Shore Fishing in Florida – a Complete Guide!
This article will thoroughly cover shore fishing in Florida. One advantageous aspect of Florida fishing is that there are many opportunities for anglers without access to a boat. For the purposes of this article, this will include wading, surf fishing, and fishing from docks, bridges, and piers.
The geography of the state is a major reason for the popularity of shore fishing in Florida. Virtually all of it is open to anglers fishing the many miles of beaches. Every beach will be productive at one time or another. Also, the many inlets and passes offer anglers more shore fishing opportunities.
Shore fishing in Florida – best rods and reels
Anglers fishing in Florida have a wide selection of rod and reel combinations that they can use successfully. Fortunately, anglers shore fishing can really do fine with one or two outfits. The same tackle that works well for the majority of inshore saltwater fishing will work fine when shore fishing.
A 7 foot medium weight rod with a 3000 series reel will get the job done in the majority of shore fishing situations. There will be times when it is tough to stop a big fish, particularly around heavy cover. Anglers fishing bridges and piers for big fish will certainly need to bump up the tackle. The same outfit can be used for surf fishing, though some anglers may opt for a traditional surf fishing outfit as well.
Florida shore fishing baits and lures
Both natural bait and artificial lures can be used successfully when shore fishing in Florida. Anglers who like to move about, whether on a beach or in a pass, will often choose to fish with lures. The best lures are jigs, spoons, and plugs. Spoons are heavy and can be cast a long distance. Plugs work great, but are expensive and have treble hooks.
Jigs are excellent lures for anglers shore fishing as well. They are economical, versatile, and catch everything that swims. A ½ ounce white bucktail jig is a great lure. Most anglers now opt for a jig and grub, as the tail can be easily changed. A Gulp Shrimp on a ¼ ounce jig head will catch all species on the beach, flats, and in the passes.
Read Capt Jim’s article on the top saltwater fishing lures
Live and cut bait works very well for anglers fishing in one spot for a while, whether it is a beach, bridge, dock, or pier. In fact, bait is really the best option on bridges and piers, especially if there are other anglers close by. Depending on the situation, anglers can soak a bait on one rod while casting lures with another.
Fishing with bait from shore
Shrimp are king in Florida. They are readily available, reasonable priced, and catch everything that swims. Live shrimp are best for game fish such as snook and jacks. However, many fish are happy to take a dead or frozen shrimp fished on the bottom. A sliding sinker or two hook dropper rig work well.
Live bait fish can be used, however they require more effort. Most anglers catch bait with a cast net. They must then be kept alive in an aerated bucket. There are times when this effort will pay off, especially during the fall mullet run. Pinfish, sardines, herring, and mullet are top live baits. In some areas, shrimp can be caught as well.
Check out this article on inshore saltwater fishing in Florida
Cut bait is very productive as well, particularly when surf fishing. The downside is catfish and rays may become a nuisance. Just about any fresh caught fish that is legal to keep can be used, the oilier the better. Mullet is a top bait and squid is a universal bait that will catch everything.
Florida shore fishing options
Anglers shore fishing in Florida have multiple options. As mentioned above, beach fishing (also called surf fishing) is always an option, if conditions allow. Much of Florida is flat and safe to wade. Jetties at inlets can be very productive. Bridges and seawalls often offer easy access. Most docks are private, but some are open to the public. Finally, fishing piers throughout the state produce good fish all year.
Shore fishing from Florida beaches
It would be easy to argue that some of the best fishing in Florida occurs from the many miles of sandy beaches. The entire coast line, with the exception on the Big Bend from Tampa to Apalachicola, has sandy beaches. These beaches offer excellent fishing opportunities for a wide variety of species.
Many anglers think that heavy tackle and long casts are required when fishing the Florida beaches. This is not at all the case! Often times, the bait, and therefore the predators, will be found in the first trough, 20 to 30 feet from shore. Also, beach conditions are often calmer than other areas of the country, making it easier to fish. For the most part, two hours before and after the top of the tide are the best times to fish the Florida beaches.
Anglers can do well fishing with live bait, dead bait, and artificial lures. Those who like to walk the beach in search of fish choose lures, it is just more convenient. Silver spoons, plugs, and jigs with a soft plastic grub work well. Light tackle can be used as it is mostly open water, free from snags. Sight fishing for snook is great sport and occurs on both coasts in the warmer months.
Anglers choosing to fish with live or cut bait can still use light tackle. Whiting and pompano will often be found close to shore. Fresh or frozen shrimp fished on a bottom rig with a light sinker should put dinner in the cooler. However, serious anglers will use a dedicated, traditional surf rod. These are much longer, up to 14′, with large reels. They are better suited for rough conditions and where long casts are made. Surf rods are also better when fishing cut bait for sharks and larger fish.
