By Amanda Mesa | Published on September 14, 2022

When it comes to world-class fishing excursions, Florida ranks high on most avid anglers' lists. You'll find some of the best fishing spots in Florida along its hundreds of miles of pristine coastline, bounded to the west by the calm, jade-green waters of the Gulf of Mexico and to the east by the cooler, sapphire blue Atlantic Ocean. Whether your best fishing trips in Florida would include hard-fighting sailfish and marlins, tasty inshore catches like snook, or reef fishing for delicious grouper and snapper, you'll find endless opportunities to cast a line from the shore — or venture into deeper waters and try your luck with bigger bounty.

When it comes to planning unforgettable fishing trips in Florida, there are many options to choose from. What part of Florida has the best fishing? Many would say South Florida, specifically the Florida Keys is the best place for fishing. Though in making the choice for yourself, narrowing down a county or coast can be overwhelming without some research and local insider information, especially if you only have a few days to spare before or after your cruise from Florida. We outlined some of the best areas to cast a line and included some expert tips, such as when is the best time to visit certain fishing spots and what kinds of excursions might be on offer. All you have to do is decide what type of fishing experience you're after.

Angling For A Bite In The Sunshine State

If you're wondering what part of Florida has the best fish, there's no easy answer. On Florida's southwest coast, you can hit the mangroves and reel in redfish, snook, trout and tarpon. Fly-fishing is extremely popular here, and you'll find plenty of fly-fishing trips and excursions ready to book with expert guides. Looking for the best saltwater fishing in Florida? The shallow waters of Collier County see an abundance of king mackerel and cobia twice a year, plus tripletail, snapper, grouper and permit among the reefs close to shore.

fly fishing in Islamorada. Florida Keys, Florida.
Fly-fishing in Florida's mangroves.

Pinellas County near Tampa, on the other hand, features incredible inshore fishing, with huge reds, estuarine sea trout and flounder frequenting its waters year-round. That's in addition to amazing offshore reef fishing, where hauls can include anything from snapper, grouper and kingfish to large cobia and brightly colored triggerfish.

These are just some of the best fishing spots in Florida along the state's west coast. On the east coast, you can chase tarpon, bonefish and snook in Miami's picture-perfect Biscayne Bay. There are largemouth and peacock bass in the city's many canals, and trout, redfish and gar in the area's briny backwaters. Venture just a bit further north into Palm Beach County, and you can duke it out with sailfish, dorado and tough-fighting tuna in the legendary Sailfish Alley — hands down one of the best fishing spots in Florida.

Marlin fishing in Tampa. Florida.
Marlin fishing in Tampa. Florida.
You'll find some of the best fishing spots in Florida along its hundreds of miles of pristine coastline, bounded to the west by the calm, jade-green waters of the Gulf of Mexico and to the east by the cooler, sapphire blue Atlantic Ocean.

Fishing In The Florida Keys

Ask any South Florida resident "Where is the best fishing in Florida?" and they'll likely direct you to the Florida Keys. This string of beautiful islands trailing from Florida's southernmost tip is one of my favorite vacation destinations. It's an especially great place to kick off or end a cruise from South Florida. From Islamorada to Key West, Marathon to Key Largo, each isle in Monroe County channels serious tropical vibes. You'll feel them as you bicycle past candy-colored estates, kayak through dense mangroves and sample key lime pie on the front porches of quaint open-air cafés. That said, if you're happiest with a fishing pole in your hands, this spot will be paradise for you. One of the most defining features of the Florida Keys is its access to incredible fishing.

Mahi Mahi dolphins caught in the Florida Keys. Florida.
Mahi Mahi dolphins caught in the Florida Keys. Florida.
If you're into fly-fishing, hit the shallows for large tarpon, bonefish, snook, permit and barracuda. You can go it alone or join a fly-fishing excursion. Four-hour charters for two people typically run around $600, depending on the season, the company and the vessel. If the reefs are your sweet spot, you'll be pleased to know the coral around the Keys is teeming with grouper, snapper and delicious bottom fish. Looking for the best deep-sea fishing in Florida? If you venture out into deeper water, it's all about marlin, wahoo, sailfish and even swordfish. Reef, wreck and deep-sea fishing charters here can run your tab into the thousands depending on the boat you choose and how many hours you want to be out on the water.

Fishing In South Florida

If your cruise sails from South Florida and you'd prefer to stay a bit closer to your departure port during your pre- or post-cruise fishing getaway, you'll find ample spots along the coast from Miami to West Palm Beach. In addition to offering spectacular nightlife, a great restaurant and bar scene, and a vibrant tapestry of cultural influences, Fort Lauderdale and Miami are a great home base for any Florida fishing trip.

Hit the backwaters of Miami-Dade County to haul up trout, gar and redfish. Or, visit its many canals to reel in several kinds of bass. Both the inshore and offshore fishing here is top-notch, with grouper, tilefish and red snapper dominating the deeper reefs that flourish just a couple of miles from the county's breathtaking beaches. Venture out just a smidge further, and you'll be pulling up mahi-mahi and even sailfish — all while soaking up dazzling views of the downtown skyline. Summer and early fall are the best seasons for fishing in South Florida, but you'll still catch plenty during the winter and spring months.

