Tampa Bay Fishing (Complete 2023 Guide)

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For centuries, many have considered fishing a favorite sport and a gratifying activity. Suppose you’re already a passionate angler or just starting out in this hobby.

In that case, you can visit the west coast of Florida, right on Tampa Bay. It is one of the hot spots when it comes to fishing.

Fishing in Tampa Bay means covering over 400 square miles of the open-water estuary. Thus, it offers anglers a wide array of activities for a fishing adventure.

Fish seems to be unlimited in this area! Are you ready to check this out?

Here’s your ultimate guide to making the most of your Tampa Bay fishing experience!

Fishes to Catch in Tampa Bay

Being on Florida’s gulf coast, Tampa Bay has various pelagic and predatory fish species you can catch or see when sight fishing. Tarpons, Bass, and Spanish Mackerel are some prizes you can get from Tampa fishing. 

Below are some of the most sought-after catches in abundant Tampa Bay waters. Ready your live bait, flies, or artificial lures for these fantastic Florida fish.


It is the most popular species you can find in the area. It is because of its stamina, strength, and agility. Plus, they could grow to up to 200 pounds! Anglers make it their goal to catch a Tarpon because of the level of difficulty it presents. 

Tarpons are mainly seen from March to October – with May, June, and July being the peak season. Tarpon fishing is popular among tourists and locals alike. It is also known to be Florida’s staple game fish.


Snook is usually caught in shallow grass flats and is one of the most exciting fishes to catch. You can see them throughout the year using fly rods, live bait, and light tackle.

Like the tarpon, it is also highly regarded as a sport fish. On average, a Snook can grow up to 20 to 30 inches long.

Red Drum or Redfish

A local’s favorite – the redfish. Like the snook, redfish is also available almost year-round. They can dwell in shallow waters. During colder seasons, they move to the deeper water of up to 10 feet. Its size can go up to 15-34 inches.

Speckled Trout

It is among the most popular fish to target in saltwater fishing for locals and tourists alike. Also, it is one of the most abundant sport fish in the Tampa Bay area. Amazingly, this sea trout can grow up to 14-22 inches long.


This species is popular among anglers during the colder seasons. Although you can hunt it all year round, the peak season is usually from January to February.

Sheepshead is popular because it is one of the best fish to eat. On average, they can weigh up to 10 pounds.

Fishing Tip! We put together a guide on spearfishing sheepshead. Check it out!


The kingfish species fall under offshore fishes. They usually stay in deeper waters. In addition, this species is mainly found twice a year, during fall and spring, when the water is a bit warm.

Hence, they classify migratory pelagic fish. Swimming to almost 40 miles per hour, it is one of the fastest fish in the ocean.

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How to Catch Fish in Tampa Bay

Now you’re familiar with popular fish species on a gulf coast like Tampa Bay, here are different ways you can catch them. You need not be a seasoned angler to do this; you just need the right tools and equipment.

Shore Fishing

If you want to fish but are afraid of it or have no time to get on a boat, shore fishing is for you. Tampa Bay’s geographical structure offers a lot more opportunities for people to fish. It is full of bridges, bay piers or gulf piers, and beaches. Almost everything is connected to a body of water. Fly fishing is also possible here.

The Sunshine Skyway Fishing Pier is one of the most popular shore fishing spots. It is because it separates the gulf from the bay. Many kinds of species are here, making it a haven for shore anglers.

Other shore fishing spots include Bishop Harbor, perfect for trout and redfish fishing. You can also go to Clearwater Beach if you’re into surf fishing. These places promise an excellent fishing experience. 

Freshwater Tampa Bay fishing is also famous around the area. In particular, Lake Tarpon and Edward Medard Reservoir have bass popular among anglers.

Fishing Charters

Renting fishing charters is the most common and most comfortable for many anglers. Offshore fishing is famous for local anglers and tourists alike in Tampa Bay. 

You can book a deep-sea fishing trip on a fishing charter to catch a monster fish. Tampa fishing charters are also available almost everywhere for light tackle fishing. 

Kayak Fishing

Suppose you’re a solo angler who wants to enjoy time bobbing in the waters or nearshore reefs waiting. You can wait for the next bite through kayak fishing

Most kayakers can go through mangrove shorelines and shallow flats in search of the perfect catch. Such as inshore species, for they love to swim in shallower waters.

Where to Fish in Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay fishing can be enjoyable if you know the best fishing spots. These locations can get you anything, from bass to goliath grouper to sharks. 

1. St. Petersburg – located on the east side of the city, where you can find almost any species. It also has a freshwater front for bass and crappie fishing. You can also try shark fishing here.

2. Lake Tarpon – has a variety of bass, like largemouth bass and sunshine bass. It is also considered one of the Top 10 Bass Lakes in Florida. Some might even say that it is one of the best bass fishing lakes in the country.

3. Hillsborough Bay – is in conjunction with Tampa Bay. It has a broader array of inshore saltwater species like Bluefish and Flounder.

4. Bishop’s Harbor – is the best place to catch snook, redfish, and trout, especially before the incoming tide ends. It has a mangrove shoreline serving as prime habitat for inshore saltwater species. 

5. Fort De Soto Park – best place for shore fishing. It offers snook, redfish, and trout. It has plenty of wading spots, a couple of piers, and a kayak fishing spot as well.

6. Sunshine Skyway Fishing Park – has a two-mile-wide fishing pier that offers a wide variety of species, such as snook, red snapper, tarpon, gag grouper, pompano, sheepshead, cobia, Spanish Mackerel, and King Mackerel. This Florida state park is open 24 hours daily all year long, making it great for night fishing.

Regulations and Licenses

To maintain order and good aquatic life, make sure to follow the rules and regulations when fishing in Tampa Bay. Procure a license first before casting your line.

Be aware of the seasonality of species to put proper expectations on your trip.

Also, you’ll need to know the kind of fishing license you need. Licenses are usually included in trip purchases for guided fishing in saltwater.

However, you may need to get a proper fishing license first for solo anglers before heading out. Check if the place you are fishing from has additional fees for fishing on their grounds. You may check out the Florida state park website for more information.

Jon Stenstrom
Founder & Angler
Jon Stenstrom is a fishing enthusiast. He has over 25 years of fishing experience, and 6 years of spearfishing experience, and is currently learning how to boat. Jon has his Open Water PADI Certification and FII Freediver Level 1 Certification. Jon has traveled the world to fish and dive, most notably in the Great Barrier Reef, Baja Mexico, Thailand, and Malaysia. More Articles
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