Reading Time: 17 minutes
The richness and diversity of Florida’s waters are known all over the world. So much so, that passionate anglers come from every corner of the planet for the chance to hook into the fish of their dreams. Whether you’re after a Bull Redfish, a feisty Mahi Mahi, or magnificent Billfish, the Sunshine State is the playground of them all. The sheer number of Florida game fish is going to have you reaching for your rod.
When you’ve got dozens of options, it’s very hard to decide where to start. Worry not! We’ll talk about the hardiest and most loved fish species you can find in Florida to get you off on the right foot. This article covers when, where, and how you can target your selected species. Whichever one you choose, you can’t go wrong. And if you get them all, well… more power to you!
Table of Contents
Of all the inshore species in Florida, the mighty Redfish is a catch you can’t miss. These beautiful bright red to bronze fish are among the most famous and widespread species in the state. They hunt in shallow waters and fight with no mercy. Reds can live both in saltwater and brackish waters. On average, they weigh between 10–20 pounds. If you get a bigger specimen than that, you’ve got a Bull Redfish on your hands. If that’s not enough, they’re delicious and can easily be turned into a delicious dinner.
You can go after Redfish year-round, and you won’t be disappointed. The best time to catch them is in the heat of the summer when chances of landing a Bull are highest. Fall can be just as good, and winter will put you on smaller fish, but their numbers are still impressive.
Find skinny waters (up to four feet), and you’ll find Reds. Flats, beaches, piers, oyster bars, and mangroves are their playground. Basically, wherever there’s structure, there are Redfish. The best spots in Florida to target them are the Indian River Lagoon, Tampa Bay, Mosquito Lagoon, Sarasota Bay, and Clearwater, to name a few.
Redfish aren’t particularly picky about their food, so they respond well to lures and live bait. They’re big fans of crustaceans, so crab and shrimp are the way to go. If you prefer artificials, you can’t go wrong with popping corks, weedless spoons, and rattling plugs. Pair soft plastics with a strong scent and the bite will be rewarding. For more info and all-things-Redfish, check out this article.
Snook is deservedly considered one of the most iconic Florida game fish. They can live in saltwater, brackish, and even freshwater environments, and weigh between 5–50 pounds. Snook are fussy about their food and won’t be fooled easily. They’ve got a big mouth they’re not afraid to use. As ambush predators, they attack their prey with wild abandon. Once a Snook takes the bait, its aggressiveness is formidable. The hard work will pay off because grilled Snook fillets are super tasty.
Snook are a tropical species, so they’re at their most active in spring and summer. They spend the summer in flats and shallow bays, feeding and spawning. As cold fronts come in (as much as that’s possible in Florida), Snook withdraw to creeks, rivers, and backwaters, where the temperature is more comfortable. This is where you’ll find them in winter.
Snook live in warm waters (60ºF and up), so they thrive in Southern Florida. You can target them in Fort Pierce and Miami on the Atlantic Coast. On the Gulf side, Snook Alley in Sarasota, the Everglades, Captiva, Fort DeSoto, and Boca Grande are some of the locales that boast a strong Snook bite. Just remember to stay quiet when targeting them, otherwise, they’re as good as gone.
Hooking into a Snook on light tackle is a memorable experience. Some fishermen swear by artificial lures when going on a Snook hunt, and you can’t go wrong with spinnerbaits, soft plastics, and diving plugs. Snook won’t refuse live bait either, especially if it’s in the form of shrimp, pinfish, or sardines.
In Florida, when you hear “Bow to the King,” every angler knows you’re talking about Tarpon fishing. Tarpon is one of the most sought-after species here, thanks to their impressive size (100–200 pounds) and ferocious fighting abilities. Tarpon’s hard mouth makes it difficult to set the hook, and if you do, get ready for headshakes and acrobatic jumps. The fish is notorious for getting away, which makes them the ultimate inshore challenge.
Tarpon is at your disposal every day of the year, as long as you know where to find them. They’ve got a particular migration pattern that local captains know everything about. During the winter, they stick to the Florida Keys. As spring and summer come along, they spread out north, and you can target them on both Florida coasts.
In the coldest parts of the year, Tarpon stick to backwaters, inlets, and around bridges. Come spring, they move to the flats, where the water is gin-clear and sight fishing opportunities are marvelous. When it comes to top Tarpon fishing destinations, Boca Grande is the all-time favorite, with Miami, Islamorada, Tampa Bay, and Homosassa following close behind.
The first thing to know about Tarpon is that they’re a strictly catch-and-release species. There are many ways to go after them, but sight fishing and fly fishing are favorites. Spinning tackle will do the trick – the bigger the fish you want, the hardier tackle you’ll need. Crabs, shrimp, and pilchards are great live bait options. Artificials like topwater lures, silver spoons, and spinners are productive in the flats.
If you’re looking for a fish that’s abundant, not too hard to catch, and delicious, Spotted Seatrout is the way to go. Also known as Speckled Trout (Specks), your average catch can weigh about five pounds. Anything more than that, and you’ve got a Gator Trout. This is the species to chase if you’re on the water with beginners or kids. They’re one of the best-tasting inshore inhabitants and undoubtedly a favorite Florida game fish.
There’s a good chance to land a Trout year-round in Florida, though summer and fall provide the optimal fishing conditions. This is when the water is at its warmest (the upper sixties) and when Spotted Seatrout are most aggressive.
Specks are usually not too hard to find – they stick to grassy flats and inshore waters up to 10 feet deep. They also hunt for food around structure, jetties, and oyster bars. They follow the sun to keep warm and baitfish to keep full. Top Trout fishing spots include the Everglades, Sarasota, Tampa Bay, Mosquito Lagoon, and Englewood.
Florida Trout love to eat, which makes the lives of anglers a lot easier. They’ll double down on anything that appears injured and loud. That’s why popping corks are probably the best lure you can choose. Hard plastics and topwater lures will work just as well. Specks won’t turn down live bait either, especially if you use threadfin herring and live shrimp.
