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Some come to golf. Some come to soak up the sun and surf. Still others have their sights set on Walt Disney World. But there's another group of Florida vacationers - and they come to fish.

Bounded by the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other, Florida sits in the center of waters brimming with endless varieties of fish. In fact, the opportunities for the avid angler are so limitless that deciding where to fish and what to fish for can be the most challenging part of the trip.

The Treasure Coast is a part of Florida’s East Central region.  The Indian River along Florida's east coast contains 700 species of salt and freshwater fish and accounts for 50 per cent of the state's total fisheries. It's one of the hottest places to fish in the world. 

Redfish, sea trout, flounder, snook and tarpon are the most sought-after game fish in the area.  Bluefish are plentiful early in the year, followed by cobia, Spanish mackerel and snook. 

The other reason why the Treasure Coast is hot for anglers is that its central location puts the area within easy striking distance of the other great fishing opportunities in Florida.  Choosing a location, and identifying the types of fish found in that area, is the first step on the road to rod and reel.

 

The Keys

The 42 islands that make up the Keys can be divided into three distinct sections - Upper, Middle and Lower. The Upper Keys from Key Largo to Lower Matecumbe contain the area's fishing hub, Islamorada, known as "the fishing capital of the Keys."

Both inshore and offshore fishing is excellent. Sailfish reaching weights of 60 to 80 pounds are around until late spring, along with blackfin tuna and 30- to 40-pound wahoo. Dolphins appear in April, followed by blue marlin in May, which can be found within 10 miles of shore.

Full and half-day bottom fishing trips for yellowtail, snapper and grouper are organized out of the city of Marathon, in the Middle Keys.

A day of fishing in the Lower Keys can net a mixed bag of fish, including yellowtail, cobia, African pompano, amberjack and barracuda. King mackerel are abundant around Key West during the winter season and tarpon fishing is also excellent.

Bonefish are literally everywhere throughout the Keys. If you're looking for something with a little more fight, the permit makes the powerful bonefish look like a weakling. You'll find this fish in large numbers in the Content Keys.

Another feisty resident of the flats is the barracuda. This catch-and-release fish puts up a good fight but its flesh often contains a powerful toxin. The easiest and least expensive way to fish the Keys is from the area's bridges, more than 40 in total.

 

Southeast Florida

Sailfish is the name of the game along Florida's southeast coast. The live baiting method common off Miami, Pompano and Palm Beach is becoming commonplace in these waters for catching sailfish. Late winter is a good time for the gulf stock of king mackerel if the weather stays mild, and tarpon and snook are abundant in Miami's Haulover Inlet and Bear Cut. By June, snook fishing moves to the inlet scene.

Fishing can be good from dawn until dusk when the bluefish are running. Cobia make an appearance in April, along with the gray grouper, mangrove and lane snapper. Mid- to late spring brings the year's biggest dolphin and wahoo.

 

Southwest Florida

From the Ten Thousand Islands to Sarasota Bay, the king of fish is the tarpon. First showing its silver scales in March, tarpon fishing only gets better as the weather warms, particularly near Boca Grande and off the beaches from Marco to Pinellas County.

Your next best bet is snook - both the small variety that feed inches from shore and the giants that hang out under bridges.

Sheepshead, whiting and pompano provide early action in February and March along the beaches and from the piers. Spanish mackerel and cobia can be snagged as they migrate up the coast from south to north. The grass flats are the best place to reel in speckled trout, especially in the early morning.

Gag grouper, black sea bass, yellowtail and mangrove snapper, amberjack, barracuda and king mackerel are the catch of the day offshore.

 

Freshwater South

The Butler Chain of Lakes near Orlando are widely known for bass fishing. Lake Okeechobee boasts incredibly productive waters, but keep in mind that there is a five bass bag limit and all bass from 13 to 18 inches must be released. One bass over 22 inches may be kept.

Lake Kissimmee and Lake Blue Cypress are home to black crappie, and Crooked Lake offers good speck and largemouth angling.

 

West Central

The speckled trout symbolizes inshore fishing in west central Florida. A versatile catch, you can snare them from a boat, bridge, pier or while wade fishing. During winter months, this fish will find warmth in tidal rivers and bayous like the Little Manatee in Hillsborough County. As the weather warms, they escape to the grass flats.

 

Freshwater North

Bass fishing between DeLand and Lake Harney is considered the best its been in years. The season begins in February, with prime fishing in the main creeks feeding into St. John's River. The Withlacoochee River, over 100 miles long, also houses largemouth bass along its stretch, and the Ocala National Forest is great canoe and wade fishing territory with its 600 lakes.


Northeast

The Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) between Jacksonville and Ponce Inlet offers more than 100 miles of sheltered inshore fishing for trout and redfish. Founder and king mackerel become strong in May, and the St. Augustine area is home to bluefish, tarpon and Spanish mackerel.

Daytona Beach is an angler's paradise. Whiting, sheepshead and bluefish are present in winter, and redfish, Spanish mackerel, flounder and black drum appear as the weather warms.

 

Panhandle

Just say "the cobia are in" and anglers everywhere get ready to reel in this spring/summer catch. Most of the fishing occurs in eight to 15 feet of water within 50 yards of shore.

There are boundless inshore and offshore fishing opportunities in the Panhandle. In mid-April, seatrout and redfish are a good bet, and one of the prettiest bodies of water, St. Joe Bay, is known for its bay scallops.


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