Clearwater Angler’s Guide to Deep Sea Fishing

Reading Time: 8 minutes

In Clearwater, it just feels natural to just grab your rod and hit the waters. As you leave the beautiful white sandy beaches behind, pass the turquoise waters of Tampa Bay, and move to the remote reefs and offshore playgrounds, you know you’re in for some amazing angling. Yes, deep sea fishing in Clearwater is the gem in this spot’s crown.

Whenever you decide to hit the offshore waters, there’s something interesting waiting to take your bait. And the list of potential catches is just one of the reasons to fish the deep waters of the Gulf! 

In this guide, we’ll do our best to break down the many game species you can target in the bluewater, along with introducing you to the best offshore spots, deep sea fishing regulations, and more. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll know what you can expect from your Clearwater deep sea fishing adventure. So let’s dive in.

Top Clearwater Deep Sea Catches 

A lot of locals here say that these waters are blessed with diversity. There’s always something biting, no matter when you decide to hit the waters. The one thing you need to keep in mind is that the further you go, the bigger the fish are. 

The deep sea fishing grounds begin in federal waters 15 miles off the coast. And you might need to travel 50+ miles to find your Tuna and Billfish, as well as large Amberjack, Snapper, and Grouper. But it goes without saying that the reward is definitely worth the travel. Let’s take a closer look at ’em.

Tuna & Blue Marlin

When it comes to Tuna fishing, you can come across Blackfin, Bluefin, and Yellowfin varieties. Blackfins are more common than Yellowfin and Bluefin, although none of them are that easy to find. 

The recipe for a successful Tuna fishing trip in Clearwater is a lot of luck and a lot of travel. For Blackfin Tuna, you can actually stick to waters just 40 feet deep. But for the other two, you’ll need to go further out. 

If you’re up for a challenging trip, when’s the best time to hunt for Tuna? The short answer is, whenever you want! Tuna are available throughout the year, although you might want to look for them between March and May, or October and December to maximize your chances.

If you’re a diehard Marlin fan, you’ll be surprised to learn that you can find your favorite Billfish when deep sea fishing in Clearwater. Blue Marlin are on the menu anywhere throughout the Gulf’s offshore waters. You’ll need to head to weed lines, current changes, and temperature breaks anytime between April and October.  

While landing a Blue Marlin of any size is sure to have you bragging, you can actually opt for an overnight trip to shoot for that trophy catch. Some anglers fish along the 1000-fathom curve, where the continental shelf drops and amazing battles take place. 


Who hasn’t dreamed about fighting a large Shark? Shark fishing in Clearwater is all about the thrilling action of battling these big and impressive monsters. The offshore waters are home to Blacktip and Spinner Sharks, along with the occasional Bull and Hammerhead

There are two things you need to consider when planning a Clearwater Shark hunting adventure. Firstly, you’ll want to go between May and August. Secondly – and most importantly – keep in mind that many Sharks are protected. Get ready to release your catch back to the water as soon as you’ve taken a picture.

Mahi Mahi & Amberjack 

It goes without saying that beautiful Mahi Mahi and delicious Amberjack are among anglers’ most favorite catches on Florida’s west-central coast. These species are incredible fighters that reward you with serious meat if you decide to keep your catch. And, of course, if you manage to land one!

The best time to search for Mahi Mahi is from April through November, although you might have higher chances of catching one during summer. Amberjacks, or “reef donkeys,” as the locals like to call them, are also available over wrecks, structures, and springs in the Gulf of Mexico in summer.

Grouper & Snapper

While large Goliath Grouper tend to hang out pretty close to shore, you may be wondering which bottom dwellers you can encounter further out. Well, the Clearwater Grouper list includes Scamp, Red, and Gag. The Middle Ground area is among the best spots to look for a large Grouper. 

If you’re after something just a bit tastier, you can go for Red Snapper when the season allows. It may take a while to get to the best Snapper fishing grounds, but it’s definitely worth it. It’s always a good idea to plan ahead and just reserve a few weeks in June and July to hit the rocky reefs 20 miles out and beyond!

King Mackerel & Wahoo

Finally, King Mackerel and Wahoo are two of the most popular targets on Clearwater trolling trips. These species are perfect for those who don’t want to travel too far out, since they usually come pretty close to shore. 

When’s the best time to book a Kingfish and Wahoo fishing trip? “Smoker Kings” migrate up and down the coast in the spring and fall. It’s not a bad idea to bottom fish first and then hit the reefs on your way back to fish for these bad boys. 

And while Wahoo are among the most popular targets, they aren’t that easy to find. If you’re feeling lucky, hop aboard for trolling action anytime from May through September.

Clearwater Deep Sea Fishing Techniques

There are a few productive techniques for deep sea fishing in Clearwater that you should know about. We’re talking about trolling and bottom fishing. Which one to try depends on what type of fish you’re hoping to catch. If you don’t have any particular target in mind and just want to land whatever’s biting, you can easily try both. It’s always a good idea to consult with your captain to see if you can try trolling and bottom fishing all in one trip. 