A fish that deserves a spotlight in the nearshore realm is Cobia. Relentless fighters and widely available, Cobia will test your angling skills every time to get them on the line. They’re just what you want when you’re in the mood for an adrenaline rush followed by a delectable dinner. Your average Cobia weighs anywhere from 20–30 pounds. You can also find them offshore, where they’re bigger and feistier.
The best time to go after Cobia in Florida is in winter and spring. If you’re fishing in the Gulf, summer is peak Cobia time, where both the quantity and quality of the fish are excellent. Southern Florida is the home of this species and that’s where you can go after them any day of the year.
The key to finding Cobia is finding the structure where they hunt. Reefs, wrecks, buoys, grass beds, and floating debris are all potential feeding grounds. The best place to fish for Cobia is in the Florida Keys, as well as Fort Walton Beach, Tampa, Jacksonville, and Stuart.
There’s a variety of techniques you can use to land a Cobia. Traditional casting and spinning work like a charm. They’re lazier than most fish, so you’ll need to get the offering right in front of them to get them to bite. These gluttonous fellas will take lures and live bait. Blue crab are their favorite, closely followed by pinfish, eels, and shrimp. On the lure side of things, diving plugs, poppers, and soft plastics are go-to options. For a one-of-a-kind adventure, try fly fishing for Cobia.
We can’t talk about nearshore Florida game fish without giving a shoutout to King Mackerel. Also known as Kingfish, this species is a common catch on fishing boats all over the state. They usually weigh around 20–30 pounds and move around in schools, religiously following bait fish. Bigger specimens (“smokers”) are loners and prefer offshore waters as their hunting grounds. King Mackerel fight well and they’re the bread-and-butter of the fishery in many parts of the Sunshine State.
Southern Florida is where you’ll find Kingfish year-round. Every spring, they start the journey north to their spawning grounds, which marks the best fishing along the Gulf Coast in summer and fall.
King Mackerel are insatiable predators, so they’re never far away from their food, aka bait fish. Reefs and wrecks are the best places to look for them, as well as piers, inlets, and rock ledges. Destin, Panama City Beach, St. Petersburg, Key Biscayne, and Pensacola are just some of the most productive King Mackerel fishing spots.
If you want a Kingfish, you’ll need a boat. They stick to nearshore and offshore waters, so the only way to access them is from a boat. These pelagics respond best to trolling and you can use planer boards to get your offering to them. Live bait in the form of their favorite bait fish – minnows, herring, sardines – is irresistible. Spoons and plugs are the most efficient artificial lures. Remember to have a strong leader, because King Mackerel have a lot of teeth and they’re not afraid to use them to break free.
Mahi Mahi (Dolphin)
As we sail into the offshore waters, it’s time to talk about Mahi Mahi – a very strong fish, as its Hawaiian name suggests. We dare say that Mahis are among the most loved Florida game fish, thanks to their speed, forceful acrobatics, and flavorful meat. Their beautiful coloring makes them stand out, and they average 20–30 pounds. Mahi Mahi bigger than that are called Bull Mahi. They’re a great target for beginners and experienced fishermen alike.
Mahi Mahi are known for moving around a lot. The most productive time to target them is in spring and early summer, but you can find them around the Keys well into the fall.
Mahi Mahi love deep waters, at least 100 feet deep. That’s why you’ll need to travel 20 miles offshore to get to them. They’re a pelagic species, and they feed close to the surface around anything that’s floating. The Atlantic Coast boasts stronger numbers of Mahi Mahi than the Gulf. But Port Canaveral, Panama City Beach, Destin, and Pompano Beach are all go-to spots for your dose of Mahi Mahi fishing.
There’s no better way to bag a Mahi than by trolling. These fish eat first, and ask questions later. Throw some chum overboard and you might start a feeding frenzy that results in multiple hookups. Beware that you’ll need sturdy tackle to overpower their headshakes and aerial displays! Bait in the form of live or dead pilchards, ballyhoo, cigar minnows, and squid is the recipe for success. The best option for artificials are spoons, soft plastics, and diving plugs.
With such a wide variety of game fish to catch in Florida, Wahoo often isn’t the first species that comes to mind. That all changes once you get one on your line. One experience with a Wahoo and their reel-screaming runs will change how you see them forever. Wahoo prefer warm water temperatures and usually weigh between 15–40 pounds. They’re among the fastest fish in the sea, are good fighters, and make for fabulous table fare. What’s not to like?
The Wahoo season in Florida depends on your location. You’ll find these aerodynamic beasties on the Atlantic Coast all year. Wahoo are particularly fond of Southern Florida’s warm waters. Winter can be very good for Wahoo fishing in Florida because they come closer to land and feed around reefs. In summer, you can catch them all over the state, but you’re in for a bit of a boat ride before you get to them.
Wahoo aren’t schooling fish, so they mostly hit it off on their own or in small groups. They prefer to hunt in waters up to 500 feet deep, sometimes even more. However, Wahoo are pelagics, so they look for food close to the surface, though they’re not uncommon around deepwater reefs, too. You’ll need to travel 20–50 miles offshore to find them, which can be quite a boat ride. The best destinations to target Wahoo are Miami, Stuart, Jacksonville, St. Augustine, and the Keys.
Toothy Wahoo love to eat, so they’re not very demanding about what they devour. High-speed trolling is the most productive way to get them to bite. For a more hands-on approach, you can give vertical jigging a try, or even spearfishing if you’re feeling adventurous. Sardines, mullet, ballyhoo, and pilchards used as live bait won’t disappoint. Lures that give good results include diving plugs and wahoo jigs.
Groupers are stars of the bottom fishing scene. They come in 17 different varieties, which makes them interesting prey for all levels of anglers. Black, Gag, Red, Goliath, Snowy, and Scamp Groupers are the most common subspecies you could reel in. These know how to fight and use their weight to their advantage, so they’re no joke to land. The main reason everyone wants them is that they’re pure deliciousness on a plate. Bear in mind that each of the subspecies has its own seasonality and regulations, so make sure to check those before you head out.
Because there are so many different subspecies, there isn’t any one time of the year that’s best for targeting them all. Some of them have closed seasons, so it’s good to talk to your captain before you start fishing. Broadly speaking, summer and late fall is the best time to get on a Grouper bite.
