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Saltwater Fishing
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Florida Keys Vero Beach West Palm Beach

It doesn’t get much better than saltwater fishing in Florida! Here you’ll find the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf Stream, reefs, wrecks and inlets.

The Gulf Stream
Beginning in the Caribbean and ending in the northern North Atlantic, the Gulf Stream System is one of the world's most intensely studied current systems. It is full of large game fish such as blue marlin, wahoo, sailfish, dolphin, kingfish, swordfish, yellowfin and blackfin tuna. You’ll also find sharks, some of them longer than the width of the boat you’re fishing in! Trolling lures and baits are the best bet, although offshore fly fishing has increased in popularity. The stream is especially close to shore off Palm Beach County, which makes for a short boat ride to find the blue-water game fish. Along the reefs you can expect catches of kingfish, mutton snapper, red grouper, yellowtail and mangrove snapper.

The Flats
They don't call it "flats" for nothing! You'll get your best results in water two feet or less. You'll have even better luck in water with sea grasses, bottom contours and sediments which provide an excellent playground for crab, shrimp and other fish appetizers. Whether you wade or kayak, you'll find flats fishing in Florida is rewarding. And for the ultimate challenge, try sight-fishing from a boat being poled! Best flats fishing location: The Florida Keys.

flats are great for florida saltwater fishing

Bay fishing can be quite diverse - you can use light, medium and/or heavy tackle and you can expect to bag a wide variety of fish. Some of Florida's hottest bay fishing spots include Biscayne Bay, Florida Bay, Whitewater Bay, Chokoloskee Bay, Ponce de Leon Bay, Charlotte Harbor, Tampa Bay, Homosassa Bay, Waccosassa Bay, Apalachee Bay, West and East bays (Panama City) and Pensacola Bay.

Jetties are great for saltwater fishing in florida The best jetties are those lined with concrete or those that line both sides of an inlet. Many of Florida's inlets offer fishermen easy access including bait shops and facilities. Here you'll fish for tarpon, snook, redfish, jacks and mackerel.

Snook and tarpon are popular catches from bridges and night fishing is usually best, especially during a full-moon. Shrimp tossed up current work well. As far as location goes, the bridges in the Keys and the Sunshine Skyway in Tampa rate at the top.

There are dozens of saltwater piers and parks for fishing without a boat in Florida. Click here to see our extensive list.

Mangroves give fish a place to take a break from the sun, so if you can cast along the edges of the shoreline you're bound to get lucky, especially along dead tree limbs and other hiding spots. Click here to learn more about Florida's mangroves.

Remember to keep only the fish you're going to eat to ensure a healthy fish supply for future anglers!

Fishing Safety
Fishing is the most popular activity of many boaters. Anglers using boats can be at risk when it come to boating and boat safety. Unfortunately, anglers capsizing or falling overboard is a common fatal boating accident. Anglers who use boats to fish need to think of themselves first as boat operators. If you fish and boat, you should:

  • Know and follow all safe boating rules and regulations.
  • Pay attention to the capacity plate and don't overload your boat.
  • Wear a PFD especially when the water is cold or when fishing alone or in remote areas (a PFD is required in most competitive fishing tournaments).
  • Recycle or toss used fishing line into receptacles on shore and not into the water or onto shorelines. Fishing line is not biodegradable and is dangerous to wildlife and propellers!
  • Take care of your boats just like you do your fishing equipment.

Boat operators who are boating in the vicinity of fishing boats should:

  • Slow down when approaching fishing boats or give them a wide berth.
  • Never run over an angler's lines. Be aware anglers may have lines out to the sides of their boats or trolling behind.
  • Never disturb fishing boats by making a large wake. An angler at anchor could be swamped by another boat's cruising wake.
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swordfish is one of the most prized saltwater fish in florida

This massive swordfish was caught in a 34' Center Console boat, several miles offshore in Palm Beach County.

Recreational Saltwater Fishing License
Get A License
To provide funds for marine enhancement, enforcement and research, the 1989 Florida Legislature enacted a law requiring saltwater anglers to have a valid fishing license. This went into effect January 1, 1990.

A few years ago, not one southern state required a  saltwater fishing license. Today, six of the nine coastal states in the southern United States require these permits.

Whether you are a proponent of these licensing requirements or not, the fact is that the revenues provided for fiscal year 1991 exceeded $11,000,000.

Florida's license income is spent according to legislative mandate. Our laws specify that not more than 2.5 percent of the total fees collected are deposited into the Marine Fisheries Commission Trust Fund. This money is used to fund the Marine Fisheries Commission, which establishes fishing regulation, and to finance marine research projects. At least 2.5 percent of the total funds generated from your saltwater license fee are deposited in the Save Our State Environmental Education Trust Fund, which is used for aquatic education purposes. Five percent is set aside for administration of the law, including printing of the license.

The law requires that the remaining 90 percent of the allocated funds be distributed among marine research; fisheries enhancement such as hatcheries and statistics, habitat restoration, and building artificial reefs; and law enforcement.

west palm beach fishing club
Florida is home to hundreds of fishing clubs and organizations, like the West Palm Beach Fishing Club, pictured above. They are great places to not only learn how to catch more fish, but to meet new fishing buddies.

Fishing in the Florida Keys
From game fishing to sport fishing to flats fishing, there is nothing quite like the waters surrounding the Florida Keys. Your best bet is to contact one of the countless charters or fishing guides in the region.

Florida Shark Fishing Regulations
When fishing for shark within 3 nautical miles off shore on the Atlantic Coast of Florida or 9 miles off the Gulf Coast the bag limit is 1 shark per person or 2 per boat, whichever is less. There is no minimum size. The following shark species are prohibited: Sawfish, Atlantic angel shark, bigeye sixgill shark, bigeye thresher shark, bignose shark, Caribbean reef shark, dusky, Galpagoes shark, longfin mako shark, narrowtooth shark, night shark, sevengill shark, sixgill shark, smalltail shark, basking shark, whale shark, white shark, sand tiger shark and bigeye sand tiger shark.

Some text on this page provided by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

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