Fishing in Clearwater.

Fishing in Clearwater, FL Guide

Written by Lenny Rudow
February 28, 2023

Last Updated on March 12, 2024 by Boatsetter Team

Clearwater, Florida, is a great place to wet a line and enjoy red-hot angling action.

Whether you book a fishing charter or use your own wits, skills, and gear, fishing in Clearwater, Florida, gives you a great shot at success. The waters in this area are riddled with fish, you can head for protected waterways when it’s breezy, or you can go into the Gulf of Mexico for an open-water adventure. You can cast with light tackle or try your hand at trolling. You can target a wide range of species, from sharks to snappers. The bottom line? If you don’t try fishing in Clearwater, Florida, prepare for some serious fishing FOMO.

Where to Fish: Best Fishing Spots in Clearwater, FL

Clearwater Beach, Florida.

The best fishing spots in Clearwater, FL, will change with the seasons and the species that are in the area at any given time, but there are certainly some “old reliable” places you need to know about. Some can be accessed from land, but as a rule, if you rent a fishing boat in Clearwater, FL, you’ll greatly expand your options. Some top picks include:

  • Fishing in Saint Joseph Sound, Clearwater Harbor, the Narrows, and the many connected waterways. These waters enjoy varying degrees of shelter from wind and waves tucked behind barrier islands on the Gulf of Mexico. Countless sand spits, islands, mangrove shorelines, docks, and bridges provide structure for a huge range of inshore sportfish species.
  • Fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. Access to the Gulf is nearly instantaneous from Clearwater, which means you can try your hand at bottom fishing for critters like snappers and groupers, troll lines for open-water fish like Spanish mackerel or kingfish, or even take a shot at catching a shark. Chasing after pelagic species is also possible, though the drop-off to deep water in this portion of the Gulf is very gradual. Going for big game may require making very long runs.

What to Fish for in Clearwater, FL: Top Species List

In the sounds, harbors, and bays around Clearwater, most anglers target species, including:

  1. Black drum
  2. Flounder
  3. Grouper (multiple species)
  4. Jacks
  5. Pompano
  6. Red drum
  7. Sharks (multiple species)
  8. Snapper (multiple species)
  9. Snook
  10. Speckled sea trout
  11. Tarpon

Snapper Fishing in Clearwater.

In the Gulf of Mexico, top targets include:

  1. Amberjack
  2. Bonito
  3. Cobia
  4. Grouper (multiple species)
  5. Jacks
  6. King mackerel
  7. Mahi-mahi
  8. Sharks (multiple species)
  9. Sheepshead
  10. Snappers (multiple species)
  11. Spanish mackerel
  12. Tarpon

When to Go Fishing in Clearwater, FL

Fishing in Clearwater at Sunset.

One of the best things about fishing in Clearwater, Florida, is that no matter what time of year it is, something will be biting. But that something will change depending on the timing of your fishing trip. Some species, like king mackerel, are mostly caught during spring and fall as they migrate. Others, like speckled trout and redfish, may be caught at any time, but the specific types of areas they’re concentrated in will shift with the seasons. And still, other species, such as snappers, can be caught at the very same hotspots more or less year-round.

As a general rule of thumb, remember that migratory species are likely to run hot and cold with the changes in the seasons. Choosing when and where to target them means keeping up with fishing reports and asking around for current intel if you want to be successful. Resident species can be caught at any time but will go through cycles of fast and slow action depending on environmental factors like daily weather and tides. Check local fishing reports from fishing guides for up-to-date tips.

How to Fish in Clearwater, FL

Clearwater Fishing Charter.

Choosing the most effective fishing method depends entirely on what species you hope to target. Structure- and bottom-oriented fish (such as grouper, snappers, and sheepshead) are usually pursued with live or fresh-cut baits like shrimp or baitfish. Shallow-water sportfish like speckled trout and redfish can be pursued by fishing baits or by casting jigs, plugs, and similar artificial lures. And in the open Gulf, some anglers choose to use bait, some use lures, and many also try trolling. But once again, you need to choose the tactics that best match up with the specific species you want to focus on. For certain ones (like Spanish mackerel), trolling is the most effective way to catch fish nine out of 10 days of the week. But for some others (like sheepshead), if you try to troll, you probably won’t get a single bite.

Yes, we know that we’re offering a lot of generalizations and few details on how to fish for each specific species you might go after when fishing in Clearwater, Florida. There have been entire books written on the subject, and we’re certainly not going to be able to compete with in-depth examinations like that here and now. But hopefully, you now know necessary to start digging into the specifics regarding each species, season, and body of water in the area. Do so, and with a little bit of luck, you’ll come back home with a full cooler — and give all those other anglers at the dock a serious case of FOMO.


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