Rocky bottoms, reef edges, drop-offs, and structures on the seafloor are the home of most Groupers. You can find a Grouper anywhere in Florida, but the varieties differ. Fort Lauderdale, Marathon, Pensacola, Key Biscayne, and Miami are all on the to-fish list.
Charter captains employ different techniques to get Grouper to bite. Whether it’s bottom fishing, trolling, or deep dropping for trophy catches, heavy-duty tackle is a must. Since you’ll be fishing waters that can be anywhere from 100–1,200 feet deep, you’ll need a sinker to hold your offering at the bottom. Speaking of which, live bait works best on Groupers, specifically mullet, pinfish, or pilchards.
Among Florida game fish, Snappers take a very special place. There are 15 subspecies at your disposal, and they live in different habitats. You can fish for Mangrove, Yellowtail, and Lane Snapper with your family, then head further out to target the legendary Red Snapper, along with their Vermilion, Mutton, and Cubera relatives. Depending on the subspecies, these fish can weigh from 2–50 pounds.
Whenever you hit the waters of Florida, chances are at least one of the Snapper species will be in season. Some of them are open for fishing year-round, while others, especially Red Snapper, have strictly regulated seasons. Reds can be fished for only a couple of months in the summer. This can also be a good time to go out and catch just about any Snapper you’d like.
Snappers live in every part of the water column, but one thing they’ve got in common is structure. They’re ambush predators and need cover to get their food. You’ll find them inshore, around big rocks, bridges, artificial reefs, and sunken wood. Nearshore and offshore, natural and artificial reefs, as well as wrecks, are their gathering places. When it comes to top Snapper destinations, the entire Florida Panhandle is your playground, with Destin and Pensacola at the top of the list.
The foolproof way to get a Snapper to bite is to entice them with their favorite bait fish like pinfish and cigar minnows. They won’t refuse the offering of squid, octopus, shrimp, or bonito strips either. Live and cut bait is generally more productive than lures. But you can give artificials a try with jerkbaits, spoons, and soft plastics. Light tackle is a good choice for inshore fishing but, for deeper waters, you need strong tackle, egg sinkers, and a wire leader.
Passionate bottom fishermen swear by the brute strength of an Amberjack strike. These brawny fish didn’t get the nickname “reef donkey” for nothing. Their strikes and first runs are forceful, and they’ll fight you for every inch of the line. Their average weight is up to 40 pounds, but there are trophy-sized fish that go well into the triple digits. Even though there are several subspecies of AJ, Greater Amberjack is the most common catch in Florida.
Like so many Florida game fish, Amberjack stick around and feed throughout the year, though the warmest months are usually best for fishing. That’s why late spring and summer are the time to go out if you’re on the lookout for a new personal AJ record.
Depths between 200–300 feet are the sweet spot for Amberjack to live and thrive. They like their deep reefs, wrecks, and oil rigs because they’re opportunistic feeders and prefer an easy bite. Panama City Beach, Key West, Destin, Marathon, and Palm Beach are all good starting points for your AJ hunt.
Amberjack are fighters like no other bottom fish, so you’ll need strength and patience to win the battle. The easier part is to get them to take the bait, because they don’t mind eating anything, as long as they don’t have to work for it. These fish have a mean temper, so you need extra strong hooks and even stronger lines. AJ love their squid and octopus, so that’s the best choice for live bait. On the artificial side of things, you can try your luck with jigs and spoons.
Our talk about top Florida game fish wouldn’t be complete without Tuna. There are 8 different types of Tuna you can target, but Blackfin and Yellowfin Tuna are by far the most popular. Blackfins are numerous and combative to the end. They’re on the smaller side, usually weighing between 15–30 pounds. Yellowfin Tuna live farther away, can weigh triple digits, and fighting them is like pitting yourself against a freight train! A Tuna hunt is an experience like no other, which is why it’s a favorite of many saltwater fishermen.
The best time to go after Tuna is in spring and summer because this is when they start their migration. Both Blackfin and Yellowfin are at their best and hungriest during April and May, though Blackfin stick around during the winter as well.
You can find Tuna both on the Atlantic Coast and in the Gulf. The main difference is that Blackfin are closer to land on the Atlantic side. If you’d like to chase after Yellowfin, you need to be prepared for long trips to into the Gulf’s deepwater. Tuna like to feed around structure, so deepwater reefs, humps, and wrecks are their frequent haunts. For the best chance of landing elusive Tuna, head to Marathon, Miami, Cocoa Beach, Key West, and Destin.
The torpedo shape of Tuna tells you a lot about their movement – they’re fast and powerful! Once hooked, they run deep for cover, so ’em them in requires a lot of patience and strength. To attract Tuna, chumming with live bait is a tried-and-true method. Trolling, kite fishing and vertical jigging all give good results. Blackfins are mean machines on light tackle, but for more robust Yellowfins, you’ll need equipment to match. Don’t forget a fluorocarbon line, because Tuna have amazing eyesight and you don’t want them to see your line and flee.
We’re officially in the Billfish domain, where game fishing gets to a whole new dimension. And out of all Billfish, Atlantic Sailfish is the most coveted catch in the Sunshine State. These underwater gladiators weigh up to 100 pounds and are fierce opponents for even the most skilled anglers. Aerial displays, tail-walking, and headshakes make it very hard to land a Sailfish, so naturally, a lot of people want to test their mettle against them.
Unlike most Florida game fish we talked about, the high season for Sailfish action is during winter. The period between November–March is by far the best time of the year to knab a Sail. You can get them in the Gulf as well, but you’ll need to travel to deep waters in the summer months.
One sure way to locate Sailfish is to follow the Gulf Stream, just like they do. In the winter, the stream is close to Florida’s Treasure Coast, and you can hook into a Sailfish only a few miles from land. Here, you’ll find the famous “Sailfish Alley” that stretches for 60 miles. Stuart is the epicenter of Sailfishing action, along with Islamorada, West Palm Beach, Jupiter, and Miami. If you’re looking for Sailfish on the west coast, you’ll need to travel 40+ miles offshore.
