When it comes to quality of fishing, size of fish and amounts of fishable water, you’ll have a hard time finding a better place to fish than Florida. It’s not an exaggeration to say that every single drainage ditch, pond and other small bodies of water hold fish. If you would like, you could pull over on the size of the road, toss a fly into a water filled ditch and spend the entire day catching fish.
As the years have progressed, fly fishing in Florida is becoming more popular. Anglers are putting away their traditional tackle and trying their hands at fly fishing all across the state. Whether you’re targeting the rivers in the Everglades or the saltwater flats, fly angling can be successful in Florida.
To catch fish, you need to be capable of long and accurate casts. These fish expect natural presentations so before you book your trip, make sure you feel confident in your casting abilities. Once you’re ready, be sure to visit these nine locations!
1. Biscayne Bay Flats – Filled with Fish
While this is a broad area, the Biscayne Bay Flats are a must visit for anyone looking to fly fish in Florida. These waters are bordered by Key Biscayne, Key Largo and the Florida Mainland. You’ll find a massive number of flats filled with fish.
All of the best water lies within Biscayne National Park. You won’t need a National Park pass when fishing in Biscayne National Park, but you will need your fishing license. There are numerous guide services that will fully show you the ropes.
In Biscayne Bay, you’ll catch Bonefish, Permit as well as Tarpon. You can fish it all year round and have quite a bit of success. Saltwater fly fishing is quite a bit different than freshwater fly angling so don’t be frustrated if you find yourself skunked on your first visit.
Where to Fish on Biscayne Bay
There are a variety of ways to access the national park. You can access it by boat, car or even a free trolley. For fishing, the best way to get to the park is to drive or go via boat. If possible, you’ll want to fish Biscayne Bay from a flats boat so you can gain full access to all of the unbelievable water.
If you desire, you can camp on Elliot Key, the park’s largest island. If you choose to do so, there is a $25 a night fee. Otherwise, you can take your car and make your way up towards Coon Point.
Access it here:
Fly Fishing Gear to Bring to Biscayne Bay
For saltwater fishing, you need to be sure you stay hidden, but have enough power to fight these fish. As a result, you’ll want to use an 11 or 12-weight rod with a 12 foot leader and 16 pound tippet.
Attached to the tippet, you’ll want 5 or 6 feet of shock leader. This is usually found in 40 to 50 pound test. It’s going to be able to handle the strong teeth of the fish you catch and provide you enough power to fight these fish. Plus, you’ll want to use weight forward and sinking tip line.
Here are a few flies that will work in Biscayne Bay
- Tarpon Toad
- Skittal Mantis Shrimp
- Clouser Minnow
- Cowen’s Baitfish
- Simon’s HoverCrab
All of these flies are heavy and on size 1 or 2 hooks. As a result, you need to be sure to practice casting these flies before you make it on the water. Fish don’t hit if your flies are slapping the water too hard. Learn to lay them down softly near the fish.
2. Mosquito Lagoon – Incredible Fishery
Mosquito Lagoon is another legendary area to fly fish in Florida. Only located 45 minutes from Orlando, these bodies of water are home to a massive amount of fish. Mosquito Lagoon can be found within the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and the Canaveral National Seashore.
The lagoon is best fished from a flats boat. It’ll give you the best chance at catching these fish. Plus, it’ll keep you out of the water and allow you to access all of the wonderful water it has to offer.
You’ll find Redfish, Trout, Snook and Tarpon in Mosquito Lagoon. It’s often overwhelming to watch all of the fish swim throughout the lagoon. Be sure to relax and only focus on one or two fish that you would like to catch. If you begin casting wildly, you’ll ruin your chances at landing fish.
You always want to lead the fish cruising through saltwater. Many of these fish are ambush predators so drifts through the currents near structure is always going to lead to fish. Fishing flats is a learning experience, but quite rewarding once you discover the necessary methods.
Where to Fish on Mosquito Lagoon
The best place to access the Lagoon is on Klondike Beach Trail. It follows the shore and allows you to fish along it if you don’t have a flats boat. The more water you can cover while you’re fishing, the better.
