Best 14 Tampa Bay Fishing Spots
This post will list the 14 best Tampa Bay fishing spots. Tampa Bay is an incredible fishery located on the west coast of Florida. It offers anglers a chance to catch just about every inshore saltwater species in Florida.
The top 14 Tampa Bay fishing spots are;
Terra Ceia Bay
Sunshine Skyway Fishing Pier and bridge
Fort Desota Park
Tampa Bay shipping channel
Skyway Fishing Pier State Park
Cockroach Bay and Apollo Beach
Capt Jim Klopfer runs fishing charters in Sarasota, Florida, just a bit to the south. He gets up to Tampa Bay on a regular basis. The spots are mostly larger areas. Detail will be given as to species, tides, seasons, and techniques for each Tampa Bay fishing spot.
Best 14 Tampa Bay fishing spots
Here are Capt Jim’s top 14 fishing spots in Tampa Bay. Most of them are in the southern portion of Tampa Bay. Fishing is good in the northern part of the bay, particularly in the cooler months. Year round, this part of Tampa Bay offers the best fishing.
Anglers can purchase Capt Jim’s E-book, “Inshore Saltwater Fishing” for $5 by clicking on the title link. It is 23,000 words long and covers tackle, tactics, and species.
1) Bean Point
Bean Point is in a very strategic location, right at the southern mouth of Tampa Bay. Obviously, it gets excellent current flow. The long shallow bar extending north of Bean Point is an excellent spot to fish for snook in the summer when they move out onto the beaches. Anglers can sight fish for tarpon there as well. Schools of permit will also be seen moving across the bar.
The deeper water off of Bean Point is an excellent area for a variety of species including pompano, Spanish mackerel, tarpon, ladyfish, and more. Anglers can cast to schools of breaking fish on the surface as well as drift through the area while bouncing jigs off of the bottom. Flats on the inside and Anna Maria sound hold speckled trout, snook, and redfish.
Anglers can watch this video or click on this link to read more about the tackle that Capt Jim uses on his fishing charters
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There are two fishing piers on the north end of Anna Maria Island right near Bean Point that offer access to anglers without a boat. Due to the current flow and abundance of bait, these are two of the better fishing piers in the area. Spanish mackerel runs can be legendary! Bottom fish such as sheepshead and snapper are caught in the cooler months. Monster snook will hang out under the piers as well. The Kingfish boat ramp is a short distance away to the south just off of Manatee Avenue.
2) The Bulkhead
The Bulkhead is a legendary fishing spot in South Tampa Bay. It is basically a shallow sandbar area that lies between the mouth of Anna Maria Sound and the mouth of the Manatee River. With deeper water on all sides an excellent current flow along with a nice mixture of grass and sand, it makes for an ideal fishing spot for just about every species available in Tampa Bay.
This is also a very popular spot for both guides and recreational anglers to catch bait in the warmer months. Once again, the same factors that attract game fish attract the bait fish. Clean salty water coming in from the Gulf of Mexico along with the nice mixture of grass and sand make this an excellent spot to load up on bait in the morning.
The deeper grass flats and edges that drop off into slightly deeper water will hold speckled trout, mackerel, pompano, jacks, bluefish, cobia, ladyfish, and more. Drifting these areas while casting jigs or live bait works very well. The shallow flats to the east are excellent for finding schools of redfish and snook. A low incoming tide is preferred.
3) Emerson Point
Emerson Point is another excellent and strategically located fishing spot. It is on a point that lies between the mouth of the Manatee River to the south in the mouth of Terra Ceia Bay to the north. There is a great park at Emerson Point with excellent access to anglers who like to wade. There is also a nice canoe and kayak launch as well.
The best fishing is right off of the point into Tampa Bay and then around to the east and north. Massive areas of shallow grass mixed with deeper potholes offer outstanding fishing for redfish, snook, speckled trout, and jacks. Anglers do well casting weedless spoons and soft plastic baits in the shallow water. Top water plugs can be fun as well.
Chumming with live bait is certainly a very productive and reliable method, especially in the warmer months. Anglers anchor the boat up tide of a slightly deeper hole in the grass or a nice mangrove shoreline with deeper water. A few minutes of chumming with live bait will let anglers know whether there are game fish in the area.
4) Manatee River
The Manatee River offers excellent fishing from the mouth at Tampa Bay at Snead Island all the way up river to the dam at Lake Manatee. DeSoto National Memorial Park on the Bradenton side offers access for anglers wading and using kayaks and canoes. Expansive shallow flats are excellent for chasing redfish and snook.
Docks, bridges, and other man-made structure from this point up river to the I 75 bridge offer excellent fishing for just about every species. Snook are plentiful, with some of the fish growing quite large. Redfish, trout, jacks, flounder, snapper, drum, and more will also be caught. Casting a live shrimp on a jig head is a very effective technique. Shallow diving plugs are also productive and allow anglers to cover a lot of water.