Since Sailfish are a pelagic species, and also happen to be the fastest fish in the sea, trolling is the safest way to get a bite. Kite fishing has become more popular in the previous years, as well as fly fishing. But Sails can’t resist live bait, be it ballyhoo, mullet, or blue runners. Dead and cut bait like Bonito and Mackerel strips are a close second. If artificial lures are your jam, spoons, hard plastics, and even feathers are the way to go.
If there is a pinnacle of sportfishing, the crowning achievement on every angler’s bucket list must be landing a Marlin. There are two types you can target in Florida – Blue and White Marlin. Whites are the smallest in the Marlin family and usually stay in the 90–150 lb ballpark. They’ll fight you furiously, but due to their more manageable size, they’re suitable for less experienced Billfish anglers. Blues are true monster catches, with their weight going from 500 to well over 1,000 pounds. To reel them in, you need stamina, experience, and strength.
Marlin like warm waters, so it’s not surprising that the best time to target them is in the heat of the summer. They also stick around in the first half of the fall, when the crowds on the water aren’t as bad.
Both the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico are Marlins’ playgrounds. Similar to Sailfish, they follow the Gulf Stream religiously, and they feed around deep ledges and drop-offs. That’s why one of the best places to go Marlin fishing is Destin – this is where the 100-fathom curve is, and where your prey congregates. Then you’ve got Key West, Key Largo, St. Augustine, and Panama City Beach.
The safest way to entice a Marlin to bite is trolling. Use either loud and splashy lures or their favorite fish as cut bait to get their attention. Trolling lures come in all shapes and sizes, and they should be picked depending on the shape of their head and movement on the water. For live or dead bait, ballyhoo is always a good option, as well as strips of Skipjack Tuna and Bonito.
Swordfish might be the last on our list of favorite Florida game fish, but it’s certainly not the least. On the contrary! They’re the hardest Billfish to find, their fighting abilities are unmatched, and they do not go down easily. They can grow to be huge – from 200–1,200 pounds. But what sets them apart from the other Billfish is that they spend their days feeding near the bottom at the depths of over 1,000 feet. Getting them to the surface is a mammoth task, but what glory it brings.
Swordfish like the temperature of Florida’s waters, so they stick around the whole year. For the best chance of a legendary bite, get out into the bluewater in summer and early fall (June–October).
The vast majority of Swordfishing is reserved for the Atlantic Coast, especially the southern part of it. This is where Swordfish come to spawn and where they spend most of their life. You’ll need to travel at least 20 miles to get to their feeding grounds, so be prepared for a boat ride. Not to much surprise, the best Swordfish fishing locales are Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Jupiter, Pompano Beach, and of course, Key West.
Night fishing for Swordfish is the go-to method for getting this mighty species on the line. This is when they come closer to the surface, and when anglers can tempt them with live bait like goggle eyes, mullet, and blue runners. If you’re after giants, you should use smaller Tuna species and Mackerel. There’s usually a battery light or a glowstick to get Swordfish’s attention in the dark. Daytime Swordfishing has become popular lately, but it requires special equipment and a lot of time to get the fish to the surface.
Florida Game Fish: Countless Glorious Catches Await
We know this is a big list, but this is just the beginning! The topic of game fish in Florida deserves its own encyclopedia, and we only covered the best of the best in this article. Now all you need to decide is what you’re going to catch and have your rods at the ready!
Do you have a favorite game fish in Florida? Did we miss a species that deserves to be on the list? Anything else you’d like to add? Share your stories in the comments.
The post Florida Game Fish: The Sunshine State’s Top Targets appeared first on FishingBooker Blog.
Title: Florida Game Fish: The Sunshine State’s Top Targets
Sourced From: fishingbooker.com/blog/florida-game-fish/
Published Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2022 10:17:00 +0000
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Fort Lauderdale Party Boat Fishing Guide
Reading Time: 9 minutes
Home to over 100 marinas and the largest yacht fleet in the world, Fort Lauderdale is all about living it up on the water. There are numerous ways to experience the “Venice of America.” For anglers, party boat fishing in Fort Lauderdale is a sure-fire way to meet people, have fun, and reel in some prized catch.
Why hop on a party boat? Well, it’s an affordable way to fish these waters for those going solo or in a small group. This part of Florida offers some of the finest angling on the East Coast. On a shared charter, you’ll get to experience it in all its glory without stretching your budget.
So if you’d like to learn more about how all this works and what you can expect while party boat fishing in Fort Lauderdale, stick with us. We’ll cover the species you can catch, when to go, and how to prepare for your trip. When you’re ready, read on!
What to Expect When Fishing on a Party Boat
Party boats are designed to take big groups of people, whether on a fishing trip, a booze cruise, or any other kind of water activity. These boats are way bigger than your typical center console, averaging over 50 feet in length. Because of this, they’re generally capable of taking anywhere from 20 to 50 anglers fishing.
Fishing trips on this type of boat are normally shared. This means you’ll be booking a spot on the boat and sharing the adventure with other fellow anglers. If your group is large enough, you’ll usually have the option to book out the whole vessel. However, this only pays off if you’re planning a corporate outing or a similarly large event.
Aboard party boats, you can expect to find plenty of shade and seating. Most of the time, these vessels will feature plenty of amenities, including toilets, enclosed lounges, and even a bar where you can buy drinks and snacks. Also, you’ll usually either be provided with the fishing gear, or you’ll get the option to rent it on board.
Four and six hour fishing trips are the most popular options when it comes to party boat fishing in Fort Lauderdale. These will give you enough time to reel in some fish and have fun before moving on with your day. However, you’ll also see some charters offering longer shared trips, which will give you more time to chase after offshore trophies.
What fish are biting in Fort Lauderdale?
Compared to most other places, party boat fishing trips in Fort Lauderdale are kind of unique. Why? Because you can encounter pelagic fish within a few miles offshore when it’s their season. This means you don’t necessarily have to hop on a long trip to get a taste of what it’s like to fight some serious game. Of course, there’s no shortage of food fish either. Have a look at what you could hook into while fishing these waters…
Whether you’re hopping on a party boat as a beginner or a seasoned angler, fishing for Snapper never gets old. There are several species of these fish lurking around Fort Lauderdale’s reefs and wrecks. Among others, these include Vermillion, Mutton, Yellowtail, and the famed Red Snapper.