If you do have a flats boat, you can access anywhere where there is a boat launch! These aren’t difficult to find in these parts.
Here is the access to the Klondike Beach Trail:
Fly Gear To Use on Mosquito Lagoon
You’ll only need a 7 or 8-weight rod for Mosquito Lagoon. The biggest issue you’ll run into is wind so be sure you’re confident in your casting abilities and use the wind in your favor. You’ll also want to use weight forward or sinking tip line.
Attached to the fly line you should have a 12 foot leader with 12 pound test tippet. Also, it’s important that you utilize a few feet of the shock leader. This is going to ensure that the fish don’t snap your fly directly off of your line.
Fly Shops and Guides in the Mosquito Lagoon Area
Right In Sight specializes in fly fishing Mosquito Lagoon. Having intimate knowledge of the huge watershed is key to finding and hooking into the Redfish, Sea Trout and Snook found in the area. Check out the fishing report HERE.
Shopping for flies and other gear to use in the area is tough. Mosquito Lagoon Bait and Tackle is your best bet to get equipped for a day on the water.
Guide Tip: Remember to use as much stealth as possible. If you see tailing fish, cast towards these. This shows that they’re feeding on the bottom so be sure to tie on heavier flies that can get lower in the water column.
3. Pine Island Sound – This Chain of Islands is AMAZING
Pine Island Sound is a great place to visit on your next trip to Florida. The Sound is made up of Cape Coral, Pine Island, Sanibel Island, Punta Gorda and Cayo Costa. All of these are located in Southwest Florida and are filled with a nice amount of fish.
Everything you want in Florida fly fishing is available in Pine Island Sound. You can fish grass flats, beaches, mangroves and a variety of canals. If you want a full introduction to Florida fly fishing, Pine Island Sound is the place to visit.
Again, wind is going to be the biggest challenge that you’re going to face when fishing in Florida. The Matlacha Pass is a great place to visit on these windier days due to the cover that it will provide.
You’ll find Redfish, Sea Trout, Jack Crevalle, Mackerel, Tarpon and Snook within these areas. You’ll have no shortage of amazing fishing opportunities. If it’s Tarpon you’re after, fish near the beaches in the spring.
Where to Fish on Pine Island Sound
As mentioned above, there are countless places and over 10 boat ramps in Pine Island Sound. If you’re into exploring and discovering the type of fishing that’s available, this is the place for you.
Here is a great place to start your day if it truly is windy!
Flies and Gear to Bring to Pine Island Sound
You’ll want your 8 or 9-weight when fishing Pine Island Sound. These fish are going to require some extra power to manipulate, but don’t pose a threat to any of your gear. Also, bring a shorter leader around 9 feet long and 20 pound tippet.
Weight forward line is going to be the way to go in Pine Island Sound.
Here are a few flies that are going to work:
- Grassett’s Snook Minnow
- Cowen’s Mullet
- Puglisi Floating Minnow
- Grassett’s Snook Minnow
This area is going to take some experimenting and willingness to fail. Stay patient and continue to try different methods. You won’t regret spending a few days fly fishing Pine Island Sound!
4. Winter Haven Lakes – Freshwater Fly Fishing in Florida
The Winter Haven Lakes are a group of nine lakes that are all connected by a canal. You can access this canal via boat. All of these lakes are right in between Orlando and Tampa. They’re a great place to fish if you don’t have time to spend a few days on the coasts.
If you’re after freshwater fish, the Winter Haven Lakes have them. You can catch bass, crappie, gar and carp in these lakes. If you’ve never attempted to catch carp on the fly, you need to try. It’s one of the most humbling experiences in fly fishing!
If possible, fish these lakes with a boat. While the shore fishing is solid, you’ll have more success if you can get out into the middle of the water and fish up against the banks along with the other structure found throughout the lake.
Where to Fish on the Winter Haven Lakes
All of these lakes have plenty of areas to access. If you’re interested in teaching someone how to fly fish, these lakes are a great place to try! You’ll have plenty of success catching panfish and be able to do so from shore or on a boat.
