What can be said about fly fishing in Florida that hasn’t already been said? Florida provides some of the greatest saltwater fly fishing opportunities in the United States. Anglers can chase a variety of highly prized species such as marlin, bonefish, tarpon, redfish, and snook. Options range from deep sea fishing to patrolling hard bottom flats to prowling mangroves and estuaries. Some of the greatest fly fisherman have called Florida their home. Regardless, successful fly fishing in Florida involves understanding the methods and seasons of fishing in the various regions of the state. The west coast, Gulf of Mexico, Panhandle, Everglades, and the Florida Keys all make for unique fishing playgrounds for the adventurous fly fisher.
Banana River/Indian River Lagoon
The Banana River and Indian River Lagoon constitute a large estuarial system running north and south behind the Cape Canaveral Kennedy Space Center. They are no longer free-flowing rivers as their names imply, but long, narrow lagoons that average from one to eight feet deep. Protected from high winds, their waters are often calm and mirror-smooth, excellent for sight fishing to tailing fish.
In the ’50s, when the Space Center was established, the rivers were closed at one end, preventing many fish from leaving the system created by the locks. Thus, there were thousands of redfish that became landlocked. Some of them grew to weights exceeding 60 pounds. (Over the past four years, five of the seven world-record redfish on a fly have been caught in these lagoons, but there are thousands of smaller reds as well as other species to be found there.)
Although it’s possible to find access points to wade-fish in the Banana and Indian rivers, some bottom areas are too soft to wade. A boat, and a guide with local knowledge, is the best way to ensure you’re catching and not just fishing.
At the southern tip of Florida is an Everglades National Park office, hotel, restaurant, boat launch ramp, and general store complex called Flamingo. Located 45 miles south of Homestead, at the end of a wilderness road running south through the Everglades National Park, Flamingo overlooks some of Florida’s historically best redfish flats.
Once you’re there, you’ll discover that there is almost no place to wade-fish, and although you can rent a boat, the area is a flats/mangrove wilderness, not a place that many people fish without a guide or someone knowledgeable about the surrounding waters. Florida Bay, on which Flamingo is located, is comprised of shallow flats-prime redfish habitat-but at low tide, boats can easily be marooned on its empty expanse. Inexperienced anglers can get lost on the shallow flats and in the labyrinth of mangrove islands, cuts, and canals. And their chances of finding redfish on their own are slim.
The Florida coast offers fly rodders some of the best year-round redfish fishing. Known as “the poor man’s bonefish,” redfish will take flies aggressively and fight like angry bulldogs.
The Flamingo marina rents boats, and you can buy a chart of local waters and receive local fishing directions. If you fish unguided, you should equip yourself with a local tide chart, a compass or handheld GPS unit, a cellular phone, and food and water.
Chokoloskee and Everglades City
Just as the road from Homestead dead-ends at Flamingo, State Highway 29 dead-ends in Chokoloskee, the southwesternmost town in Florida. Located on a small island steeped in commercial fishing history, Chokoloskee and its twin, Everglades City, are still commercial fishing towns, but today recreational fishing plays an equal role in the local economy.
Chokoloskee is located near the northern boundary of the Everglades National Park at the edge of a wilderness area known as the Ten Thousand Islands. Like Flamingo, the area is impossible to fish without hiring a guide because the mangrove islands and channels that make up the area all look the same. There are some excellent fly-fishing guides in this area (see below), as well as several places to stay.
Wade-fishing is not an option, except for some areas reachable only by boat, and many unprepared anglers have spent a day or two lost when they couldn’t find their way while fishing on their own. The labyrinth of islands that surrounds Florida’s southwest coastline from Chokoloskee to Flamingo, along with the hordes of mosquitoes that have kept people from settling there, are the primary reasons the area sustains such a large population of redfish, snook, and other fish.
Florida has two large estuarial harbors along its south and westcentral coast. The southernmost is Charlotte Harbor.
Charlotte Harbor has the state’s most undeveloped shoreline with miles of pristine mangroves that harbor a dozen or so species of fish. Two large rivers, the Peace and Myakka, flow into the harbor’s northeastern border, the fresh water from each flowing 30 miles down the harbor, past several barrier islands, and into the Gulf of Mexico.
