Fishing is a great vacation activity. It's you and the water, under the sky, putting your skills to the test. Get set to relax, have fun and generate some unforgettable memories and meals, whether you go out on your own or cast off with friends and family in tow.
If you're wondering where you should go for your catch, the answer is anywhere. With almost 600 miles of coastline, the St. Pete/Clearwater area is a fishing nirvana. No matter where you find yourself, you'll be just a short walk or drive away from a spot where you can drop a line in the water. There are virtually thousands of places to fish from and hundreds of captains to help get you there.
6 Types of Fish You Can Catch Inshore and Near Shore
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.
And just a mile out, fishermen can hook trout, snook, redfish, Spanish mackerel, 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 into Tampa Bay and back out. When offshore, tarpon can get as close as 50 yards. And when they're in Tampa Bay, you can find yourself catching a 7-foot fish in just 4- to 5-feet of water.
Year-Round Offshore Fishing
Fishing is a year-round activity here, but expect the types of fish you can find to change. Just know that there's also great adventure and great fishing to be had far from shore. To reserve a spot on a charter boat it's best to call ahead.
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.
Out there he'll find plenty of bigger grouper, snapper and amberjack. Blackfin tuna kick in at 25-30 miles offshore. But since grouper migrate, in cooler weather they can be found closer to shore. Kingfish can be caught in the spring and fall (think Easter and Thanksgiving).
Fishing From Piers, Bridges and Lakes
Fishing without a boat generally means staying dry by fishing from a pier. There are plenty of places to do that in the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area; some of the better-known ones are the Sunshine Skyway Fishing 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 Pier 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.
Wade-In Flats Fishing
If you're ready to immerse yourself, try wade-in flats fishing - you'll get out into the water but with covered feet. This kind of fishing is a good choice if you'd like to avoid a half-day minimum commitment. It also doesn't require a guide or charter boat. It you have bass and walleye tackle at home, bring it and your lures along. Fort De Soto offers 7 miles of shoreline; Weedon Island Preserve is also a solid option for this type of fishing.
For those who prefer freshwater fishing, Lake Tarpon (which has produced a 19-pound bass) and Lake Seminole are good places to start.
You'll find a list of additional fishing charters, piers and bait & tackle shops here.