappie caught with Abu Garcia rod and reel.

The Florida Crappie is also sometimes referred to as Speckled Perch or Speck. It weighs only around 2 to 3 pounds. The black crappie is popular throughout the state and, together with panfish, it accounts for the most sought fish on Lake Okeechobee. Consequently, it’s also a unique catch when it comes to Florida fishing. These fish are found offshore around weed beds or moving around submerged objects in large slow water rivers, but also. They feed mostly at dawn and dusk mainly on insects, crustaceans, and small fish. This fish can be found in Florida throughout the whole year and you won’t have a problem catching it if you want to. However, they tend to be at their best from late fall to early spring, mostly on Lake Okeechobee, as stated before.

Some smaller insects than the Florida crappie, such as grasshoppers, crickets, or worms make good bait to catch it. Grass shrimp works well too, especially if you plane your boat in the middle of the lake. Another good catching method for crappies is to go after them at night. They will most definitely be drawn to strong lights since they are attracted to it. They are quite attractive in winter months and fun to catch as well!

Saltwater Florida fishing – Top 3 species

Saltwater Florida fishing has amazing species to catch, thanks to its geography, which has allowed it to create a fishing paradise like no other. Florida fishing has it all: offshore and inshore! Florida has endless access to reefs, wrecks, bays, inlets, rivers… We are going to discuss the top three species you can catch in Florida.

Red drum

Florida fishing Red drum
Red Drum caught on the flats with a white jerkbait.

One of the most popular inshore fish in Florida may be the Red drum. It can reach 45 inches and weighs 51 pounds and it ranks among the favorite fish of most anglers. They feed on a wide variety of fish, such as Pinfish, Mullet, Menhaden, or croaker. Also, crabs and shrimp seem to be tasty to them.

You can expect to find Red drums around oyster bars and mangroves, feeding on shrimps and carbs. If you happen to encounter a school of redfish, you are in for some fun! They are quite easy to catch when they are actively feeding – and when you do it right, of course. Make sure you turn off your motor before starting since Redfish get easily scared. Then softly approach the school and retrieve your bait quickly!

Be aware of the specific bag limits of every Florida region. Check current regulations before catching. Remember also that spearing, giggling, and snatching the Redrum is now allowed.

Tarpon

florida fishing tarpon
Tarpon caught in Florida.

One of the state’s most popular gamefish, tarpon can tolerate a wide range of salinities and cant be found mostly in coastal waters with warm water. Sandy bottoms are also their fav! When fishing in the Keys you may find Tarpon lurking around. When it comes to its size, this large species is around 6 feet and over 100 pounds, but it can get as large as 280. They don’t necessarily always travel in schools and can be often found solitary. They feed on mullets, catfish, pinfish, anchovies, crabs, sardines, and silversides.

Tarpon actually makes quite a terrible table fare, so catch and release is going to be the best choice for you. They are quite fun to catch unless the Great Hammerhead shark takes it away from you when you’re about to do so. They are known for moving all over once hooked, so we hope you’re not scared easily. You will definitely need heavy tackle for this heavy fish. Also, remember to have a Tarpon stamp on your fishing license.

Sailfish

Florida’s official state saltwater fish. It can be found in waters where there are temperature changes. They feed on many different fish, such as tuna, herring ballyhoo, or needlefish and they normally travel alone or in small groups. Their amazing feature is their longfin, as pretty as it gets! They are also known for high jumps and, overall, for being many angler’s favorite saltwater fish to catch.

The best bait is live ballyhoo and pilchards. We can find them in the Keys and Southeast Florida in Mid-October. Here you can watch a very cool video of a sailfish feeding frenzy:

Video by Nat Geo WILD.

Florida fishing is diverse and exciting. If you’re new to it and you’re wondering if you need a license or how to get one, check our articles on the topic here and here. Have a nice catch, and remember to share it in WeFish App!

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