Tampa Bay is one of the state’s largest natural harbors which houses a plethora of gamefish who call this place home. Tampa Bay is also the state’s largest natural open-water estuary. What this means for you is nonstop year round fishing action!

The Intracoastal waters of Clearwater, St. Petersburg and Tarpon Springs add to your potential catch of redfish, snook, grouper, pompano, sheepshead, spotted seatrout and Spanish mackerel. A few fights with a jack, ladyfish or gafftopsail catfish will keep the day lively while the mild climate provides for favorable fishing conditions year-round.

Tampa Bay fishing hotspots don’t end with saltwater. The Tampa area has some of the most productive inland lakes and rivers. Whenever you are done with fighting Tarpon on the bay, head to a local lake for Largemouth Bass. Or just explore the Tampa fishing piers!

Tampa offers inshore, backwater, and flats fisherman shots at redfish, snook, sea trout, black drum, flounder, snapper, and many other local favorites throughout the year. Seasonally, we also get the Tarpon migration and better shots at pelagic species such as mackerel and cobia. Even big game fisherman who love to fight on light tackle will find shots at grouper and sharks to be abundant.

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A fishing trip along these back bays, white sandy beaches and mangrove shorelines always doubles as a premier nature tour. Don’t be surprised if your charter gets briefly interrupted by curious dolphins, hungry manatees, or flocks of exotic birds. Top that off with some of the most magnificent sunrises and sunsets anywhere on the West Coast, and you’ve got yourself a one-of-a-kind fishing experience, bar none.

At Sebastian Inlet, the sand fleas (mole crabs) are on the beach and they’re catching pompano and whiting on the fleas and clams. Black drum and sheepshead are also being caught in the inlet on fleas and clams. There’s still some mullet around and they’re still catching some big snook. Redfish have been mediocre, but there’s a good trout bite inside in the river. The bluefish, Spanish mackerel, and jack crevalle bite is still really good. “The flounder are starting to run and we have a tourney going on to the end of January. It’s a $20 entry fee, with a 100 percent payout for 1st  2nd and 3rd place heaviest weight,” reports Whitey’s Bait & Tackle (321-724-1440).

Spotted sea trout feed mainly on crabs, menhaden, shrimp, mullet and anchovies. Good fishing for spotted sea trout can be found near the mouth of Tampa Bay around Fort DeSoto during the summer months. The best fishing is at dawn or dusk.

Fishing with Danny is like a trip to the fish market but a WHOLE more fun. Last Saturday (10/05), I caught 18 fish (10 different species). Had a fabulous day. We fished from Apollo Beach all  along the Southshore of Tampa Bay

Swift Fish Charters is a Tampa business that gives fishing guide services to local clients. Tim Whitfield, the company’s owner and Captain, is a third-generation Floridian, who grew up fishing in ponds, lakes, and creeks in Pasco County before moving onto the flats of Charlotte Harbor and Tampa Bay. He has been writing articles for the publication Onshore Offshore for over nine years.

Now although you can’t get your undies in a wad everytime you see an angler not handling a fish correctly (because they might actually be taking home the fish to eat), it certainly helps to get in a habit of ALWAYS handling fish with care.

At the end of the day, fishing in Tampa Bay is always more than just the sum of its parts. The bay supports a vibrant ecosystem abundant with wildlife, endemic species and all sorts of unique natural wonders.

This is also how the area manages to cater to anglers of virtually all ages and skill levels. Anything from a 2lb Pompano to a 200lb+ trophy Tarpon can be caught on the local waterways. It all depends on the type of experience you’re after.

“Fish today get a lot of pressure, so to get bites, drop in leader strength and hook sizes. For example, when we used to live-bait for sailfish, 80-pound fluorocarbon leaders were standard and 50-pound leaders were used by those in the know. Today, 40 is the new 50. We’re using lighter leaders on sailfish and circle hooks one to two sizes smaller to get them to bite.”

Most pilings bear numbers for maintenance reference. Keep track of where you caught fish and note specific points such as piling design, compass directions and any particular markings such as ropes, graffiti or excessive pelican guano.

In actions and lengths, along with special design features to tackle waters from New England down through Long Island and the Jersey Coast, Shimano introduces an extensive selection of Teramar ‘Northeast’ rods. The Inshore series includes nine casting and seven spinning rods, offered in 6’6″, 7′ and 7’6″ lengths, with line ratings from 8 to 50-pound PowerPro braid.

Large schools of redfish are found swimming through the shallow flats of Tampa Bay during September and October. Bunces Pass has good water flow and features spoil islands and troughs just in the pass with many fine fishing spots for redfish, snapper, trout and snook. The eastern side of Mullet Key offers excellent fishing for redfish.

A recreational saltwater fishing license is required for residents and nonresidents to take or attempt to take saltwater fish, crabs, clams, marine plants or other saltwater organisms (other than non-living seashells and lionfish with certain gear). 

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