While Red is certainly the most prized type of Snapper, the truth is that all of them taste great.
So no matter which one you hook into, you can consider it a treat. You’ll usually find Snapper fairly close to shore, although bigger specimens start showing up once you move a few miles offshore.
With taste to rival our previous entry and a fighting disposition that’s sure to get your adrenaline pumping, it’s easy to see why anglers love Grouper so much. Like Snapper, there are multiple Grouper species you’ll get to target while party boat fishing in Fort Lauderdale. Most often, these will be Red, Black, and Gag Grouper.
Occasionally, you might even hook into a Goliath Grouper. These underwater giants will offer you a battle for the ages, however, you’ll most likely have to catch and release. No matter the species, Grouper like to hang out around underwater structure. Since all you need to do is drop the bait down to the bottom, even novice anglers can fish for them.
This part of the East Coast is one of the few places out there where you can hook into pelagics on half day trips. Mahi Mahi is one such fish that you’ll sometimes get to target while fishing aboard a Fort Lauderdale party boat. Granted, you won’t see them every trip. But they often come within a couple of miles of shore during summertime, so you’re likely to get your chance then.
Besides their unique looks, Mahi Mahi are also among the fastest-growing fish in the ocean. This means hooking into big ones – or “Gaffers“, as they’re known – isn’t all that uncommon. You’ll usually find Mahi Mahi around floating grass or debris which attract them. Another telltale sign captains often keep an eye out for is birds congregating above water.
The best part about fishing for Mahi Mahi is that, even though they can get big, they’re still very beginner-friendly. The fight they put up is exciting but they’ll generally get tired before you do. Also, let’s not forget to mention that these fish make for excellent table fare no matter how you cook them.
Although you definitely can’t consider Sailfish to be a common catch on party boats in Fort Lauderdale, it’s certainly possible to reel one in! The reason why they make the list is because you can often encounter them within two or three miles of shore. This means there’s no need to travel far, you just have to get on the water when they’re passing through and get through.
Compared to the other fish we’ve mentioned so far, Sailfish are a whole different ball game in terms of difficulty. They’re one of, if not the, fastest fish in the ocean, clocking speeds exceeding 65 mph. Sailfish also have the acrobatics to match their quickness, and will often jump out of the water during the fight and put on a brilliant show.
Since Sailfish are such tremendous fighters, they’re a species more suitable for seasoned anglers to target. If you want to sharpen your skills before trying to catch one, we recommend going for smaller pelagic fish first.
And Many Others!
We’ve named two bottom fish and two pelagics so far but there are many other fish you’ll see while party boat fishing in Fort Lauderdale. Along the different reefs and wrecks, you’ll see species such as Amberjack, Barracuda, and Triggerfish, among others. If you see schools of Rays or Whale Sharks, you could also check if there are some Cobia following them.
As far as pelagics go, Blackfin Tuna and King Mackerel often swim a couple of miles offshore. This puts them in range of most party boats, giving you a chance to occasionally hook into some. So it’s all about what’s biting at the time of your trip.
When to Go Party Boat Fishing in Fort Lauderdale
This part of Florida’s east coast is a year-round fishery. As long as the weather is good, you’ll always be able to get out on the water and catch something. So if you’re wondering when you should take that fishing trip, the most correct answer would probably be as soon as you can.
With this in mind, most species are subject to regulations, so your targets will vary over the course of a season. The Grouper season, for example, is closed between January and the end of April. However, winter and early spring are great if you’re aiming to catch a Sailfish.
The peak season starts around May and lasts until the end of August. This is when you’ll have the chance to reel in all kinds of bottom fish, as well as the likes of King Mackerel, Mahi Mahi, Tuna, and more. Summer is also when the Red Snapper season opens, making it the best time to visit if you’re eager to put these fish in the cooler.
Of course, there’ll still be plenty of deep-dwelling fish to reel in even after summer passes. You’ll also see Mahi Mahi bite during fall. Finally, as the waters cool down and December rolls in, it’ll be Sailfish season once again.
Types of Party Boat Trips in Fort Lauderdale
We’ve already mentioned that half day fishing charters are what most anglers go for when booking a trip aboard a party boat. These usually last for four hours, making them suitable for all kinds of anglers, beginner to pro. On half day trips, you’ll often see families with kids, people learning how to fish, as well as tourists who want to get in on the local action on the boat with you.
Although half day trips may seem like the most basic option, there are various reefs, wrecks, and other spots close to Fort Lauderdale you can explore within four hours. Depending on what’s biting you might be bottom or drift fishing for Grouper, Snapper, Triggerfish, and Grunt. Or, you could do some trolling for Spanish and King Mackerel, Mahi Mahi, and even the rare Tuna.
If you opt for a longer, 3/4 day trip, you’ll just have more time to put fish in the cooler. Since you’ll be spending up to six hours on the water, you’ll have a better chance to see larger pelagics such as Wahoo and Sailfish. If not, you’ll still get to target all the fish we mentioned in the previous paragraph.
Large party boats usually don’t offer shared full day trips. They can be tough to fill and not everyone can handle being on the water for eight or more hours. However, there are some captains in Fort Lauderdale that offer such adventures aboard their yachts or center consoles. These shared trips are usually limited to small groups and will give you the opportunity to go offshore and target big game species such as Marlin, Swordfish, Sailfish, Wahoo, and more.
How to Prepare for a Party Boat Fishing Trip
Before you’re ready to set out on your very own Fort Lauderdale party boat fishing trip, there are some things you should bring along. But since the boats already feature plenty of amenities, the list is pretty short. Take a look…
- Sun protection. Even though there’ll be shade on the boat, protecting yourself from the Florida sun should be one of your main priorities. Lotion sunscreen is preferable on boats compared to spray so make sure to apply some before the trip and bring the bottle along.
- Comfortable clothing. Another great way to shield yourself from the sun is to wear a breathable, long-sleeved shirt. Pair that with some shorts, rubber-soled shoes, a hat, and a pair of polarized sunglasses, and you’ll be set. It’s also a good idea to bring an extra shirt, just in case things get messy and you need it.