You don’t have to be a great caster like Steve Rajeff (left) to catch redfish, but it does help. When the fish have their heads down and are feeding heavily in weeds, you can–at times–get within a rod-length of them without them spooking.
In addition to the mangrove-lined shoreline, Charlotte Harbor has vast expanses of Florida’s most healthy and beautiful grass flats. Varying in depth from a few inches to more than 10 feet, the flats that surround the harbor and its mangrove shoreline attract thousands of redfish.
You can wade-fish at numerous access points around the harbor, but reaching redfish-rich water from shore is difficult. This is an area where a guide is essential, unless you have your own boat and are willing to explore.
Tampa Bay also sustains a large population of redfish. Of all of the areas mentioned, it’s the only one surrounded by large population centers, and the bay bustles with recreational boating and commercial shipping. There are numerous boat launch ramps, fishing guides, fishing piers, and waterside motels and restaurants.
Although the bay area is heavily developed, the government agencies that maintain water quality have done an excellent job. Sea grass thrives in Tampa Bay’s clean, clear water, and these vast grassbeds provide homes for shrimp, small crabs, and other crustaceans-foods for redfish.
Tampa Bay’s fly-fishing jewels are its abundant wading-fishing grass flats. From Anna Maria Island at the southwest entrance to the Ruskin area in the back of the bay to Ft. Desoto Park in St. Petersburg, and even around the Sunshine Skyway Bridge Causeway, all have firm-bottom, easy-to-find, wadeable areas.
Homosassa and Crystal River
Along the edge of the Gulf of Mexico, west of the Banana and Indian rivers, lie the extensive grass flats near Crystal River and Homosassa. They hold as many redfish per acre as any place in Florida.
In May and June, the flats off of Homosassa becomes the temporary home of thousands of migrating tarpon, and fly rodders worldwide come to pursue them. The tarpon are in residence here briefly, but the redfish live there year-round, and large schools prowl the shallow waters just inside where the tarpon roam.
Although all of the redfish sites in Florida have shallow grass flats, none has as many as the Crystal River and Homosassa Bay shorelines. These waters present the ultimate challenge for pursuing redfish with a fly rod. When the reds feed in the shallows, they often stick their noses straight down into the grass while searching for food, much like bonefish flats-feeding in the Florida Keys.
When in this tailing position, their tails often appear above the water’s surface, and casting to tails has few equals in fly fishing, especially if you can wade-fish for them. There are miles of hard-bottom wading flats along the Crystal River and Homosassa shorelines, and they are easily reached through guide services or by rental boats, available in the towns of Crystal River and Homosassa.
- Flats Fishing in Key West Florida
- Palm Beach Summer Fishing
- Surf Fishing for Snook
- Tarpon Fishing in Boca Grande, Florida
- The Hidden Keys
- Topwater Surface Plugs for Redfish
- Winter Backcountry Snook Fishing
by Tom Earnhardt – Until you experience a stingray injury or know someone who has, you may not place avoidance of stingrays high on your list of fishing priorities.
Articles on fishing the state with links to guides and regional reports and a good reef locator
Rhode Island angler hopes to eclipse record after landing 51-pounder
Florida Sportsman Magazine is the fishing authority for Florida and the Tropics with additional book, radio and Internet coverage!
Fly Fishing in Salt Waters – The Magazine of Saltwater Fishing
Professional articles on fly fishing Florida and the carribean along with a good bulletin board and OK reports page
Outdoor Resources Online is a comprehensive directory of outdoor recreation web sites
Fishing resource, including fishing articles and fishing reports. Fly fishing, sport fishing, saltwater fishing and freshwater fishing information.
a list of Florida guides and their websites
Although redfish are available statewide, there are six areas where they are the most abundant
West Central Florida Articles
Based in Sarasota, this guide offers fly fishing instruction and some brief overviews of species and flies for Florida
Lots ofarticles on how to fish the Tampa Bay area, a good species guide and good illustrations of local bait fish
West Central Florida offers a fishery that is unknown to many fly anglers in the world…
Take a tip from those old, western gunslingers: Forget those fancy notions of fair snook and redfish fights, catch your opponent by surprise.
Southwest Florida Articles
useful Southwest Florida info including tides
List of Florida Fishing Charters, Guides, and Outfitters by area and type of fishing.
