Tampa Bay, FL Fishing: The Pride of Tampa Anglers

Tampa Bay, FL Fishing: The Pride of Tampa Anglers
Published: Wednesday, May 5th, 2021
Updated on: Wednesday, May 5th, 2021

Among all the cities in Florida, Tampa ranks as the third of the largest cities next to Miami and Jacksonville. Tampa is one of the major cities. It is currently the county seat of Hillsborough County in Florida. It is commonly known as the home to the largest bay – Tampa Bay, split into three. 

Tampa Bay attracts people from all over the United States and the world with its various theme parks and thrill rides. As home to the famous Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay creates a family-friendly environment for those who want a balance of thrill and relaxation. 

When in Tampa, fishing charters take pride in knowing all the best inshore fishing areas like the back of their hand. They take pride in being called a “Tampa Angler”, reeling in what they call the “Backcountry Slam”.

Fishing in Tampa Bay Where the Best Fish Abound

 

Being right on Tampa Bay and right next to the Gulf of Mexico makes Tampa an ideal fishing spot. The Gulf of Mexico is known to bring in a lot of saltwater fish, and Tampa Bay is home to freshwater fish species. 

Tampa’s signature fish is the snook. Known as Tampa’s Darling, anglers know that this fish can put up a good fight. Once the waters get warmer, snook are known to swim inshore. They enjoy the mangroves, grass flats, and oyster beds that Tampa has to offer. Once inshore, anglers can practice their fly fishing skills on them. If you’re at the nearshore areas, check reefs and wrecks. 

The next on the list the tarpon, Florida’s Silver King. Inshore fishing is the way to go to catch this fish. The tarpon dazzles anglers with its amazing acrobatics and agility while putting up a good fight. In Tampa, it’s normal to catch one of these at 50 lbs. But during the summers until late November, their weight can hit 3-digits. Light-tackle fishing isn’t going to cut it anymore. You’ll have to bring heavy tackle fishing. But for those who are in for a challenge, add a bit of fly fishing to the mix. But fishing charters in Tampa will always remind you that tarpon are on a strict catch-and-release policy. So, once you catch them, please take a quick snapshot before releasing them back to the water. 

The poster fish of the Backcountry Slam, the redfish, is common in Tampa Bay. Considered a beginner’s fish, a redfish is usually found swimming inshore, which is perfect in a place like Tampa. The multiple barrier islands create reefs and grass flats for them to swim, stay, and spawn. The best way to find them is to find a school of mullet which is what they like feeding on. Fishing charters would recommend going after a redfish if you’re just starting. Especially for fly fishing, redfish are not as heavy as the tarpon, so they still can give you the same thrill and practice you need before chasing after the bigger two of the Backcountry Slam. There are times you might encounter the bull redfish in Tampa waters.

Aside from Florida’s Backcountry Slam, Tampa is famous for being the perfect environment for sea trout. Unlike the members of the Backcountry Slam, sea trout are not picky with their bait. They will eat anything, which makes them more voracious than many of the inshore fish. But it’s because they eat anything, they make a fabulous table fare. Like the snook, sea trout are available all year round in Tampa. The average weight of a sea trout in Tampa ranges between 6 lbs. to 8 lbs. 

While the sea trout and the Backcountry Slam are Tampa’s top four, there are still other fish to catch. These species might even be part of the annual Port Tampa Bayslam Fishing Tournament! Bottom Fishing is a Tampa-wide favorite. Pair it up with some light tackle fishing and trolling, and you’ll find yourself coming across some hogfish, cobia, sheepshead, and gulf flounder

Don’t forget that Tampa is right next to the Gulf of Mexico that means anglers will have a chance at catching groupers and snappers. Some of these groupers include the mangrove grouper. And of course, there’s the famous goliath grouper swimming somewhere in the waters. Don’t forget that the red snapper is abundant in those waters. Red snapper are what some people call the signature fish of the Gulf of Mexico. Oftentimes, these fish come out of the water weighing more than 30 lbs. depending on the weather. 

