Yes, Florida is known for its stunning beaches, theme parks, and family fun, but it's also the spot for some of the best fly fishing you'll find in the entire country. The state is often referred to as the "Fishing Capital of the World", which is a mighty impressive designation. The fact this state offers year-round fishing, a diverse variety of fish species, and incredible weather all help to make it nothing short of outstanding. It’s a true paradise for fly fishing.
As we look at the statistics, the state is home to over 10,000 miles of rivers, 7,700 lakes, and almost 2,300 miles of tidal shoreline. It doesn’t matter if this is your first crack at fly fishing or you are a seasoned pro, you can basically travel anywhere in the state and find a great place to fish.
So let’s get started with this guide and take a look at some of the most well-known spots. Along with the destinations, we will also break down the hatches, your equipment, and the best times of year to visit.
Florida Fishing Map
Click the map icons to get directions to fishing spots, boat ramps and real-time USGS stream flow data
Where to Go?
Welcome to the “Fishing Capital of the World”. Florida is a state that offers endless fly fishing opportunities that are meant to be enjoyed year-round. You never have to worry about it being too cold, too icy, or too snow-covered to get out and enjoy the lakes, rivers, and streams. Sure, the winter sees cooler temperatures, but it is still perfectly comfortable for fly fishing.
As mentioned there are over 10,000 miles of rivers for you to test your skills on. If you like to fly fish on a lake, then you’ve got 7,700 to pick from. Let’s also point out that the state offers tidal shoreline, giving you the choice between freshwater or saltwater fishing. It’s pretty hard to come up with just a handful of destinations to highlight, so keep in mind there are many others that should be explored.
Of course, there are many locations in the state for fly fishing, but Naples just so happens to be one of the most popular. This is a big vacation destination, so you’ll have no trouble finding a wide variety of accommodation options. Just like the other areas of the state, Naples offers year-round fly fishing. The city is in southwestern Florida so you’re getting incredible temperatures for a good portion of the year.
Now it should be noted that Naples has a number of lakes that are private. You'll need to be well aware of where these are before you accidentally end up at one. The most common fish you'll find here are bass, as they are available all year-round. If it's bass you're after, then planning your trip for the fall or spring is the best bet.
The Everglades National Park
The Everglades National Park is a destination within Florida that feels like a whole other world. This area of Florida is home to 10,000 small islands. The Everglades border the Gulf of Mexico, and is often erroneously thought of a big swamp area. Instead, it is filled with all kinds of stunning scenery, forests, mangroves, and tons of wildlife. It is a sub-tropical climate, and just so happens to be the only one in the country. It’s not about back-country fishing; it’s about fishing in a jungle here! There are saltwater and freshwater opportunities in the park.
Once you start to get into the deep jungle, you are suddenly surrounded by nothing but nature. You won't hear the sound of cars, other people, or civilization in general. For this reason, it's ideal if you want to truly escape your everyday life. This is the kind of area in which you’ll want to be sure you have a good map. If you prefer, you can go that extra mile and hire a guide. It’s very easy to get lost in this dense jungle.
If you stick to the outside areas of the Everglades, it won't be quite as thick in foliage. The inside area of the Everglades is a maze of rivers and bays. These are quite well protected from the wind, so you don't often have to worry about contending with it. The Everglades are great for wading and floating. The typical fish you'll catch are redfish, tarpon, trout, and bass.
The Florida Keys
The Florida Keys are well-known among anglers pretty much everywhere. This is a standout location not just in Florida, but in the United States. First off, you’re treated to spectacular weather, gorgeous architecture, and natural beauty that is hard to rival. Throw in some amazing fly fishing conditions and you’ve got the perfect location. Just as you would expect, you can fish here all year-round. Those who have visited the Keys before tend to agree that spring and fall are a tad bit better for fishing.
As for the fish you'll be catching, there are bonefish and tarpon, which make for a thrilling adventure. We can break the season down by fish to make it a bit easier for visitors. Bonefish can be caught year-round, but can be tricky to actually catch. April through June is all about the tarpon. Redfish are found all year-round, giving you plenty of opportunities. Meanwhile the spotted sea trout is most common in the winter months.
Possibly the only downfall of the Florida Keys is that it can get quite busy, as this is a popular tourist destination.
When to Go?
With Florida, you can’t go wrong no matter when you visit. Even in the middle of winter the water is still brimming with fish. There’s also the fact you won’t have to deal with the cold air temperatures, making winter fishing all the more comfortable. However, there are a number of species that tend to be a bit better in fall and spring. You may want to investigate before booking your trip.
If you are planning to fish for trout while in Florida, the bug hatch obviously plays an important role. If you're ever feeling unsure of what is in season, you can do a quick little experiment. Grab a few rocks that are sitting on the bottom of the water surface. Take a look at the insects around it. You can also do this with low lying bushes to see what insects are around.
Now to do this, you’ll need to be able to identify what the insect looks like. It wouldn’t hurt to bring samples of each, or perhaps a guide/chart with pictures. The typical insects you’ll find are stone flies, caddis flies, mayflies, terrestrials, and midges. You can pretty much count on one or more being in season no matter what time of year you fish in Florida.
What You Will Need When You Get There?
One of the biggest draws of Florida is the fact it offers such diverse fly fishing opportunities. We are talking about freshwater and saltwater, coastal shorelines, landlocked lakes, streams, and rivers. This can make it a bit tricky to pick the right gear. You really need to base it on the type of fish you’re planning on catching, and where you plan to fish. In general, you’re probably safe with a fly rod that is between seven and 10 feet in length. The weight will depend on the fly rod.
Flies are another area that is going to vary greatly. It is heavily dependent on the type of fish you are looking to catch, the season, and where you are fishing. Because this is such an in-depth area, you’ll want to make a trip to a local fly fishing shop for more information. They can steer you in the right direction as to what’s in season, and what will yield you the highest catch rate. Locals are only too happy to help you and ensure you have the best experience possible.
You can fish from shore, by float, boat, or wading in the waters of Florida. It depends on the water depth, conditions, and just the location itself. Packing a high-quality set of chest-high waders is always a good idea. Florida can get brief periods of pretty heavy rain as well, so rain gear and a change of dry clothes is wise.
Even though you're probably very anxious to get out and start your fishing adventures, it's important to get your fishing license first. Anyone who is 16 years of age and older requires a valid license. The license is available to residents and non-residents through the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Within the state of Florida, there are also limits, quotas, and permits that may be in place. It's important that you familiarize yourself with all of these regulations. As well, these can change on a yearly basis.
If you’re looking for a place filled with adventure, diversity, stunning scenery, and unbeatable weather, then Florida is the place to go. After just one visit to the waters you’ll likely agree that this truly is the “Fishing Capital of the World”. So get your sunscreen and sunglasses, and get out there to explore.