Florida Fishing Calendar – Tips from a Charter Captain
This is my Florida fishing calendar. Florida is a great place to fish year round. Anglers have a wide variety of fishing options regarding species, technique, time of year, and location. This Florida fishing calendar and forecast will help visiting anglers plan their trip.
My name is Capt Jim Klopfer and I have been a fishing guide in Florida since 1991. My home base is Sarasota, which is pretty much in the center of the state. I also travel Florida and almost always get some fishing in.
Florida fishing calendar; winter
Winter fishing in Florida is all about the weather and conditions. There will be warm, sunny days, especially in the southern half, and cold windy days. Conditions will change constantly and successful anglers adapt to these ever-changing conditions.
The flats will not be very active if the water is cold. In the south, bonefish, permit, and tarpon will vacate the shallow water. The same applies to redfish and trout further north. However, a couple of warm sunny days will see these species moving up onto the flats to feed.
Read my detailed article on Florida saltwater fishing in winter
Bottom fishing is productive throughout Florida in the winter. Sheepshead please inshore anglers all over, being caught with shrimp and crabs around all types of structure. They can be a day saver! Offshore anglers will do well on grouper and snapper on days that they can get out.
Winter is an excellent time to do some river fishing in Florida. The river waters are tannin stained and dark, therefore warmer. Game fish including trout, reds, jacks, tarpon, snook, and more will move up into rivers to both keep warm and to feed. These rivers often have deep holes which attract fish as they provide refuge on a cold day.
Sailfish fishing peaks in January and February. Most are caught on the lower east coast around Stuart. Often times, the rougher the seas, the better the fishing. Wahoo are another species that anglers will catch. Gag grouper will move close to shore, as long as it is not too cold.
Surf fishing can be very productive in the winter in Florida. Pompano are the main prize, they are fun to catch and fantastic to eat! Whiting are very reliable as well. A two hook rig with pieces of shrimp works well. The key is to fish when the water is not stirred up with mud and weeds. Winter is the first entry in my Florida fishing calendar.
Florida fishing calendar; spring
Spring is a fantastic time to be fishing in Florida! Weather can still be an issue, especially in north Florida. Some of the fronts, especially in March and April, can be strong, bringing northwest winds. Anglers will have to adjust, but the conditions will improve each month as it warms up.
The warming temperatures will result in the flats coming alive. In the south, bonefish, tarpon, and permit will move very shallow in search of crabs and other forage. Anglers cast lures or flies as well as live bait. Further north, snook, trout, and jacks will move out of their deeper winter spots to feed on the bars and grass flats.
Inshore fishing in general should be very good. Again, anglers will have to deal with a few breezy days, but other than that, the bite will be good. Speckled trout and redfish are top targets throughout the state. Shrimp under a float and a jig and grub are top baits. Flounder, sheepshead, snapper, jacks, snook (in the southern half), pompano, bluefish, ladyfish, and other species will also be encountered on the flats and in the passes and inlets.
Migratory species will be on the move in spring. There will be significant migrations on both coasts. The species include king and Spanish mackerel, pompano, false albacore, tarpon, cobia, sharks, and other species. Some of these will move into the inshore waters as well. I really enjoy this type of fishing as much of it is visual. Anglers can drift, cast, troll, or sight fish, depending on conditions.
Read my article on Florida saltwater fishing in summer
Offshore anglers will have a lot of options in spring. Dolphin are a top quarry in the Keys. Red and gag grouper are king in the Gulf of Mexico. Wahoo, tuna, sailfish, amberjack, grouper, snapper, and other bottom fish can be caught throughout Florida. Anglers can troll, drift, or bottom fish, depending on the species and location.
Anglers surf fishing in Florida can catch plenty of fish in spring. Once again, it really depends on the water temperature not getting too warm. Whiting and pompano are generally an option, especially in north Florida. Snook will be out on the beaches in the southern half of the state. Bait fish are a big key; if they are plentiful, the game fish should be as well. Jacks and ladyfish can provide some fun action. Spring is the next entry in my Florida fishing calendar.
Florida fishing calendar; summer
Fishing can be very good in Florida in summer, though anglers will need to change tactics a bit. It can be very hot, so fishing early and late in the day as well as at night are good options. Afternoon storms are quite common. There is usually a ton of bait in and near the passes and inlets.
The tarpon run will be in full swing in June and July throughout the state. Anglers will find them in the passes and inlets and out on the beach. Snook will stack up in the inlets and passes on both coasts. This is a great time to catch (and release) a trophy snook. Live bait works best in this situation. Anglers can sight cast with lures or flies to snook on the beach.
Flats fishing will be good, but anglers should try to avoid the middle of the day. Bonefish and permit will bite, as long as the water does not get too warm. Redfish will be all over, being caught on lures and bait near docks, oyster bars, and on flats. Speckled trout will move a bit deeper on the flats. Night fishing around bridge lights can be very productive.
Offshore anglers may have to make a longer run, depending on location. Here on the west coast where I live, most serious grouper anglers start at 100′, which is 30 miles or so. The trolling bite for kings and tuna will drop off, though dolphin usually remain constant. Amberjack will bite on the larger, deeper reefs.
Surf fishing can be productive in summer. Once again, it really depends on the water temperature not getting too warm. Whiting and pompano are generally an option, especially in north Florida. Snook will be out on the beaches in the southern half of the state. Bait fish are a big key; if they are plentiful, the game fish should be as well. Jacks and ladyfish can provide some fun action. Summer is the third entry in my Florida fishing calendar.
Florida fishing calendar; fall
Fall is a fantastic time of year to be fishing in Florida! The days become shorter and while subtle, fall does arrive. The days are clear and it rains very little. The tourists are mostly gone and fishing pressure is light.
Check out my article on Florida saltwater fishing in fall
My favorite type of fishing in fall is to fish the inshore waters of the Gulf of Mexico for false albacore, Spanish and king mackerel, cobia, sharks, and more. The same bite happens on the east coast as the predators follow the huge schools of finger mullet. Fishing the “mullet run” is an incredible experience when the timing is right.
Most of the fishing is visual as anglers sight cast to fish feeding on the surface. Live bait, lures, and flies all work well. The passes and inlets will hold some of these species as well as they use these cute to go into the inshore bays. Jigging for pompano is very good in the inlets and passes in fall.
Action on the flats will improve as the water cools. Speckled trout, mackerel, pompano, bluefish, ladyfish, jacks, snapper, flounder, cobia, and more will be found on the deeper grass flats. Jigs and live shrimp are the top baits. Redfish will school up in large numbers in late summer and fall. They can easily be seen on the shallow flats on a calm day. Snook will be found with them as well as along mangrove shorelines, docks, and points.
Offshore fishing will really improve as fall arrives in Florida. The cooling water will trigger bait fish migrations, and the predators will be right on them. All of the pelagics such as tuna, dolphin, mackerel, cobia, sharks, and albacore will be moving back south. Bottom fish will also move closer in and anglers will not have to run as far to put some tasty fillets in the box.
Surf fishing will generally be very good off the Florida beaches in fall. This is especially true on the east coast during the mullet run. This often occurs right off the beach and often into the inlet. Just about every predator game fish including sharks, bluefish, redfish, jacks, snook, cobia, mackerel, and other species will be landed. This is great fun for anyone fortunate enough to experience it! Fall is the last entry in my Florida fishing calendar.
In conclusion, this article on my Florida fishing forecast will help anglers understand the seasonal migrations and help them plan their Florida fishing adventure!