Trolling is the obvious technique if you’re looking to catch anything from Mahi Mahi and Tuna to Sailfish, King Mackerel, and Wahoo. Since you’ll be going for larger fish in deeper waters, your captain might use outriggers with multiple lines in the water.

One of the benefits of this technique is that you can have any number of lines in the water at the same time. Like that, you’ll be able to cover more ground and increase your chances to hook into something big. Get ready to do a lot of reeling in, though!

Bottom Fishing & Deep Dropping

To catch bottom dwellers such as various types of Grouper, Snapper, and even Hogfish, you’ll need to try bottom fishing. This technique is ideal when you don’t intend to travel too far out. If you do, then your captain might offer to try deep dropping with electric reels. 

Deep dropping is suitable for seriously deep waters. We’re talking over 1,000 feet! If you’re trying this technique, you’ll most likely be at least 150 miles offshore. Here, you’ll be targeting Swordfish, deepwater Groupers, Snappers, and Amberjack among others. Some of these trips can last the whole night, especially if you’re after Swordfish!

Clearwater Deep Sea Fishing Spots

Now that you have a clearer picture of what you can target and how, you’re probably wondering where deep sea fishing in Clearwater actually happens. As we’ve already mentioned, the further you go, the bigger the catch. Therefore, booking at least an 8 or 10-hour trip is the best idea. 

Here are some of our top picks for your Clearwater angling escapades:

  • The Elbow. Hundreds of yards of reefs, soft corals, edges, and drop-offs around 100 miles offshore, The Elbow is a great place to go when you’re planning a longer deep dropping trip. 
  • Rube Allyn Reef. This is a large artificial reef not too far from shore. The Rube Allyn is located just 11 miles from Clearwater. Here, you can look for Smoker Kings during spring and fall, along with the occasional Amberjack, Snapper, Barracuda, and Grouper. 
  • Middle Grounds. If you’re looking for the spot for your deep sea fishing adventure, get ready to hit the waters 100 miles offshore. The Middle Grounds are home to some of the best fish species in the Gulf including Wahoo, Tuna, Amberjack, Snapper, and many more. 
  • The Mexican Pride. This shipwreck is located about 35 miles offshore and offers amazing fishing opportunities. You can fish depths of 130 feet for Grouper, Amberjack, and Cobia, among others. 
  • Treasure Island II Reef. This one is a bit closer to shore – just under 27 miles away – and is a part of the Pinellas County artificial reef program. What’s on the fishing menu here? Anything from Snapper and Grouper to Amberjack and Barracuda.

Clearwater Deep Sea Fishing Tournaments

When it comes to Clearwater, there’s almost always a fishing competition going on. Big game enthusiasts and competitive anglers that are up for even more excitement can choose from a few local tournaments. 

Each year, The Old Salt Fishing Foundation runs fishing competitions throughout the St. Petersburg-Clearwater area. This organization has been going for almost half a century, with a couple of prestigious tournaments that a lot of anglers take part in. You can take part in the King of the Beach Kingfish Tournaments either in spring or fall, with $225,000 in cash prizes. 

Alternatively, if you want to take it further offshore, check out the Loop Billfish Tournament. This is a catch-and-release competition that takes place each August. The Loop Billfish is a winner-takes-all event, with a minimum prize of $50,000.

Fishing Licenses and Local Laws

All anglers aged 16 or over need to have a fishing license to go fishing in Clearwater. However, if you’re planning on fishing with a licensed charter, your permit will be included in the price. Your captain needs to have a special federal permit to fish more than 9 miles offshore, and not every boat has them. It’s always a good idea to get in touch with your captain in advance to make sure you’re covered.

Finally, keep in mind that there are closed seasons and species regulations in place for many different fish species. As well as that, you may want to check out size and bag limits and learn more about fishing seasons. This information is publicly available on the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council website.

Deep Sea Fishing in Clearwater – Groupers, Tuna, and Everything in Between!

As a truly must-visit destination, Clearwater has everything an angler needs for a great offshore fishing experience. Deep sea fishing in Clearwater is definitely something you won’t forget anytime soon. In fact, you can visit if you’re in Tampa, St. Petersburg, or anywhere near. Let one of the local captains share their knowledge with you and take you chasing huge fish in the Gulf of Mexico and beyond.

Have you ever been deep sea fishing in Clearwater? What are the catches you’re most proud of? Do you have any other spots to share with us? Let us know in the comments below!

The post An Angler’s Guide to Deep Sea Fishing in Clearwater appeared first on FishingBooker Blog.

By: Lisa
Title: An Angler’s Guide to Deep Sea Fishing in Clearwater
Sourced From: fishingbooker.com/blog/deep-sea-fishing-in-clearwater/
Published Date: Wed, 01 Jun 2022 15:32:00 +0000

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