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November 24, 2021

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Winter Fishing in Florida: 7 Species to Target

Winter Fishing in Florida: 7 Species to Target

Florida is the site for one of the most unique fishing experiences found in the southeastern region of the US.  This is mainly because of its geographical location. Florida is adjacent to both the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, making it a great area for seafaring saltwater anglers. Inland, however, Florida is also known for its many rivers, lakes, and bayous that dot around the state. Finally the most unique part about Florida fishing is its climate. Situated near the equator, the state’s climate is perfect for fish that can’t be found anywhere else in the United States. For better or for worse its climate is the same as that of South America’s, making it a host for many exotic fish from other places. Although they’re very rare fish, they are still considered invasive species because of their lack of predators. 

Regardless of the effects of exotic fish in Florida, there’s no denying the fishing opportunities found in the state. Other than having a wide variety of fish species, Florida is also great for fishing all-year round as winter time in the state is less cold compared to other places in America. For anglers looking to escape the cold and interested in winter fishing, this may be the place for them. Here are some of the fish in Florida that are best caught during winter. 

7 Winter Fish Found in Florida

1. Redfish

Also known as the redrum, these fish are mostly found in the Atlantic Ocean. They distinctly have eyespots near the tail and a red-colored back fades into white in the middle. Despite being commonly found in the ocean, they prefer shallow water ranging from 1 to 4 feet. Smaller redfish tend to swim around nearer to the coastline while larger redfish are more active further into the water. These fish are popular among anglers due to their size as they can reach 30” to 60” while weighing from around 10lbs to 45 lbs. They’re also great to bring him as redfish meat has a light flavor. These fish can be found around Florida Bay during winter, where they appear in schools.

2. Common Snook

Known as one of the biggest of its family, the common snook can reach lengths of up to 50”. It has a noticeable black slit that runs through its entire body while having pale yellow fins. These fish are also popular among fishermen due to their size and high population. Snook can usually be found in Floridian seas whether near the coast or further. They’re also tough fighters that can weigh up to 29lbs when fully mature. They’re very similar to largemouth bass, enough so that bass lures can easily be used on snook. Soft plastic swimbaits, shrimp imitation jigs, as well as jerk bait minnows are all equally effective. Catch these bass-like fish around Florida Keys. 

3. Spanish Mackerel

Popular among anglers and commercial fishers alike, Spanish mackerel populations seem to never run out. They’re mostly found in Florida and the Gulf of Mexico and are identified by their yellow spots dotted around the body, along with its greenish top. They’re mostly found in large schools making them a prime target for commercial fishers. They can also mature into a wide variety of weights and sizes with Spanish mackerel ranging in length from up to 74” while being able to weigh from 8lbs to 120lbs. Recreational anglers preparing to catch mackerel should bring a light to medium tackle, a 7ft to 8 ft. rod, and a 12 lbs to 20lbs braided line.

4. Permit

Another fish that groups in schools, permit usually hunt together in groups around sandy seagrass. Permit are very distinct tall, flat fish with both elongated anal and dorsal fins. They’re silver in color with hints of dark marking on their dorsal fins. Permit vary in size and length, usually ranging from around 24” to 48” while weighing around 9lbs to 60lbs. Though usually found in summer and spring, these fish will also thrive year-round in consistently warm climates like in Florida. Catch these elusive fish by preparing medium weights, baitcasting reel, and 20-pound braid line; among many others. Vertical Jigging is a popular technique for many anglers.

5. Tarpon

When talking about fishing in Florida, tarpon are one of the most recognizable prizes. They’re giant creatures weighing 25 lbs to 63 lbs and can be 48” to 96”. Despite their size, tarpon are generally thin and are most recognized for their large lower jaw that points upwards. Tarpon are silver in color with blue or greenish tails and fins. Tarpon fishing is an ordeal that’s only equally rewarding due to its scale. It’s best to use a 5000 to 7000 spinning reel with a medium-weight rod. Anglers also recommend using corrosive-resistant reels with a robust drag.

6. Bonefish

Those looking for a real challenge should find ample amounts when trying to reel in bonefish. These fish are both strong and fast. They can swim up to 30 mph and will quickly show that speed once spooked. Bonefish are recognizable through their torpedo-like body with shark-like triangular dorsal fin. Their bodies are silver in color while also sporting blue-ish green backs. They’re also very resilient in that bonefish can survive really shallow waters due to their air bladders that allow them to suck in oxygen from the water. As bonefish easily spook and can swim away in a snap, most anglers slowly drift and wade across the water before casting lines. Fly fishing is generally the most common technique used by anglers when bonefishing.

7. Sailfish

Another popular fish found in Florida is the Sailfish. A behemoth of a fish, the sailfish is considered one of Florida’s greatest prizes. This fish is one of the fastest in the world despite weighing an average of 50lbs to 142lbs as well as a length of 90” to 124”. Sailfish are most known for their blue-gray metallic color and sail-like fin, which earned them their name. Fly fishermen recommend using 12-15 weight rods with 50 lbs arbor reels. Sinking heads will also help lures reach desired depths of 65ft to 80 ft. In proportion to their size, it’s good to use large 5/0 to 7/0 hooks.

Florida is one of the best fishing locations in North America. Regardless of the time of year, the state is teeming with fish ready to be caught. More so, popular trophies such as the sailfish and tarpon can be found in the ocean.  Those looking to get away from the winter cold may look to Florida for their next winter vacation.