- Snacks and drinks. Keeping your energy up and staying hydrated is extremely important when you’re fishing. So make sure to bring water or sports drinks and pack a few snacks to tie you over. Sometimes the boat might sell these, saving you the trouble of remembering to pack them.
- Motion sickness medication. Since you won’t be going very far offshore, seasickness is not a huge issue on Fort Lauderdale party boats. However, if you’re not sure you can handle the open waters, it’s still wise to take it. Remember, party boats normally won’t turn around if someone gets seasick while you’re on the water.
- A small cooler and some cash. Once you’re done reeling in all that fish, you’ll need a cooler to transport it home. Also, there’ll be a deckhand, or several, on board helping you throughout the trip. For their efforts, it’s customary to leave a cash tip.
Party Boat Fishing in Fort Lauderdale: An Adventure That Fits the Budget
If you’re looking to get a taste of what it’s like to fish in Fort Lauderdale without breaking the bank, party boats are your ticket to reeling in all kinds of fish. Sharks, reef dwellers, or pelagics – whatever you choose to hunt, it’s all within the realm of possibility out here. The potential these waters hold is almost unmatched, and the only missing ingredient for an adventure is you.
Have you ever fished aboard a party boat in Fort Lauderdale? Which fish species would you like to catch? Hit the comments below and let us know!
The post Party Boat Fishing in Fort Lauderdale: A Handy Guide appeared first on FishingBooker Blog.
Title: Party Boat Fishing in Fort Lauderdale: A Handy Guide
Sourced From: fishingbooker.com/blog/fort-lauderdale-party-boat-fishing/
Published Date: Fri, 29 Jul 2022 12:01:00 +0000
Did you miss our previous article…
8 Top Spots Florida’s Fall Snook Opener
Reading Time: 9 minutes
Fishing for Snook is a way of life in Florida. This species is one of the all-time favorites of inshore anglers, and it only makes sense, considering what they have to offer. Snook are outstanding fighters and they’re delicious, which is a winning combo in any game fish. These qualities mean that they get targeted a lot. But to leverage that, there are two yearly closures to ensure their population stays strong. While closures are necessary, Snook season openers are a reason to rejoice – and now, one is upon us.
The Snook season will reopen on September 1, and it’s a big deal for Floridians. Up until then, these tropical beauties are strictly catch and release. But, after the season opens, anglers are allowed to keep one per day! This means you get to keep your trophy catch and turn it into a tasty dinner. No wonder the Snook opener is practically considered a public holiday.
So where do you go to catch yourself a nice Snook? Keep reading and we’ll share some of the most productive Snook fisheries to explore.
Best Fishing Spots for This Fall’s Snook Opener
We’ll start our tour on the Space Coast. Port Canaveral is a known fishing hub, and Snook is one of the leading catches, here. The main reasons for this are the sheer variety of places where you can target them, as well as the size the fish reach in these waters. The proximity of the prolific Sebastian Inlet doesn’t hurt either.
As September rolls around, you’ll see Snook chasers all over Port Canaveral and further south, around the inlet. The reason is that the fish come closer to the shore, so they’re even more accessible. You can go after them right from the beach, which is one of the main upsides that draws anglers in. There’s also a lot of Snook in and around the Indian River, so not only have you got a chance of landing a big one, but you can also take your pick of fishing grounds.
Port Canaveral is easy on the eyes. Whether you come for the stunning beaches or you’d like to explore NASA’s hometown, you’re in the right place. Hang out with manatees in their sanctuary, then spend the afternoon surfing. If you’re a bird lover, don’t miss the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge. Mix in warm late summer days, lounging on the beach, soaking in the sunset, and you’ve got yourself a vacation.
In our exploration of the best spots for the fall Snook opener in Florida, we move further down the east coast to Vero Beach. If you’re looking for a place where you can be laid back and add some good fishing into the mix, this is it. There are many fish to catch here, but Snook is a summer and fall favorite.
What makes Vero Beach one of the best Snook fishing spots this time of year? For starters, early fall is the best time to go after Snook in these parts. As bait fish comes closer to land, the big fish religiously follow their food, which is exactly what you want. Then you’ve got the Chamber Canal, which boasts excellent action, especially for trophy fish lovers. Of course, the Indian River lagoon is always at your disposal. You can also explore the many jetties that serve as Snook congregation spots and even go kayak fishing around the mangroves.
The appeal of Vero Beach lies in the fact that your stay here can be as active as you’d like. You can get some sunshine on one of the beaches and combine it with Snook beach fishing. After that, you can visit local museums or head to the nearby chocolate factory with your family. Outdoor enthusiasts will love the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, while Jaycee Park is the perfect place for a picnic at the end of another relaxing day in Vero Beach.
We’re not talking about going to another planet to find good fishing. Jupiter is a beautiful beachfront town on the Treasure Coast that offers a lot of strong Snook action. Come in time for the Snook opener and you’ll see firsthand just how much of a fighter these tackle-busters can be.
Jupiter Inlet is the main reason Snook love to hang around the town. The place where the Loxahatchee River meets the ocean is a fishing epicenter. Big Snook come here to feed and spawn, and they stick around all through the summer and the fall. There’s even a “Jupiter rig” specially made for Snook fishing, that’s how good the action is. Night fishing is particularly strong because Snook are ambush predators. They get more reckless under the cover of darkness and they’ll attack your setup with wild abandon.
When you’ve had your share of fun on the water, Jupiter has a variety of activities for you to try. This is a great family vacation spot for people who love animals and nature. In the Loggerhead Marinelife Center, you can check out the aquarium and hang out with sea turtles. Beaches are always at your disposal, and thrill seekers can even go swimming with Sharks. Whatever your taste for adventure is, chances are, Jupiter can accommodate.
As we travel further south, we can’t sidestep Dania Beach – aka Broward County’s First City. Dania Beach is one of the hidden gems on our list of best spots for the fall Snook opener, and the fishing potential here is off the charts.