Article on fly fishing southwest Florida
Information about flyfishing in saltwater, Flyfishing inFort Lauderdale and Naples Florida
A good series of articles on saltwater fly fishing in southwest Florida
Articles on fly fishing Matlacha Pass
Southeast & Everglades
By Frank Sargeant from Capmel.com
Break down the northern Everglades redfishery seasonally for best success.
It’s the largest subtropical wilderness in America and a marvelous place for a do-it-yourself fishing adventure
about the park
Tarpon from depths to beachfront on Florida’s west coast
Buccaneer booty is worth the effort
Northeast Florida guide-brief article on the area
By Capt. Pat Damico
Northern Florida Fly Fishing club
Florida Keys Articles
How bad weather has a good influence on these fish
great articles by Captain Ben taylor
lots of good articles on species found in the Florida Keys
Much of the world
Spooky world-record bones that require long, accurate presentations.
Fly fishing in the Florida Keys including target species, gear requirements, pattern recommendations, seasonal adjustments, photos, and tips.
Published in the April/May issue of Saltwater Flyfishing Magazine
backcountry flats light tackle and fly fishing in the Florida Keys
by Dan Blanton
Capt. Dexter Simmons fly fishing Key West and Florida Keys streaming video tarpon fishing and fly fishing
Chase the heralded Flats Slam in the shadow of the Florida peninsula.
Florida Guides Top Picks
map of Florida boat ramps from Florida-Outdoors.com
good forums for regional info on fishing florida. Also has a section dedicated to fly fishing
outdoorsbest outdoors best fishing hunting shooting florida sportsman sportfishing flyfishing guns&ammo guns ammunition bow shallow water angler
Reef Locator for all of Florida
Everglades Boat Ramps
Reports & info on all kinds of Florida fishing
a great site for Florida Fly Fishing reports, articles, and info
Florida fishing reports by region by Capt. Sam Arcure
Florida fishing reports, stories, discussions & other stuff
not necessarily fly fishing
Florida Everglades fishing reports
extensive coverage of Florida
South Florida sport fishing fishing forum
Florida Sportsman Fishing Forum – Southeast Florida
Florida Sportsman Fishing Forum – Southwest Florida
Florida Sportsman Fishing Forum – West Central Florida
Florida Sportsman Fishing Forum – East Central Florida
Florida Sportsman Fishing Forum – Northeast Florida
Florida Sportsman Fishing Forum – Northwest Florida
Florida Gulf Saltwater Fishing Forum
Florida East Coast Fishing Forum
Florida Keys Fishing Reports
4404 A Del Prado Blvd, Cape Coral, Florida 33904; 239-549-7555
Titusville – Orlando; 321-267-0348
634 21st Street, Vero Beach Florida 32960; 772-567-6665
8243 South Dixie Highway, Miami Florida 33143 1 (305) 669 5851
810 12th Avenue South, Naples, Florida 34102; 239-262-8228
81.9 Bayside ~ P.O. Box 603, Islamorada, FL 33036; 305-664-5423
4111 East Tamiami Trail, Naples FL, 34112; 888-319-9848
6353 North Federal Highway, Boca Raton, Florida; (561) 995-1929
Westin Key West Resort & Marina, 243 Front Street, Key West, FL 33040; (305) 296-0700
387 1/2 Mandalay Ave. Clearwater Beach, FL 33765; Tel: 813-259-3717 – one of the best fly shops in Florida
PO Box 500085, Marathon, Fl. 33050
13911 N. Dale Mabry, Suite 107, Tampa, Florida 33618; 813-968-3736
9501 U.S. 19 North, Pinellas Park, Florida; (727) 576-4169
1249 Stickney Point Road on Siesta Key, Sarasota, Florida 34242; 941-349-4400
3585 S.E St Lucie Florida; 772-223-1300
820 Albee Road, Suite 1 Nokomis, Florida 34275 Phone: (941)483-1115
Orlando 2814 Corrine Dr, Orlando, 32803 – (407) 896-8220
2683 Saint Johns Bluff Rd S Jacksonville, FL 32246 (904) 645-8998
4155 S Suncoast Blvd Homosassa, FL 34446 (352) 621-3474
Stuart 4330 S.E. Federal Highway, Stuart, FL 34997
Winter Haven 336 Magnolia Ave SW Winter Haven, FL 33880 (863) 299-9999