In the wintertime, snook and jack crevalle will move up river seeking warmer water. There is a new boat ramp and park a few miles east of I 75 at Ft. Hamer. The ramp is very nice and can accommodate a fairly large boat. The stretch of water between Fort Hamer and the I 75 bridge can be very good in the winter. The river does get quite shallow a few miles east of the Fort Hamer ramp.
5) Terra Ceia Bay
Terra Ceia Bay is an excellent little estuary that offers fine fishing, though it is mostly suited to anglers with boats. There is some access for waders and kayaks at the SR 19 bridge. The west and north parts of the bay are best as there are miles of shallow flats with small islands and mangrove shorelines mixed in. This can be a good spot to fish when wind is an issue.
Terra Ciea Bay offers anglers the classic Florida shallow water experience. Those who prefer to use artificial lures will do well with weedless spoons and soft plastic lures on weedless swim bait hooks. Much of the water is shallow with grassy bottom. Topwater plugs can be effective as well, particularly at high tide.
Anglers using live bait will do well fishing a live shrimp under a popping cork on the deeper grass flats as well as chumming with live bait. Speckled trout will normally be found in slightly deeper grass, from 4 feet deep to 6 feet deep. Snook and redfish are more apt to be caught on the bars, along mangrove shorelines, and in the potholes.
6) Sunshine Skyway Fishing Pier and bridge
The Sunshine Skyway fishing pier is the longest fishing pier in the world. It extends out on both sides of Tampa Bay from the Palmetto side on the south end the St. Petersburg side on the north. It is the remnants of the original sunshine Skyway bridge which was damaged in an accident in the early 1980s.
This pier offers anglers without a boat outstanding fishing! The pier itself creates abundant structure which attracts massive schools of baitfish which then in turn attracts game fish. Just about every species can be caught here, including snook, redfish, Spanish mackerel, gag grouper, mangrove snapper, sheepshead, flounder, drum, ladyfish, and more. Trophy cobia and the king mackerel are even caught on occasion.
One great aspect of this fishing pier is that it is very convenient. Anglers can fish a few steps from their vehicle and bait is readily available to either be purchased or caught. There are artificial reefs off of the ends of both peers which can be accessed by both anglers fishing from the pier and in boats. Anglers fishing from boats should give the pier anglers plenty of room to fish.
Anglers with boats will have similar fishing around and under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge as well. It is not legal to tie up to or anchor under the bridge, but anglers can drift and work the bottom structure for snapper, grouper, and more. Giant tarpon are caught at night in the shadow line. Mackerel can be thick at times.
7) Fort Desoto State Park
Fort Desoto Park is one of the coolest and most unique fishing spots in Florida. It covers a large area and offers anglers just about every type of fishing environment. Huge backwater areas are excellent for redfish and snook. Many of these areas prohibit any type of gas propulsion, which means less fishing pressure and disturbances. The normal shallow water lures and baits work well in this situation.
Anglers do very well fishing from the beach for a variety of species from the mouth of Tampa Bay around to the north and into Bunces Pass. Sight fishing for snook is very productive in the summer time and offers great sport along with the chance to catch a truly large fish on light tackle. Spanish mackerel are available in the spring and fall. Whiting can be plentiful in the wintertime.
There are two fishing piers and Fort Desoto Park as well. One extends out into the Gulf of Mexico and the other into Tampa Bay. Both can be productive, though the Gulf fishing pier is generally more reliable. Runs of Spanish mackerel are legendary and when they occur every angler on the pier gets bit. Sheepshead and other bottom fish are plentiful in the winter.
The big shallow bar just off of Fort Desoto Park is a terrific Tampa Bay fishing spot for tarpon in the summer. Anglers in skiffs will sit patiently while waiting for a shot at the Silver King. In the spring and the fall Spanish mackerel and false albacore are fairly reliable. Anglers can troll, cast lures into breaking fish, or drift with live bait.
8) Egmont Key
Egmont Key sits right in the middle of the mouth of Tampa Bay. There is excellent current flow and Steve drop-offs on both sides of the key. Flats to the west of Egmont Key are good for tarpon in the summer. Deeper edges and drop-offs hold bottom fish such as snapper and grouper along with pelagic species including Spanish and king mackerel.
An artificial reef was constructed a bit east of Egmont Key in around 10 feet of water, near the drop off into the main channel. The coordinates are,
N 27-35 W 82-44.6 Anglers can find a list of Tampa Bay artificial reefs in this link.
This structure attracts bottom fish, mostly mangrove snapper but some grouper as well along with sheepshead in the winter. It is an excellent spot to anchor and chum for Spanish mackerel in the spring and the fall.
9) Tampa Bay shipping channel
The Tampa Bay shipping channel is a terrific fishing spot! This is especially true in the winter and early spring, but fall can be good as well. Dredging efforts resulted in steep drop-offs and rocky ledges. The most productive areas are where the flat drops off sharply into the deeper shipping channel. This area holds huge gag grouper along with mangrove snapper and sheepshead on the bottom.
