Fishing The Shore & Beach
Fishing is great on Florida beaches. All public beaches allow fishing from the shore and it is quite common to see people with their poles and cast nets working the calm surf. You can catch most inshore fish from the beach such as snook, pompano, shark, snapper, and redfish.
To find a beach near you, visit our Beaches & Shore Fishing page. Pick the area you wish to visit and our locations pages will give you all the information on the local beaches, from access points to parking areas.
Most beaches have lots for parking, pavilions, and picnic areas, many with barrier islands and tidal pools. Sometimes a short hike will bring you to more secludes fishing spots with the added benefit of wildlife viewing and some spectacular views. You can fish the inshore tidal pools or the open water surf. You can also reach may outlying beach areas by boat.
If you stay at a hotel or condo on the beach front, you will have easy access to the beach. The hotels also provide all kinds of activities and you can rent fishing gear, kayak's, jet ski's, etc.
Fishing Gear for Beach & Shore Fishing
- Cooler with ice & water
- Bait bucket (air pump)
- Bait knife & small cutting board
- Sand spikes
- Cast net, sand flea rake
- 5-gallon bucket
- Hat, shirt, shoes
- Sunscreen & sunglasses
- Umbrella & chairs
- Garbage bags
- Fishing License
Beach Carts and Fishing Carts are great for hauling all your gear. We have a whole page dedicated to Fishing Carts with ideas on how to customize or build your own fishing cart.
For more ideas on gearing-up for surf fishing view Surf Fishing Basics Family Fun at the Beach courtesy of FloridaRambler.com.
The easiest rig and widely used 2 hook dropper loop rig will land you most bottom fish that lurk in the surf such as snook, pompano, sheepshead or even sharks. Watch this video for instructions on how to make this very adaptable rig:
Fishing from the shore and beach requires equipment that will get your bait out where the fish are. Some anglers have a rod and reel for each fishing situation - fishing from the beach, fishing from a pier, and fishing from a boat. Depending on your budget and the frequency of each fishing situation, you have the choice of one all purpose rod or many specialized rods. Remember, surf casting requires long rods that are not suitable for fishing off piers or boats. A heavy 6 foot rod designed for pier fishing will not cast into the surf. Very heavy, 10+ foot rods are designed specifically for long casting into the surf. If you want an all around rod go with an 8 foot rod of medium weight. Here are a few rods we think are excellent quality and moderately priced. You can't go wrong with these brands and they will last you a very long time.
|Shakespeare Ugly Stik Big Water Spinning Rods||Offshore Angler Power Stick Surf Spinning Rods|
It can not be said enought, get a good reel! Quality made reels will last 20 years if properly maintained, a less expensive reel will last a couple of years - which would you prefer? Here are some excellent quality reels you will not regret purchasing.
|Fin-Nor Offshore Spinning Reels||Shimano Spheros Offshore Spinning Reels|
|Penn Spinfisher SSm Metal Spinning Reels||Penn Battle Saltwater Spinning Reels|
Lets Go Fishing
Be Sure to Visit our Florida Beaches Directory
Using live bait is by far the best way to catch fish! Yes, artificial lures, spoon, and other contraptions work just fine, but nothing beats fresh bait.
Cast netting for bait fish is a common activity at the beach and a lot of fun. The beach is also a good place to learn the trick to throwing these nets. Find yourself a vacant area on the beach and toss away. Catching bait in the morning on the Gulf when the sun is at your back will reveal bait schools glimmering in the sun.
Digging in the sand for sand fleas is another popular bait collecting practice. Gathering fiddler crabs or digging for sea worms in the sand are more free baits to gather while you wait for a bite to hit your line.
Beach seining is also another way to get live bait so we dedicated an entire page to help you learn this great method for catching bait at the shore. Also visit our Live Bait page for more details on catching your own bait at the beach.
Surf casting involves using rods and reels designed for surf fishing. Rods are generally 10 to 20 feet long and the best reels to use are the ones designed for surf casting. The ideal line weight is 15 pound which gives you enough strength to pull in big fish but is light enough to not get dragged by the constantly churning surf.
|Florida's Most Famous Fisherman Larry Finch, "The Fishman"
Catches Big Flounder and Sheepshead on Lee County beach in February 2011 using a big surf casting pole and sand fleas for bait. See his cool beach cart on our Fishing Carts page.
Sand spikes for each rod are used to hold the rod after casting your bait. A PVC sand spike sold in stores should be modified by bolting on a 2 foot aluminum tube which allows the spike to stay put and not get knocked loose from the pounding surf. Plant your sand spike at the edge of the surf by rocking the spike slowly back and forth until sufficiently firm in the sand.
The best bait is what the fish you are targeting eat. Common surf casting bait are sand fleas, shrimp, bait fish, and cut bait. While waiting for a bite you commonly see surf anglers digging around in the sand for sand fleas. Nothing like lively fresh bait. Store the sand fleas in a bucket or cooler with moist sand and keep it out of the sun.
Many seasoned surf anglers have 2 or more rods going at the same time. They cast the first line out, place it in the sand spike, then move on to baiting and cast the second rod. Hopefully once the second rod hit's the sand spike you will be reeling in the first line with a fish on.
Fly fishing on the beach is also very popular on the Gulf Coast due to our calm surf. On any given day you will see fly fisherman on the southern end of Naples Beach towards Gordon Pass. This sparsely populated beach makes for perfect fly fishing. The picture to the right is a fly angler who walked over the rocks at the end of Naples beach and stood in the water at Gordon's Pass. It was a calm day, I wouldn't try this during a strong tide or windy day.
