If you're an avid angler, you know there are places around the country that are considered dream destinations for fly fishing. Florida makes most anglers' top 10 list. It's number three out of fifty states with the highest water area percentage at 12,133 square miles.
In all the miles of water across the states, some of the best places to fly fish in Florida include:
- Biscayne Bay Flats
- Boca Grande
- Crystal River and Florida's Nature Coast
- Everglades National Park
- Key West, and more
Keep reading to find out the best Florida offers in fly fishing. Reach the end, and you'll find the answers to some frequently asked questions about fly fishing in Florida waters.
Best Fly Fishing locations in Florida
1. Biscayne Bay Flats – Filled with Fish
Biscayne Bay flats are known for their shallow, crystal clear waters and rich, diverse habitat. In addition to its natural beauty, it's also the site of a massive Spring tarpon migration that will leave any angler in awe of the large pods of three-digit fish cutting through the water.
In the Biscayne Bay flats, anglers will find permit and bonefish, in addition to tarpon. The sheer size of some species will test even the most seasoned anglers, but the clear waters and stealth needed to sneak up on skittish fish are an added challenge.
2. Boca Grande
Boca Grande is one of the prime locations for sight fly fishing. Diverse habitats of grass flats, sandy beaches, and mangrove islands offer ideal spots to sight fish, the target species in this area. The Myakka and Peace rivers provide ample food sources for these fish.
Boca Grande boasts of being one of the world-famous for giant tarpon fishing. In addition, you have species like snook, redfish, Goliath grouper, and sea trout. May to June is the peak season for catching award-winning tarpon.
3. Crystal River and Florida's Nature Coast
Crystal River and Florida's Nature Coast are among the most versatile locations to fly fish. From grass flats and spartina grass shorelines to deep creeks and shallow bays, anglers will find a variety of catches. It's a low-pressure locale, so fish are less skittish or leader-shy.
Anglers can find redfish, snook, trout, sheepshead, flounder, and more. During the warmer months, some species migrate to Crystal River, like tripletail, cobia, and tarpon.
Destin, Florida, is known for being a part of what is referred to as the Emerald Coast. The name comes from the emerald clear waters you experience in this portion of the panhandle. In good weather conditions, anglers can see all the action in the water.
In Spring and late Fall, schools of baitfish will lure in migratory fish. Anglers can see a frenzy of surface activity from Spanish mackerel and bonito up and down the coast for acres. The target species in this area are tarpon, bluefish, and redfish.
5. Everglades National Park
The Everglades National Park is the largest subtropical wetlands in the United States. Its 1.5 million acres of protected wilderness is at the southern tip of Florida. The park comprises sawgrass marshes, coastal mangroves, and Pine Flatwoods.
There are several endangered wildlife within the Everglades. From the portion of the park that meets the Gulf of Mexico to the mangrove shorelines, you can fish 265,000 acres. Species in this area include snook, redfish, and tarpon.
Islamorada is part of the Upper Keys and borders the Everglades National Park, benefiting from the park's rich biodiversity. Islamorada encompasses 6 of the 800 Keys in this area. The deep blue waters are known for their coral reefs, which provide a healthy habitat for feeding and spawning.
Whether fishing in open flats, islands, or channels, anglers will encounter a variety of species. The target species of this area include permit, bonefish, and tarpon.
Jacksonville is a major city in the northeast of Florida. Like other locations, it boasts winding creeks, barrier flats, and beautiful lagoons. Anglers can take an airboat through the Needlerush and Spartina Cord grasses, Oyster bars, and more. It's not just the inlet waters that offer over a dozen different species, but the beachfront as well.
Target Species in this area spotted sea trout and redfish, a.k.a red drum. Depending on the season, anglers may also see snook, ladyfish tarpon, flounder, sheepshead, black drum, false albacore, Spanish mackerel, and more.
8. Key West
The most famous Florida Keys, Key West, is known for its sight sportfishing opportunities. Much like the rest of the state, this area has some of the clearest waters of any tropical climate. Being situated between the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, Key West has some of the most unique fisheries anywhere.
Not only do anglers have the deep blue waters of the Gulf Stream, but shallow channels and flats. Target species in this area are trophy-sized, whether inshore or offshore. Sailfish, grouper, tarpon, permit, bonefish, snapper, and cobia are some species anglers will see in these waters.
Miami is the only city in Florida to be encircled by two wildlife parks. The surrounding natural beauty, diverse habitat, and variety of species rival many top locales for fly fishing. Anglers can fish in canals, bays, flats, reefs, and wrecks.