One technique that is very effective when fishing for large grouper in the Tampa Bay shipping channel in the winter is trolling with large plugs. Several companies manufacture plugs that are designed to get down 30 feet deep or more. The Mann’s Stretch 30 really started this type of fishing and still remains an excellent lure. The best approach is to zigzag back and forth across the drop off between 20 and 50 feet of water.
Tides are very important when fishing the Tampa Bay shipping channel. It is virtually impossible to anchor and bottom fish when the tide is running hard. Therefore, the best times to try to anchor and bottom fish are during slack tides. Mangrove snapper, sheepshead, flounder, grouper, and other species will be caught.
Large king mackerel and false albacore are caught in the shipping channel as well in the spring and the fall. This is mostly done by anglers using a specialized technique where they slowly troll large live bait fish, with blue runners being the top choice. Trolling spoons with planers will also produce smaller king mackerel and plenty of Spanish mackerel.
10) Skyway Fishing Pier State Park
The causeway that runs through the Skyway fishing pier State Park gives anglers without a boat a ton of access to the shallow flats in this area. Wading is very effective at and is easily done as there are plenty of spots to pull over to enter the water. Also, due to the geography, anglers can always find a protected area to fish. Anglers can also launch kayaks and canoes in the spots.
Anglers with boats can certainly do well fishing this area. The shallow flats will hold redfish while the deeper flats will have spotted sea trout, Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, and other species. Several bridges offer excellent bottom fishing sheepshead in the winter and mangrove snapper all year long. Larger fish such as big snook and tarpon will be found under these bridges, particularly at night.
11) Bishop’s Harbor
Bishop’s Harbor is a protected small bay on the southeast part of Tampa Bay. It is a bit of a mini Tampa Bay, offering anglers the chance to catch all of the primary game fish species found in this area. Mangrove shorelines and potholes will hold snook and redfish. Speckled trout will be found in the slightly deeper areas as well as along the bars.
There is a large area for kayaks, canoes and small skiffs at 8701 Bishop Harbor Rd., Palmetto, FL, 34221. This is a fairly primitive ramp. Anglers can certainly enter Bishop’s Harbor from the main Tampa Bay itself. This is an excellent spots to try on a breezy day when the open and exposed waters are difficult to fish.
12) Port Manatee
The Port Manatee area is another excellent Tampa Bay fishing spot. There are a lot of spoil islands which were the result of dredging to create the channel into the port. These bars that drop off into deeper water are excellent spots for trout, jacks, snook, and redfish. There are also many miles of mangrove shorelines and acres of shallow grass flats, especially south of the harbor to the mouth of Bishop’s Harbor.
Man-made structure including docks and an artificial reef will hold game fish species along with bottom fish such as flounder, drum, sheepshead, and snapper. The artificial reef coordinates are N 27 39.79 and W 82 34.74
13) Cockroach Bay and Apollo Beach
Cockroach Bay is an excellent spot for winter snook and redfish. It is a small little backwater area and outboard motors are prohibited. Anglers in small boats using electric motors and kayaks and canoes can find some excellent action as these fish do not see a ton of pressure. Tides are important and it can be difficult launching and fishing when the tide is running against the angler really hard. There is a decent boat ramp right at the mouth of Cockroach Bay at 5299 Cockroach Bay Road Ruskin, Florida 33570.
Apollo Beach lies a bit to the north of Cockroach Bay and is just off of this map. The little Manatee River dumps into Tampa Bay just to the south of Apollo Beach. All of this offers excellent fishing for every species and Tampa Bay. Snook will be found along the mangrove shorelines and bars and will move up into the river in the cooler months. Redfish will be found in the same areas. Speckled trout, jacks, mackerel, and other species are found on the outside edges of the bars and on the deeper grass flats. There is a very nice boat ramp at E.G. Simmons Park.
The entire east side of Tampa Bay offers very good fishing in this area from Apollo Beach South to Cockroach Bay and North to the power plant. On low tide the fish will stage on the outside bars then move up to the mangrove shorelines as the tide comes in. There is also an artificial reef, the coordinates are N 27 44.89 and W 82 32.92.
14) Weedon Island and Tampa Bay Bridges
Weedon Island Preserve offers anglers a refuge right in the middle of the city. This area sits just to the south of the Gandy bridge and is conveniently located, just to the north off of this map. Anglers can wade as well as there is access for kayaks and canoes. This is pretty much your standard shallow water fishing for snook, redfish, and trout. It does get a lot of pressure due to its convenient location. However, patient and persistent anglers will do well. The spot is generally best from fall through spring as fish migrate up into this portion of Tampa Bay.
In conclusion, this article on the best 14 Tampa Bay fishing spots will help anglers catch more fish!