As the sun rises over Tampa Bay, dozens of anglers line the railing of the old Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
It’s Monday morning and the mackerel are running along one of the most popular fishing piers in Florida. One by one, reels scream as the monstrous school tears through the fishermen’s bait.
The fight is fast and furious and fish fly over the rail on to the pavement. One man in overalls stops, stuffs five fish into a cooler and guzzles the last of his coffee.
“That’s all for me,” he says, packing up his fishing gear. “It’s time to get to work.”
This scene is played over and over at Florida’s great fishing piers. They’re convenient, usually free and often a rewarding way to catch fish. But with so many, it may be difficult to decide where to start.
What to Expect
Many of Florida’s fishing piers have shallow artificial reefs within casting reach. These man-made structures support diverse communities of marine organisms, so it is not unusual for anglers to land “game” fish such as tarpon, cobia and king mackerel. From time to time, these shore-bound anglers even hook fish far too big to land, including sharks and even the stray sailfish.
At the bait house, you will see photos of local anglers proudly displaying their prized catches. Every pier has a cast of regulars, most of whom are willing to share their secrets. If a fellow angler hooks a big one, don’t be shy about asking what they used as bait. Follow the leader and cast away.
Favorite Fishing Piers
- The Skyway Fishing Pier State Park: Located at the mouth of Tampa Bay on a structure that was once a bridge, the twin Skyway Fishing Piers are probably the most productive land-based fishing spots in the state. If it swims in the Gulf of Mexico, sooner or later it will pass beneath your dangling line.
- Pensacola Beach Fishing Pier: One of northwest Florida’s premier fishing spots, this pier is known for its big fish. The action here is consistent year round, but it’s red hot during the summer months.
- Naples Pier: Drop a line into the Gulf of Mexico from Naples Pier, and try your luck for a variety of species including Spanish mackeral, redfish, sea trout and more. The City of Naples provides a blanket fishing license so you don't need your own. The pier is open 24/7, and the sunsets here are among the best in Florida.
- Anglins Fishing Pier: Lauderdale-by-the-Sea is just a few miles from the Gulf Stream, so you never know what species will saunter by this Atlantic coast fishing pier. King mackerel, tarpon, sailfish… anything is possible.
- Juno Beach Park Pier: Blue water with great visibility means the fish won’t have any trouble finding your bait. Juno is known for its beautiful water and great fishing.
- Sebastian Inlet State Park Pier: Blessed with the added amenities of a state park, this Melbourne Beach fishing pier is located at the mouth of a waterway that intermingles with the Indian River Lagoon, one of Florida’s most famous fishing areas. The fishing is good, but the catching is great.
- Cocoa Beach Pier: Nestled on the Atlantic Ocean, this pier is well-known to surfers but still something of a secret to out-of-town fishermen. Catch the right tide and you won’t be disappointed.
- Sunglow Fishing Pier: Auto races were once held on the hard-packed sand near this Daytona Beach fishing pier. The race cars have moved inland but the fishing is still as good as it was 50 years ago.
- Jacksonville Beach Pier: This St. Johns River city has one of the best king mackerel runs in Florida, so this pier is your best chance to land a big king from land.
- Fort Clinch State Park Pier: If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle, head to Fernandina Beach. Fishing from this state park’s pier is nothing short of heaven.
What to Bring
If you are heading out to any pier in the state, here is a list of equipment that will suit your needs:
- A folding grocery cart (about $25 online or at most grocery stores) can be converted for pier duty. Use tie straps to fasten 11 two-inch PVC rod holders ($3) to the basket. Place cardboard on the bottom and/or sides to keep gear from falling through.
- Soft tackle bag with plastic trays for storing everything from hooks to pliers ($40).
- Sabiki rod and reel ($79) for catching baitfish. Rod is hollow and sensitive to feel the bait hit.
- Spinning rod and reel (combos start around $50) is the best outfit for casting, or a conventional rod and reel (combos start around $75) is best suited for straight-down bottom fishing.
- Pier landing net ($30) with a 32-inch diameter and 100 feet of rope for hauling a catch over the rails.
- Tight lines
They say that fishing, like real estate, is all about location, location, location, and Florida has plenty of it at both these famous piers and many more across the Sunshine State.
If You Go:
Skyway Fishing Pier State Park, Tampa Bay
North Pier, (727) 865-0668
South Pier, (941) 729-0117
Pensacola Beach Fishing Pier
Anglins Fishing Pier, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea
Juno Beach Park Pier
Sebastian Inlet State Park Pier, Melbourne Beach
Cocoa Beach Pier
Sunglow Fishing Pier, Daytona Beach
Jacksonville Beach Pier
Fort Clinch State Park Pier, Fernandina Beach