Fishing is a great vacation activity, something you want to do more of at home but you can't find the time. It's relaxing and fun, churns out memories and can put the freshest, most delicious food on your plate.
Now that you're ready to get into poles, hooks, rods and bait, where do you go?
Basically, anywhere you want. There are thousands of places to go and hundreds of captains to help get you there. With almost 600 miles of coastline, the St. Pete/Clearwater area is a fishing nirvana. No matter where visitors find themselves, they are a short walk or drive from being able to drop a line in the water.
One local captain, Capt. Paul Hawkins, catches fish where they live – he just likes to find the ones that stay close to land. He'll look just off the beaches, in passes and bays, in the Intracoastal Waterway and in bayous and residential canals.
Within a mile out range, fishermen can lure and hook trout, snook, redfish, Spanish mackerel and kingfish. And tarpon, often regarded as the state's No. 1 gamefish.
Tarpon season runs from March to October. The target zone moves, from up and down the coast to into Tampa Bay and back out. When offshore, they can get as close as 50 yards. When the tarpon get into Tampa Bay, it gives people a chance to catch a 7-foot fish in 4- to 5-feet of water.
Success off a bridge or from a boat from which you still can see buildings doesn't mean there is not a great adventure and great fishing to be had far, far from shore.
Capt. Sam Maisano takes full advantage of the speed of his twin-engine, Mercury-powered Donzi to get into some deeper waters in the Gulf of Mexico in an hour or two.
He reports that he finds plenty of bigger grouper, snapper and amberjack. Grouper migrate; in cooler weather they can be found closer to shore. Blackfin tuna kick in at 25-30 miles offshore. Kingfish can be had in the spring and fall (think Easter and Thanksgiving).
Fishing is a year-round activity here, but the kind of fish you find can change. To reserve a spot on a charter boat it is best to call a ahead.
Piers, Bridges, Wading, Lakes
Fishing without a boat generally means staying dry by fishing from a pier. There are plenty of options in the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area; some of the better-known ones are the Sunshine Skyway Fishing Pier, Redington Beach Long Pier, Pier 60 at Clearwater Beach (located on the beach named USA Today's "Best Beach Town in Florida" in 2013) and the Gulf Pier and Bay Piers at Fort De Soto Park.
From these piers or bridges, the fish that makes most people's day is the Spanish mackerel, which can be caught year-round but has seasonal peaks. Red drum, speckled trout and snook also can be found.
If you're ready to immerse yourself in fishing, try wade-in flats fishing, where you get out into the water (feet covered). It's a good choice if you're interested in fishing but not committed to a half-day minimum. It also does not require a guide or charter boat. It you have bass and walleye tackle from home, bring it, and your lures, too. Fort De Soto offers 7 miles of shoreline; Weedon Island Preserve is solid for this type of fishing as well.
For those who prefer freshwater fishing, Lake Tarpon (which has produced a 19-pound bass) and Lake Seminole are the places to start.
A list with further local area fishing charters, piers and bait & tackle shops can be found here.