If you drive about an hour and a half north of Miami (or take a 60-minute ride on the Brightline train), you will reach West Palm Beach, another sun-seeker's paradise with some of the best fishing spots in Florida specifically in Jupiter near its historic inlet, also known as the starting point to the Celestial Railroad back in the late 1800s. Those in your party who are not into fishing will find lots of great shopping, museums, and beaches to enjoy on their own personal Florida day trip while you spend your day on trolling the open ocean or honey hole hunting in the intercostal waters. The coral reefs in this part of Florida abound with grouper and red snapper, while the deeper waters are home to plenty of tilefish (tricky to catch though locally enjoyed for its flavor). The canals that crisscross through Palm Beach County also hold a surprise for fishing enthusiasts. Exotic species like clown knifefish and peacock bass fill them year-round, though they're most prolific in the spring. And if you travel to Lake Okeechobee during your fishing getaway — one of the best fishing lakes in Florida — you'll encounter massive largemouth bass. The spawning season for these giants starts in November and runs until June, visit any time during that period for the most excellent freshwater fishing experiences.
Bass fishing in Lake Okeechobee. Florida.
Bass fishing in Lake Okeechobee. Florida.
Finally, it's worth mentioning that no visit to the West Palm Beach area is complete without an excursion into Sailfish Alley. Running along Florida's Treasure Coast from Fort Pierce to West Palm Beach, this iconic Florida fishing spot is actually an underwater passageway that attracts an astounding population of sailfish — and you only need to venture out 3 miles from the coast. The best time to fish this passage is during the winter when the Gulf Stream is most active. Prices for charters into Sailfish Alley vary, but you can typically find half-day private charters for around $500 and full-day private charters for around $1,000.

Fishing Along Florida's Gulf Coast

The west coast of Florida is known for its sleepy, laid-back beach towns kissed by the calm, bath-warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico — which boasts some of the best deep-sea fishing in Florida. This tranquil, scenic region is also home to some of the best fishing spots in Florida. Head to Collier County for powdery white beaches, lush mangroves and out-of-this-world inshore fishing. Fly-fishing enthusiasts often love this area. You can also hit the beach and fish from the postcard-pretty Naples Pier.

aerial view of fishing pier in Naples. Florida.
aerial view of fishing pier in Naples. Florida.
Just a short drive north of Naples is scenic Lee County, home to the fun-loving college town of Fort Meyers. This county also hosts the romantic shores and iconic sunsets of Sanibel and many other top vacation destinations for beach lovers. With its abundance of beautiful bayside housing with jetties, sprawling wetlands and crystal-clear shallows, Lee County is every angler's paradise. It's one of the best fishing spots in Florida for tarpon in the summer months, specifically Boca Grande, Sanibel and the Pine Islands. Head to the area's many bays for lots of bull redfish, flounder and sea trout. You might even hook a Goliath grouper, but be careful hauling it up — they can weigh up to 800 pounds!

Fishing In North Florida

If you have a little more time to spare before or after your cruise from South Florida, consider road-tripping up to Florida's northernmost reaches along the east coast and the Panhandle for even more great fishing spots. On the Atlantic side, there's St. Johns County it is home to the charming, historic city of St. Augustine. Founded in 1565 it is known as the oldest city in the US it lures visitors from across the nation year-round with its romantic Spanish Colonial architecture, 17th-century fortress and quiet, cobblestoned streets. Located less than 2 hours north of Port Canaveral the waters in this area of Florida make for an ideal day trip before traveling on your vacation cruise. For many travelers this fishing spot is beloved among those who like to go after big catches like red snapper and black sea bass as well as deeper waters that are home to sailfish, mahi-mahi, tuna, wahoo, and marlin.

trolling for Wahoo in Port Canaveral. Florida.
trolling for Wahoo in Port Canaveral. Florida.

Inshore, it's all about massive black drum, flounder and trout. St. Johns County, just north of Brevard County, also boasts some pretty stellar freshwater favorites. Fishing enthusiasts flock to the St. Johns River to reel in sunfish and crappie, as well as sunshine, largemouth and striped bass. You don't need to book a charter to fish the river, but if you prefer, you can find guided trips starting in the $300s and $400s.

On the west side, up in Florida's panhandle, you'll have a great selection of fishing spots to choose from. This region is sometimes referred to as Florida's "forgotten coast," but that can work to your advantage — you won't have to contend with the same kinds of crowds and high charter prices you might otherwise encounter in South Florida and the Keys. There's no doubt about it: Savvy fishers will tell you that the Florida Panhandle is one of the top places for fishing trips in Florida. The primary player here is redfish, a bottom-feeding fish that loves the shallow waters just off the Panhandle's captivating and quiet beaches. You'll find plenty year-round in the inlets that surround St. George Island in Apalachicola. The bays here also teem with trout, sheepshead and black drum that feed off its rich oyster bars. In the summer months, tarpon rule the waters just outside the barrier islands — you'll be able to spot schools of them moving up toward the Alabama coast.

beach fishing on the west coast. Florida.
beach fishing on the west coast. Florida.
No matter where you go — east coast or west coast, the Panhandle or the Keys — you'll find there's no shortage of great fishing spots to explore during a visit to Florida. The Sunshine State truly offers something for every kind of angler, with prime fishing year-round thanks to the state's perpetually warm climate and waters. If you're setting sail on a cruise from one of Florida’s four ports, set aside a few days before or after your getaway and enjoy some quality time casting lines out on the water — you'll be glad you did.

Written By

Amanda has written for Royal Caribbean since 2017. She also covers travel, lifestyle, food and beverage for Indulge Magazine, the Miami Herald and PureWow. She's traveled extensively around the world, enjoys building unforgettable itineraries and loves introducing readers to lesser-known destinations. 

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beach fishing on the west coast. Florida.
beach fishing on the west coast. Florida.

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