Many beaches in Florida are free but access to them can sometimes be a challenge. You must first find parking then a Beach Access walkway to get to the beach.
Whether it is on the road side, at a public or private dock, or under a bridge, you will surely have good fishing from the shore. As you travel through out Florida it is not uncommon to see a fisherman on the side of the road—if it has water, it most likely has fish.
There are also public docks and piers, either state, county, city or privately owned, all over the state. Always check before fishing, some public docks do not allow fishing. You can usually buy bait at the popular fishing piers and most do not require a fishing license.
There are rock jetties where you can find great fishing and snorkeling. Many cities allow public fishing from jetties with cleaning stations and parking. There are also rock jetties on beaches that provide structure for fish and excellent places to cast your line.
Fishing from sea walls is very popular. Look for spots where you can see the channel running just off the coast; this is where most fish will be traveling with the tides. Cast your lines near structure in these spots for some action packed fishing. Commonly caught from sea walls are Snook, Spotted Sea Trout (seasonally), Ladyfish, Sheepshead, and lots of undesirable catfish.
Mangrove Island Beach Fishing
A popular activity for locals and tourists alike is to beach your boat on a mangrove out island and fish from the beach. You need a boat to get to these islands and knowledge of the waterways. Always get the facts locally before venturing on these out islands; many are private so be sure you know before you go.
Snook and other inshore fish can be found feeding in the surf at sunrise and sunset. The wildlife on these barrier islands are exceptional with turtle tracks and nests, fiddler crabs everywhere, and plenty of birds including bald eagles.
Pull you boat up onto a sandy shore and fish the shorelines especially on the tips of the islands where fish tend to congregate during tide changes. Be sure to use your GPS, a nautical chart, and have a marine radio as it is easy to get lost in mangrove island chains—all mangrove channels and islands look the same.
One important thing to remember is to watch your boat. It is common for boaters to ignore the tide and find their boat is "sky high" out of the water, literally beached. It is difficult to get a boat off the beach and can cause damage to the boat in an effort to drag it off. You can wait 6 hours for the tide to return, but why take the chance. Periodically checking the boat and moving it to keep most of it in the water is your best choice.
Anglers who also like diving spearfish on reefs close to shore. This is very common in Southeast Florida where many reefs are within swimming distance from shore. You can spot these adventurous anglers by the dive down flags floating behind them.
Spearfishing in Monroe County (Long Key Bridge to Miami-Dade line) and Collier County is prohibited in state waters. Where spearing is allowed in state waters in Monroe County you cannot spear in canals, 100 yards from shore or bridges, and many other areas so be sure to inquire locally before hunting from shore in the Keys.
Kite fishing from the shore is not common but certainly fun. Kites get your bait and chum further out into the water than possible when casting.
Tarpon from Shore
|Photo Courtesy of Captain Eric Ryan, Key West Flats Fishing|
Tarpon fishing isn't only for anglers with boats, you can catch a tarpon from the beach, a bridge or fish pier because tarpon are inshore fish that feed on the usual inshore species like ladyfish and mullet.
You must first have heavy gear or you will be wasting your time. These giants can weight 100 pound and once caught they jump and make long runs. Having 350 yards of 30 pound test will give you plenty of line capacity for the fight. Your leader should be 10 feet using 100 pound test with a 7/0 hook or a size appropriate for your bait.
If you are on a bridge or pier assume the Tarpon are directly below you lurking around pilings so cast out and away from the pilings into the the current that is flowing words you.
Fishing for Tarpon from the beach is much easier but takes a lot of work to haul these monsters in. Plenty of line, lively bait like mullet or ladyfish will do the trick if the Tarpon are in the area. Winter months are best in south Florida when the Tarpon migrate into the warmer waters from the cooling north.
Shark Fishing at the Beach
Get ready for some fun! It is not uncommon to catch shark at the beach. Blacktip sharks are very common. Chumming is a common practice to bring larger shark to the shore. Please check rules on chumming at the beach will be fishing as many counties have rules against chumming for shark. To catch shark you need big bait chunks, wire leader line and a heavy pole. Don't be surprised when a crowd quickly forms around you as you land a shark; people are very interested in seeing a live shark. You could be an instant celebrity! If you plan to release the shark, don't keep it out of the water too long showing it off.
On Marco Island beach one busy winter afternoon, an angler caught a small blacktip shark. He released the shark at the waters edge and instead of the shark swimming out to sea, it followed a small gully that ran parallel to the beach. For about 15 minutes you could hear people screaming all the way down the beach as the shark passed by. The shark was only 18" long or less!
The endangered Loggerhead Sea Turtle emerges from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean to nest on our beaches each summer from May to August. You will see them roped off on most beaches. The State of Florida is very active in protecting this endangered turtle. Turtle nests are closely monitored on all our beaches.
Please stay away and do not disturb the Turtle nests when visiting the beach, violators are subject to fines and imprisonment. If you see one on the beach or the babies coming from their nests, do not approach them, move quietly away and let them do their thing.
You can help—when visiting our beaches to pickup any plastic bags you see on land or in the water to protect the Loggerhead! For more information on the Loggerhead Turtle, visit our Leave-No-Traces page.
For places to fish from shore, see our Beach and Shore Fishing Directory