Here is a nice access point for Lake Shipp:
Gear To Use on the Winter Haven Lakes
You’ll only need your 6-weight rod for the Winter Haven Lakes. These fish can be spooky so use a 9 foot leader and 2 or 3x fluorocarbon tippet. Also, weight forward or sinking tip line is going to be your best bet on these lakes. Shock leader is another necessity!
Streamer and popper fishing seem to have the most success on these lakes. Strip poppers in the mornings and evenings and use streamers in the middle portions of the days! Remember, structure and vegetation are going to hold fish.
5. Sarasota Bay – Quality Fly Fishing
Sarasota Bay is another must visit for anyone looking to catch some quality saltwater fish on the fly. It’s located on the Southwest Coast of the state, is 10 miles long and three miles wide. It’s filled with mangroves, flats, oyster bars and plenty of other structures for these fish to hide.
Parts of the bay are heavily developed, so if you can, fish this water from a flats boat. There are places to fish this water from foot, but a boat is always going to allow you to cover more water. There are few tributaries that run into the water so it stays clear almost all year long!
You’ll catch just about anything you would want in Sarasota Bay. Snook, Redfish, Trout, Tarpon, Mackerel, Bluefish and Jacks all thrive in these waters and grow up to impressive sizes. Tarpon fishing can be world class so be sure to visit in the fall or spring.
Where to Fly Fish on Sarasota Bay
There are a multitude of areas you can fish on Sarasota Bay. However, Buttonwood Harbor is one of the best areas to fish in the entire area. There are quite a few areas with deep grass and structure. You’ll have quite a bit of success with the Snook and the Tarpon in here!
Access Buttonwood Harbor here:
Fly Fishing Gear To Use on Sarasota Bay
You’ll need your 8 or 9-weight rod for Sarasota. These fish aren’t always going to be massive, but any sort of saltwater fish is going to test your equipment! You’ll need weight forward and sinking tip line as well. Attach 12 foot leader, 16 pound tippet and shock leader to your fly line.
Sarasota bay offers a nice amount of protection from the wind. If you want to work on your casting and have success catching fish, Sarasota Bay is a great place to visit.
6. Tampa Bay – A Favorite for Fly Fishing
Tampa Bay is a great place to wet your fly line. It’s easily accessible and provides great opportunities at catching some large fish. The majority of the flats are a no motor zone and are aquatic preserves.
If you do fish the bay, do so from a flats boat. You’ll have to pole your way through quite a few flats, but these fish are always willing to eat. Tampa Bay is the place to visit if you’re in search of some large Redfish. Redfish are a favorite for many fly anglers so if you haven’t attempted to catch them, you should.
You’ll also catch trout, Blue Fish, Tarpon and Lady Fish. Do your best to stay in the lesser populated areas of the bay, but even if you can’t, you’ll still manage to catch quite a few fish.
Where to Fish in Tampa Bay
If possible, focus on the section between the mouths of the Manatee and Alifia Rivers. This stretch is going to be the best fly fishing in the entire bay. You can even fish these areas from shore if you don’t have access to a boat.
Access the Manatee River here: https://goo.gl/maps/tktBrxXtA9cbr7gJ7
Flies, Gear and Guides for Tampa Bay
You’ll need your 8-weight rod when targeting fish in Tampa Bay. Plus, like many of the above mentioned setups, you’ll need weight forward and sinking tip line. Be sure to also have a 12 foot leader with a 20 pound tippet. If you’re targeting tarpon, you’ll also need some shock leader.
Here are a few flies to use:
- Clouser Minnow
- Lefty’s Deceiver
- Puglisi Minnow/Shad
- Grassett’s Deep Flats Bunny
For years I’ve fished with Capt. Russ at Salty Fly Charters. With over 25 years of experience and fantastic knowledge and gear you can’t go wrong. Be sure to contact him early in your trip planning, because he books up quick
7. Everglades National Park – With a Boat Fly Fish in Solitude
Any fly angler who visits Florida could easily spend their entire trip in Everglades National Park. Both the fresh and saltwater areas of the park are filled with trophy fish. You can fish this via wading or on a flats boat. Whatever type of fishing you want, you can find it in Everglades National Park.