If you prefer to fish from land and don’t want to hassle with boats, Dania Beach will meet your angling needs. The local fishing pier is 900 feet long, jutting into the ocean, and ideally situated for memorable fishing moments. Here, feisty Snook venture into shallow waters looking for food. This makes them easier to spot and target from the pier, especially in the fall months. You might be surrounded by fellow anglers, but don’t worry, on Dania Beach Pier, there’s plenty of Snook for everyone.
While this sunny locale can often fall under the radar, Dania Beach is well worth your attention. Its beaches are clean, accessible, and simply beautiful – so much so that they’ve been awarded for it. You can easily spend a day in the Secret Woods Nature Center, walking trails and drinking in nature in all its splendor. Antique lovers will get lost in the Antique and Arts District, and you can round up the day with a beer tasting in a nearby brewing company.
There’s no talking about the Florida Snook opener without mentioning the Everglades. Now, we know that Everglades is huge and it would take years to explore it all, but don’t let that overwhelm you. You can access the park’s rich waters from different sides (Naples, the Keys, Islamorada, Everglades City…) and you better believe it will be worth the trip.
The Everglades is probably the best spot in the Sunshine State to look for monster Snook (also called Leviathan Snook). Since this is a tropical species, the park’s ecosystem and water temperature are the perfect home for Snook year-round. Some of the best fishing grounds to check out in the fall are Whitewater Bay and Ten Thousand Islands. These wetlands and mangrove-stacked shorelines are teeming with Snook of all sizes. You can go fishing with a guide or set out on your own with a kayak, it’s up to you.
If you’re craving some peace and quiet that can only be found in nature, the Everglades is the destination for you. No matter how much time you have, there’s something for you to discover and admire. You can spend days hiking trails like Gator Hook Trail or bike through the Shark Valley. Stargazers should venture into the Big Cypress National Preserve from where you can see the most beautiful night skies.
We’re now officially moving to Florida’s Gulf Coast, and Sanibel is our first stop. Located on its namesake island, Sanibel offers great access to a variety of Snook fishing grounds. This is the main reason it’s on our list of the best spots for the fall Snook opener. The fish you get here might not be the biggest on record, but that’s ok. What Sanibel Snook sometimes lack in size, they make up for in numbers.
Sanibel has over 20 miles of gorgeous coast rimmed with mangroves and grassy flats – the perfect Snook habitat. This is where young fish come to eat and grow, and where fishing flourishes pretty much year-round. With the coming of the fall, the inshore waters become clearer, and you can chase Snook around mangroves, flats, and passes. Backcountry fishing is the name of the game as temperatures drop, and the game is good.
From what you’ve read, you can probably guess that Sanibel is almost like an oasis. This is a small island away from the everyday bustle, where you can take a beat and enjoy yourself. There’s no need to rush. Take things at your own pace – Sanibel is good like that. Walk around the Botanical Gardens, hike the Bailey Tract, or make the most of your afternoon sun-gazing and collecting shells on Blind Pass Beach.
For a lot of people, Gasparilla Island might be synonymous with the Boca Grande and incredible Tarpon fishing. While that’s absolutely true, Snook have earned their place on the must-catch list of local and visiting fishermen. This barrier island is surrounded by fantastic fishing waters and the Snook here aren’t shy. They’ll fight you stubbornly for every inch of your line!
So where do you go to find Snook? Well, you can’t really go wrong. Gasparilla Sound is a good starting point because a lot of mid-sized and big fish congregate around the channels. Gasparilla Pass is just as good – a lot of Snook come through here in the fall on their way back to the shallow waters. And the Boca Grande Pass is just as productive. Finally, surf fishing for Snook is a treat. The bite is almost constant around underwater structures and when there’s a lot of bait fish in the surf.
As for things you can do around Gasparilla Island, well, the sky’s the limit. You can spend your days on the beach and check out the many shops in Boca Grande. For a more active vacation, try your hand at water sports like kayaking and paddle boarding. You can also visit the Cayo Costa State Park, which is small, secluded, and as close to paradise as you can imagine.
When a city is located next to a “Snook Alley,” you don’t need to think hard about what you should target. Venice is the final stop on our list, but that doesn’t make it any less important. On the contrary, the waters of Venice Inlet are among the favorite playgrounds for Snook and anglers alike.
There’s no better place to go after Venice Snook than the famous Snook Alley. Huge numbers of these fight-ready fish live along this section of the Intracoastal Waterway. The action is on every day of the year, and night fishing is some of the best you’ll find in Florida. Having a Snook do their acrobatics while you try to land them in the dark is a special kind of adventure. Fly fishing can also give excellent results if you’re into trying something new.
When you’re not battling Snook, Venice will provide you with everything you need for an enjoyable vacation. Lose yourself in the beauty and architecture of the city’s downtown or stroll down the fishing pier against a fabulous sunset. Take some time and go to the lovely Caspersen Beach or dedicate a day to hiking in the Oscar Scherer State Park. If you’re up for exploring nearby cities, Tampa and Sarasota are just a stone’s throw away.
Florida Snook Opener – Exciting Times Ahead!
The Snook opener is upon us and, while there are many many great destinations to target them in the Sunshine State, these eight are the best of the best. All that’s left to do is pick your favorite spot, get your gear at the ready, and hit the water for battle. Happy Snooking!
What do you think about our choice of spots? Did we miss something? Do you have a favorite that’s maybe not on the list? Let us know in the comments below.
Title: 8 Top Spots for Florida’s Fall Snook Opener
Sourced From: fishingbooker.com/blog/fall-snook-opener-florida/
Published Date: Thu, 28 Jul 2022 13:35:00 +0000
Did you miss our previous article…
How to store your boat: A complete guide
Reading Time: 7 minutes
We’d all love to be out on the water 365 days a year. But unless you live somewhere tropical, that’s not possible. Most captains around the world are forced to take a break during the off-season, and part of that includes storing your boat. Other charter operators have to store their boats between trips, too. In fact, this can be one of the most important aspects of making sure your business runs smoothly.
That’s why we decided to help you out. We’re here today to let you know all about the best ways to store your boat. Whether for a few months or just a few days, we’ve got you covered. We’ll take you through storage options, tips for maintaining your boat, and much more. So without further ado, let’s get started!