Anglers can fish at the height of the tarpon season in May and June or catch snook during the summer. Permit is best almost all year long, from May to November. Rarer to this list, a freshwater species anglers will find in Miami canals are peacock bass.
10. Mosquito Lagoon
Located on Florida's Spacecoast, Mosquito Lagoon is part of the three lagoon grouping known as the Indian River Lagoon. One of the biggest estuaries on the Eastern Seaboard, it is a destination location for fly fishing.
Year-round target species are sheepshead, snook, redfish, mangrove snappers, seatrout, lockdown fish, black drum, and tripletail. Seasonally anglers will also encounter ladyfish, tarpon, bluefish, and jack crevalle.
The white sands of the Naples coast are a scenic backdrop for saltwater fly fishing. Naples is one of the most convenient locations for fly anglers who may not have a whole day to dedicate to the sport. There are diverse spots for fishing, like mangroves, creeks, and bays.
Snook spawn in this area in the summer months, while tarpon migrates through. A location for sight fishing, fly anglers may even see pompano feeding the area. The pompano is the smaller cousin to the permit. In the winter, add on redfish and bonito.
12. Marco Island
Just south of Naples is Marco Island, the entry point to the 10,000 Islands National Wildlife Refuge. 10,000 mangrove islands connected by rivers, creeks, and bays sit at the border of the Gulf of Mexico. Macro Island is a tidal ecosystem with a variance of five feet between low and high tide each day.
This location is the epicenter of the seasonal tarpon migration. In addition to tarpon, you have redfish and snook, specifically in the area to feed for the Summer spawn.
13. Palm Beach
Palm Beach county has four inlets: Boston, Boca, Jupiter, and Lake Worth, making the options of saltwater fly fishing endless. The location is popular for the ability to catch top game fish like sailfish and mahi-mahi just a few miles offshore.
Other offshore species include sharks, blackfin tuna, bonitos, and more. Inshore the target species are snook, tarpon, and jacks. If anglers want to beat the heat of the day, Palm Beach does offer fly fishing expeditions at night.
14. Pine Island Sound
Pine Island Sound is just West of Fort Myers and comprises numerous protected marine sanctuaries. Freshwater Caloosahatchee River feeds the location in the South and saltwater from the Boca Grande Pass and the Charlotte Harbor in the North. The seagrass is the perfect habitat for both baitfish and gamefish.
Year-round target species are redfish and snook. The clear water does make these fish a bit skittish and leary. Like many other locations throughout Florida, tarpon will be seen migrating through Pine Island Sound in the Spring and Summer months.
15. Sarasota Bay
Sarasota Bay has the oldest working fishing village in Florida, Cortez. The flats in Cortez make inshore fly fishing quite accessible, especially for wading fly anglers. The mangrove islands and deep channels attract a variety of species. Just South of Sarasota Bay, three zones offer great wind protection for fly anglers: Blackburn Bay, Roberts Bay, and Little Sarasota Bay.
Most common in this area, anglers will find spotted sea trout, tarpon, redfish, bluefish, and snook. Spring and Fall bring Spanish mackerel and pompano to these waters. There are also seasonal migrations of king mackerel and cobia.
16. Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay is the largest estuary in Florida, extending 400 miles. Tampa Bay has shallow bays with mud flats and seagrass beds encircled by mangroves. The average depth of the bay is 12 feet. There are over a hundred small tributaries sourced by freshwater and spring-fed rivers up and down the coast.
There are more than 200 species of fish that live in Tampa Bay. Some target species include cobia, redfish, snook, tarpon, and sea trout.
17. Turner River
The Turner River, located in Big Cypress National Preserve, is connected to swampland. The Turner River takes you through several ecosystems, including sawgrass prairies, saltwater mangroves, and swamps. Mostly suitable for kayaking or paddling, as there are many low-hanging branches to contend with.
Fishing on the river, anglers will have ample populations of ladyfish, sea trout, and crevalle jack. Caution must be practiced when navigating these waters as alligators and manatees are also found in this area.
18. Winter Haven Lakes
Winter Haven has a one-of-a-kind series of 16 lakes navigable via canals that are 146 feet above sea level. Nine lakes that compose 6,000 acres are the main sight for boating and fishing. In fact, this location was the site of the largest Ranger bass tournament ever held.
This area is known to produce 10lb bass catch frequently throughout the year. Anglers can also fish panfish, crappie, gar, and grass carp. The warmer temperatures will cause bass to dive deeper into the water, but early morning and evening hours will see great top water action.
What Flies Do I Need to Fly Fish in Florida?