Read Capt Jim’s article on surf fishing in Florida!
In fall, the East coast of Florida experiences the famed “mullet run”. This is where pods of finger mullet migrate down the coast. Just about every Florida game fish will follow behind, feeding on them. Tarpon, jacks, cobia, snook, even sailfish are caught! Much of this occurs within a cast from shore.
Shore fishing Florida inlets and passes
Inlets and passes (“pass” is just a term for an inlet in the Gulf) are prime spots for anglers shore fishing in Florida. These waters connect the open ocean and Gulf of Mexico with the inshore waters. They are virtual “fish highways” that game fish use. Bait is often thick, especially in the summer.
Where present, jetties provide anglers excellent access to fish from shore. These mostly exist on the East coast. On the West Coast, most of the passes are sand shorelines that anglers can access. In both cases, care should be taken, especially when wading in current. Safety first!
Timing is important when fishing passes and inlets. It is very difficult to fish in heavy currents. The best times are often as the tide turns, when the flow eases up. Anglers casting live bait and lures will catch mackerel, pompano, ladyfish, bluefish, jacks, snook, redfish, sharks, speckled trout, flounder, and other species. A jig works well for bouncing the bottom while spoons are a great choice when bait fish are present or fish are busting.
Many of these areas also have structure. This can be in the form of docks, seawalls, and rip-rap. These spots will hold sheepshead in the cooler months and snapper all year long. Flounder, reds, and other species will relate to it as well. Live bait is usually best in this application.
Fishing bridges in Florida
Bridges can be outstanding spots for anglers fishing from shore in Florida! They often exist in areas of high current flow. The bridge provides a break from the current for both bait fish and game fish. This can be a situation where heavier tackle is required, especially if the fish needs to be lifted up all the way.
The best bridges are low to the water, lighted, and have a pedestrian walkway. As will all fishing, safety first. It is not safe to fish close to speeding traffic. Also, the best bridge fishing often occurs at night. Tarpon, snook, snapper, jacks, redfish, flounder, and just about every other species will be taken from Florida bridges.
While lures can be used (a jig can be bounced in the current) this situation is better suited for the use of bait. The type of species along with the height of the bridge result in live or cut bait being best. Again, as with inlets, choosing the proper tide stage is important. Fish will feed on the hard tide, but it is more difficult. Generally speaking, outgoing tides are best.
Fishing from piers and docks in Florida
There are many fishing piers all along the coast line, both in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. Some are quite long, stretching out quite a way into the open water, giving anglers shore fishing in Florida the opportunity to fish fairly deep water. Many have bait shops and facilities, which make it quite convenient.
Often times, the best fishing is right under the pier, near the pilings. Anglers fish the up-tide side, then let the current take the bait under the pier. Live or cut bait is usually best, though anglers do fine with lures when mackerel and other species move through. Also, the deep end is not always best, especially for whiting and pompano.
The end of the pier will be where the “regulars” go in most cases. Many have refined their techniques. Long surf rods can even be used for king mackerel. Cobia are caught as well and tarpon are regularly hooked. Many piers have banned shark fishing. like bridge fishing, the best action often occurs at night, as well as early and late in the day.
Fishing the flats in Florida
Anglers that don’t mind getting their feet wet will have countless square miles of fishing opportunities. On the East Coast, there is road access to the Banana and Indian River systems. Throughout Florida, there are many places to park and simply wade the flats in search of a bite!
Speckled trout are often caught over submerged grass beds. Anglers catch them casting live shrimp under a popping cork. Special floating bait buckets eliminate the need for an aerator. Live shrimp will catch many other species as well. One technique is to work to the edge where the water drops off. Fish will often hold right there to feed on bait coming off the flat.
Jigs, topwater plugs, and gold spoons all work well for anglers wading the flats. Redfish are a commonly caught species as well and a gold weedless spoon is the top lure. In many cases, those wading have an advantage over anglers in boats. Waders can ease up on fish, not to mention access limitations of boats due to shallow water. Topwater plugs are great fun in the skinny water as well.
Seawalls are productive shore fishing spots in Florida
Seawalls can be overlooked spots for anglers fishing from shore in Florida. They provide structure and cover for bait and game fish. Many seawalls have rocks to reinforce them. These hold crabs and other crustaceans.
The approach when fishing seawalls is a bit different. In most cases, casting parallel to the seawall will work best as the fish are often tight to the cover. A shallow diving plug such as a Rapala X-Rap is a great choice. Jigs can be used, but will hang up. A free lined live bait will certainly produce as well.
In conclusion, this article on shore fishing in Florida will help anglers in the Sunshine State catch more fish without need a boat!