And if you’re bored with saltwater fishing, don’t forget that Tampa still has freshwater fish species coming in. Due to the many barrier islands in Tampa, there are many lakes and rivers to explore. And in those rivers, anglers can find a good amount of everyone’s favorite - the largemouth bass. The largemouth bass often crops up with other freshwater fish such as the bluegill, sunfish, and the occasional black crappie.

 

Top 10 Fish Species in Tampa, FL

The top 10 fish species in Tampa, FL include the snook, redfish, tarpon, sea trout, mangrove grouper, red snapper, cobia, gulf flounder, and sheepshead.

Tampa Bay, FL Fishing: The Pride of Tampa Anglers Fish species
Sea Trout 

Habitat: Inshore, Nearshore, Covered River

Weight: 1 - 6 Pounds

Length: 20" - 55"

Bluegill 

Habitat: Lake, Pond, River

Weight: 1 - 2 Pounds

Length: 6" - 16"

Sheepshead 

Habitat: Onshore, Nearshore, Offshore, Reef, Wreck

Weight: 1 - 8 Pounds

Length: 14" - 20"

Redfish

Habitat: Onshore, Flats, Backcountry, Nearshore

Weight: 10 - 45 Pounds

Length: 30" - 61"

Hogfish 

Habitat: Onshore, Nearshore, Offshore, Reef, Wreck

Weight: 8 - 24 Pounds

Length: 10" - 36"

Cobia

Habitat: Onshore, Nearshore, Offshore, Reef, Wreck

Weight: 10 - 80 Pounds

Length: 24" - 79"

Tarpon 

Habitat: Inshore, Flats, Backcountry

Weight: 25 - 63 Pounds

Length: 48" - 96"

Snook 

Habitat: Inshore, Flats, Backcountry

Weight: 12 - 29 Pounds

Length: 16" - 50"

Seasonal Fishing in Tampa Bay, FL

 

Despite sea trout and snook being available all year round, they do have their peak months. Snook peak from April to October while sea trout peak from April to July. Although the time for sea trout is shorter, that’s usually when the bigger ones come out. Tarpon are scheduled to peak from May to August. May to August is when the months get a little warmer, so the tarpon will be swimming through the channels of Tampa. Redfish are prime targets from March to October and hang around the shallow waters where the grass flats usually are. 

 

Top 5 Fishing Spots in Tampa Bay, FL

  1. Harbour Island
  2. Ybor City
  3. Davis Islands
  4. River Crest Park Fishing Piers
  5. West Gandy Boulevard

 

Fun things to Try When Traveling to Tampa Bay

 

1. Fishing Charters

Tampa fishing charters specialize in night Tampa fishing. If you’re looking for snook, fishing charters will most likely take you to Harbour Island, where you can find a lot of them. Tampa has all kinds of fishing charters, so there's a long list for you to choose from.

 

2. Explore the famous Busch Gardens

The Busch Gardens is one of Tampa’s signature places. Tampa has consistently warm weather, allowing the amusement park to be open all year round. As one of the most visited amusement parks, Busch Gardens allows visitors to explore African-themed amusement. And to get around, all visitors need to ride on the steam train known as the Serengeti Express. The steam train will then take you to the different attractions within the Busch Gardens.

 

3. Visit the Florida Aquarium

The Florida Aquarium is considered one of Tampa’s must-see sights. In the Florida Aquarium, visitors can check out and study species that are native only to Florida’s waters. The place offers classes in marine conservation via summer camps and field trips. What better way to learn about marine conservation than to go into the marine environment itself? And if your children are looking for a distinct and memorable experience, the Florida Aquarium has access to the Florida Natural Springs, where they can swim with the manatees!

 

4. Experience the Thrill of the SheiKra

One of Tampa’s signature rides, the SheiKra, is a 3-minute roller coaster running at 70 miles per hour. As it zooms through the loops, twists, and turns, the SheiKra then will drop from 200 feet up. Definitely not for the faint of heart, but this thrill ride was once considered one of the fastest thrill rides in the United States. Though it was eventually displaced, the SheiKra still holds the position as one of the top thrill rides in the United States. 

Fishing Techniques
Light Tackle
Heavy Tackle Fishing
Trolling
Fly Fishing