Because there is such a vast amount of fish species that you can target in Florida, we could write another 3000-word article on each fly pattern you could use throughout the year in Florida. We have broken down the top fly patterns for the top targeted species. Many of these patterns will catch you more than the listed fish, but their original intent when designed was for these species.
Best Bonefish & Permit Fly Selection For Florida
- Alphexo Crab
- Black And Purple Rabbit Strip Fly
- Borski’s Bonefish Slider
- Camo Crabs in Tan And Olive
- Christmas Island Special
- Corona Crab
- Crazy Charlie
- Golden Knight Gotchas in Tan, Pink, or Orange
- Manta Shrimp in Light Tans
- Bunny Gotchas
- Merkin Crabs
- Micro Crab In Clear or Tan
- Spawning Shrimp
Best Redfish Fly Selection For the Gulf Coast of Florida and Central Florida
- Borski Slider
- Captain Gregg
- Clouser Minnow
- Crab Fly
- Crafty Shrimp
- Dupre Spoon Fly
- Electric Chicken
- Ep Peanut Butter
- Everglades Special
- Fool’s Gold
- Kinky Muddler
- Kung Fu Crab
- Sandbar Mullet
Best Tarpon Fly Selection For Florida
- Black Death
- EP - Baiffish
- EP Tarpon Streamer
- EP’s Peanut Butter
- Haskin’s Gurgler
- Lefty’s Deceiver
- Magnum’s Dragon Tail
- McKnight’s Homeslice
- Palolo Worm
- Ruoff’s Laid Up Tarpon Fly
- Semper Fly
- Tarpon Bunny
- Tarpon Mouse
- Tarpon Tapas
- Tarpon Toads
Best Snook Fly Selection for Florida
- Borski Swimming Shrimp
- Clouser Minnow
- Crease Fly
- Crystal Shrimp
- D.T. Special
- Eat Me Fly
- EP Finger Mullet
- EP Minnow
- EP Mullet
- EP Perfect Minnow
- EP Pilchard
- Hot Lips
- Norm’s Shminnow
- Polar Fiber Minnow
What Gear Do I Need to Fly Fish in Florida?
While fly fishing gear is universal, there are some specifications if you're saltwater fishing in Florida, tackling specific species of fish. Let's look at the most common species you'll encounter and what you'll need to reel one in.
To start, the basic list of gear you need for any fly fishing expedition is as follows:
- Fly Rod
- Fly Reel
- Fly Line
- Line Nippers
- Landing Net
Anglers commonly run into bonefish, redfish/snook, tarpon, and permit. There are specifications for gear for each species.
- Bonefish: 8 and 9 weight rods, Bonefish taper or saltwater taper floating fly lines, 150 yards of backing, 12 feet leaders, and a 12 to 16lb tippet.
- Redfish/Snook: 8 and 9 weight rods, floating taper, leader less than 10 feet, and a 12 to 20lb tippet.
- Tarpon: 11 to 12 weight rod, 250 yards of 30lb backing, WF floating tarpon taper line, 12 feet leader with 40-50lb butt material, 12 to 20lb tippet, and a 60 to 80lb shock tippet.
- Permit: 10-weight rod, heavy flies, 10-weight line, 200 yards of 30lb backing, 10 to 15 feet leader, 16 to 20lb tippet.
Additional Facts about Fly Fishing in Florida
Is fly fishing good in Florida?
Yes, Florida has made many top lists for fly fishing destinations in the United States. Not only is the state practically surrounded by water on most sides, giving you access to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic, but it has plenty of lakes and rivers to fish in as well. The climate makes it suitable to fish all year round, offering a bounty of catch in every season.
Is there freshwater fly fishing in Florida?
Yes, there is freshwater fly fishing in Florida. The state has many rivers, lakes, and canals where you can find bass, tilapia, catfish, and other species. Some popular freshwater fly fishing locations include the Winter Haven Lakes, Lake Okeechobee, Manatee River, and Tamiami Canal.
When can I fly fish in Florida?
The peak season for fly fishing in Florida is between April and October. However, the warm climate throughout the state allows anglers to fly fish all year round.
Is there trout fishing in Florida?
Yes, there is trout fishing in Florida. There are a few destination locations for trout fishing, from St. Petersburg in the Gulf of Mexico to the southern tip of the peninsula, Biscayne Bay to the Everglades. The Tampa Bay speckled sea trout is the target species for trout fishing.
Florida always makes the top of any angler's list when it comes to fly fishing. With diverse locations and species, it's an ideal fishing destination for beginners and experts. Be sure to review the regulations set forth by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to ensure a safe and fun experience for all.