Where to Store Your Boat
Choosing how and where to store your boat is the first thing you need to decide on. Some smaller boats may be suitable for storing on a trailer, and even bigger ones if you have the space. But a lot of the time, you don’t want to lose time lugging your vessel to and from storage. Some captains keep their boat in the water, some in private storage, and some pay to have it taken care of. We’ll go through the pros and cons of these options below.
In the Water
We’ll start with the easiest option – keeping your boat in the water. This is often the preferred option for larger vessels, and for those captains who have a marina spot secured year-round. But it’s also convenient no matter what size boat you have. Why? Well, you won’t lose any time hauling your boat to and from the dock or storage facility. In fact, you can even use your boat to hang out even if you’re not going out fishing!
Despite this, there are obvious downsides to storing your boat in the water – especially if you live in an area that’s prone to extreme weather conditions. Exposure to rain, wind, and even UV lighting is harmful to your boat, meaning more maintenance when you get back up to full speed. Don’t forget, you’ll also have to clean up any algae, barnacles, and even bird droppings if you leave it out in the water.
Also, if you’re planning on leaving your boat untouched for a while, you’ll want to make sure the marina is secure, Even then, safety measures won’t be as tight as in storage facilities. But more on that later.
On a Slip Lift
Thankfully, to protect against some of the wildlife that can cling to your boat, slip lifts can be very convenient. These get your boat out of the water but are still in the marina in a convenient location to get back out when the time allows. Indeed, some marinas even have their own slip lifts for you to use. This means you can just rent them out and take advantage right away.
On the flip side, you’ll have to factor in the cost, no matter if you’re using your own or a marina’s slip lift. Be warned, they don’t come cheap. Installing one yourself can also take some work! You should also be aware that, in areas with high winds, slip lifts may not be the best solution for storing your boat. Read on to find out some more suitable options.
Outdoors (Off the Water)
As we mentioned earlier, many captains like to store their boats at home. Sure, if you have a large driveway, there’s nothing stopping you. But that’s not the only option, There are also open-air self-storage facilities, similar to parking lots for boats. Both options are solid, with you being able to keep an eye on the boat yourself at home, while someone else will do it in storage. You can also usually be able to get it back on the water when you please.
If you settle on either of these options, we suggest you take considerable effort to cover your boat. This protects against the weather conditions, as we’ve mentioned above, but also can help protect against burglars or wild animals such as rodents and raccoons that can make themselves at home in parking lots. Still, leaving your boat out in the open air will always carry some risk. And you’ll still spend some time and effort moving the boat to and from the water.
The way to protect against all the issues mentioned above is to keep your boat indoors when you’re not fishing. Of course, if you have a garage big enough, there’s no reason you can’t keep it in there. Although we’re sure you might need to do some work to persuade the rest of the family! Otherwise, there are covered boat storages that can protect your boat from the elements and wildlife, too. But these come with a hefty price tag.
There are self-storage facilities and dry-stacked options all across the country, and both offer the same protection as a garage. While we don’t need to repeat that they aren’t the easiest to reach from the water, safety comes with a price. And there are other considerations, too.
Dry-stacked storage, for example, sometimes limits the number of times you can visit your boat or take it out of storage. It can also get busy if you’re putting it in and taking it out when everyone else has the same idea. That means you may have to wait to retrieve your boat. As for self-storage facilities, these are the most expensive of all the options above. And spaces are at a premium. If you find one, great, but they may not always be available.
Tips for Storing Your Boat
Now you have an idea of where you’re going to store your boat, let’s get down to some of the finer details that will help keep your boat safe when you’re not fishing. We’ll start with some universal tips for pretty much every time you take your boat out of the water. If you’re interested in a comprehensive guide to boat maintenance, check out this article.
- Rinse your boat. This is especially important for saltwater vessels. Wash it down with freshwater and a light dash of soap. It can be just as important on freshwater boats to get rid of algae, barnacles, or any dirt, too.
- Inspect the vessel. The last thing you want when you get back out on the water is to find a dangerous fault with the boat. You should see to any small cracks right away. Check for damage on the body of the boat, along with ropes, decks, hooks, and wires to make sure nothing is leaking or damaged. And don’t forget the engine!
- Flush the engine. Speaking of your motor, you’ll want to make sure it’s clean when putting the boat away. Flushing it with a chemical solution to get rid of any sludge or gunk is a must. Drain the chemicals back out before replacing the oil, and siphon out any gas if you’re likely to be out of action for a while.
- Cover the boat. We’ve mentioned uncovered storage solutions, but there’s no need for your boat to be completely naked. Even a light cover to protect against UV rays and bird droppings is vital, no matter how long you’ll have the boat out of the water.
In addition to all of the above, there’s more to consider when storing your boat for a longer period. This is especially true during winter or any time of year when the weather conditions can get rough.
- Dry your boat. After giving your boat a wash, you’ll also want to thoroughly dry it. This protects against dampness, in case your storage isn’t dry enough. (We do suggest picking a dry spot, much as for fishing gear). This is also important to protect against ice damage too if you’re living in colder climates.
- Use antifreeze through your water systems. If your boat is likely to be exposed to colder conditions, run some antifreeze through your water systems. This will protect them from freezing and further damaging your boat.
- Charge and test your battery regularly. This is vital if you’re likely to be out of the water for a considerable period of time. Take it out of the motor and charge it early on. Then, we suggest testing it at least once a month to make sure everything is still in order.
One other thing is a must if you’re keeping your boat on a trailer, and that’s to make sure your tires are fully pumped. The last thing you want is to have to try and get some air into those tires when the boat is already on top!
Storing Your Boat: Because She’s Worth It!
This concludes our guide on how best to store your boat. Of course, there’s a whole load of other factors to take into account, depending on your local conditions. And, as we’ve said plenty of times above, how long you want to keep the boat inactive. But with these general tips, you’re already on the right track to keeping your boat healthy. That means a better fishing performance for more time. She really is worth the effort!
And now over to you. What are your best tips on how to store your boat? Anything you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
Title: How to Store Your Boat: A Complete Guide
Sourced From: fishingbooker.com/blog/how-to-store-your-boat/
Published Date: Tue, 26 Jul 2022 11:15:00 +0000
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