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Clearwater, FL Fishing: The Sunniest Year-Round Destination on the Gulf Coast

Clearwater, FL Fishing: The Sunniest Year-Round Destination on the Gulf Coast
Published: Monday, September 6th, 2021
Updated on: Monday, September 6th, 2021

Clearwater, the county seat of Pinellas County, is one of the principal cities of the Tampa Bay Metropolitan Area. It is flanked by two great bodies of water: the Gulf of Mexico to its west, and Tampa Bay to its east. The area on which the city now sits was once inhabited by Native Americans of the Tocobaga tribe. During their time, there were clear springs that rose from the banks to the bay along the bluffs where you will now find downtown Clearwater. Because of these springs, the settlers who eventually conquered the area came to call it Clear Water Harbor. In 1895, it became Clearwater Harbor until the word ‘harbor’ was removed in 1906.

Ever since the Spanish settlers came into the area, the city began to bloom as a tourist destination in its own right because of its stunning white sand beaches and subtropical climate. Today, Clearwater is still very much an active tourist spot all year round. Boasting well-developed travel facilities, great outdoor experiences, and a booming events scene, Clearwater may not be a top-of-mind Florida destination like nearby Tampa Bay or Orlando, but it will have you coming back for more. This holds true especially if you’re an angler. Clearwater is a fantastic fishing destination all year round, offering 361 days of sunshine on average, plus loads of freshwater and saltwater fishing opportunities both inshore, nearshore, and offshore.

Clearwater Fishing

There are so many fishing opportunities in Clearwater that it can be quite a challenge to decide where to begin. Freshwater or saltwater? Inshore, nearshore, or offshore? It’s indeed a destination for the angler who wants a little diversity on his fishing trip.

As Clearwater is known as a saltwater fishing headquarters, you might want to start with that. Better still, try heading out to Pier 60 at Clearwater Beach for a budget-friendly and productive inshore fishing experience. For a one-time fee of 20 USD, you will be provided with fishing gear and bait that you can use on the fish species that you can catch in the area, including snook, sheepshead, Spanish mackerel, speckled trout, redfish, gag grouper, and tarpon. It’s a great spot to bring family and friends that you’re looking to introduce to fishing, as fishing on the 1,000-foot pier does not require a fishing license.

Philippe Park is another beautiful spot to do some inshore fishing. The park itself has a very relaxing vibe, perfect for a peaceful day of fishing for redfish or trout, either on the jetty or on a kayak into Safety Harbor. If you’re keen to surf-fish, Sand Key Park should be on your list. Here you can enjoy some fishing on the shore, as well as on the rocks and jetties looking towards Clearwater Pass. Species to be targeted here include sheepshead, jack crevalle, ladyfish, and black drum.

Separating the barrier islands of Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island is a naturally cut deep channel called Hurricane Pass, which is known for its trophy snook. Other species you can find here include redfish, flounder, kingfish, and even cobia. It’s quite a productive stretch for anglers, but a great challenge to find and pass through, especially during low tide, when the current can be so strong that it can carry you out into the sea. The general advice here is to go with a local expert if you do decide to come here to fish.

If you’re keen to fish offshore, there’s no better place to launch your boat. Just be prepared for longer trips. Many migrating species pass through this part of Florida all year round. The most popular species to target here include sailfish, blue marlin, and wahoo. If you’re bottom fishing, you can catch red snapper, grouper, and amberjack. Trolling will give you success with sailfish, blackfin tuna, and common dolphinfish in the spring, summer, and fall. If you don’t want to venture too far out, you can reach the artificial reef of Rube Allyn Reef, which is just 11 miles from the shores of Clearwater. However, if you’re ready to brave 100 miles offshore, then put the Middle Grounds on your itinerary. This spot is generally known as one of the best deep-sea fishing destinations in the Gulf of Mexico, so you can be sure that your trip will be more than worthwhile. The area yields species such as gag grouper, scamp grouper, common dolphinfish, tuna, wahoo, and shark.

Once you’ve had enough of saltwater fishing, you may also want to cut your teeth on some freshwater fishing near Clearwater. Just a few minutes away from the city is Lake Tarpon, which is known for its trophy largemouth bass. Just further out and find other productive bass fishing on Winter Haven Chain, Lake Okeechobee, and Lake Toho.

Finally, if you’re looking to level up on your fishing with a title, join a fishing tournament here in Clearwater. Many of its popular fishing tournaments are hosted by the Old Salt Fishing Foundation all year round. This esteemed foundation has been around for years, solidifying its status as one of the best in Florida and perhaps the world. What’s great about the foundation is that its tournaments are quite diverse. They host specific tournaments for many kinds of fishing, both inshore and offshore, whether on a boat or a pier. The most famous of their tournaments are the King of the Beach Fishing Tournament and the Loop Billfish Tournament. 

Top 10 Fish Species in Clearwater, FL

The top 10 fish species to catch in Clearwater, Florida are tarpon, snook, redfish, king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, gag grouper, black drum, red snapper, crevalle jack, and blackfin tuna.

Clearwater, FL Fishing: The Sunniest Year-Round Destination on the Gulf Coast Fish species
Crevalle Jack 
Crevalle Jack  fish

Habitat: River, Onshore, Nearshore, Offshore, Reef, Flats Backcountry, Wreck

Weight: 15 - 60 Pounds

Length: 15" - 49"

Snook  fish

Habitat: Inshore, Flats, Backcountry

Weight: 12 - 29 Pounds

Length: 16" - 50"

Tarpon  fish

Habitat: Inshore, Flats, Backcountry

Weight: 25 - 63 Pounds

Length: 48" - 96"

Gag Grouper

Habitat: Onshore, Nearshore, Offshore, Reef

Weight: 10 - 50 Pounds

Length: 24" - 57"

Redfish fish

Habitat: Onshore, Flats, Backcountry, Nearshore

Weight: 10 - 45 Pounds

Length: 30" - 61"