If you choose to visit in the spring when the fishing is best, be aware of the higher temperatures. Get on the water as early as you can. The fish will be active and you won’t be as miserable due to the weather.
As soon as you enter the park, be sure to stop at a visitor center to gain an update on the water levels and the fishing conditions! It is constantly changing so be sure to do your homework before you make the trek.
You can catch Tarpon, Snook, Redfish, Sea Trout and Bass.
Where to Fly Fish in the Everglades
There is a place for everyone in the Everglades. Flamingo, however, is one of the best areas to fish in the entire world. The fish count is extremely high and they’re always biting.
Access it here: https://goo.gl/maps/A9GpMnMJk9FGRWbZA
Gear, Flies, Fly Shops and Guides for Fishing in the Everglades
Bring your 8 or 9-weight to the Everglades. These fish have ample opportunity to tangle you in different structures so you need the power to force them out. Also, use a 12 foot leader with a 20 or 30 pound test tippet. Tarpon weight forward line is going to be your best bet.
On the west side of the Everglades, Naples has the Mangrove Outfitters to gear up with flies and guides. If you head east to Ft. Lauderdale the folks at Glades Outfitters can set you up with all the best equipment and guides that know the most productive locations in Everglades National Park.
Here are some flies to use:
- Doc Hall’s Tailing Shrimp
- Bonefish Slider
- GT Pinfish
- EP Glades Minnow
- Deep Flats Bunnies
The National Park Service provides great resource for the Everglades. Sometimes restrictions are mandated for the park so – PLEASE check out this website – Everglades National Park – Fishing
8. Key West – Sunsets and Fly Fishing😎
Key West is not only a great place for vacations, but it’s also a great place to land some impressive fish. You’ll find Tarpon, Jack, Barracuda, Mackerel, WAhoo and even some Blackfin Tuna.
Plan a trip to experience the beauty and be sure to pack your fly rod!
Where to Fish on Key West
Anywhere you can find access to the water is enough in Key West. The amount of flats and fishable water is impressive and is the reason many professional anglers choose to spend a few months here every single year.
Access Key West here: https://goo.gl/maps/EAFgEke1iNkzL4tf8
Gear and Fly Fishing Guides to Use on Key West
Bring your 10-weight to Key West because you never know what you’ll catch. Also, use a 9 or 10 feet leader with a 20 or 30 pound tippet. You’ll want a shock leader as well because those toothy fish have the tendency to do some damage!
Capt. Dexter Simmons has been fly fishing Key West waters for years. Read fishing reports at Key West Fly Fishing and learn the what’s, where’s and how for tossing flies in the Keys.
9. Turner River – A Special Spot in the Everglades
Yes, this is in the Everglades, but it’s too great of a spot to fish that it deserves a mention. It’s manageable for anglers of all skill levels and is great to fish from a kayak. You’ll find Sea Trout, Ladyfish, Jack and Snook.
You’ll have a chance to fish Mangrove trees and some nice flats. It’s a must visit for anyone looking to cut their teeth on Florida fly angling.
Where to Fly Fish on the Turner River
If you focus on the mouth of the river, you won’t be surrounded by other anglers and have ample access to a great amount of fishable water.
Access the mouth here: https://goo.gl/maps/1erxBU5StRvK9ZEv7
Gear to use on the Turner River
Bring your 7 or 8-weight to the Turner. Also, a 12 foot leader with a 15 to 20 pound tippet is going to do the trick. Weight forward or floating line will also help you catch fish.
Last Cast for Florida
Living in the northern US, I can’t wait for my annual pilgrimage south in February. With the sunshine warming my bones and a guide poling across a flat, I can tackle the second half of a northern winter.
A tip, is plan early. Fly fishing is a great “add-on” activity to a vacation. Many folks book guides out for years in the future. I suggest you do the same. Dreams of casting from the bow of a skiff in my socks are what help me get through winter.