fishing in st petersburg fl

Fishing in St. Petersburg, FL Guide

Written by Lenny Rudow
April 15, 2022

With water to the north, south, east, and west, it should be no surprise that fishing in St. Petersburg, FL is utterly awesome. In fact, with access to the Gulf of Mexico, Tampa Bay, and countless creeks and lagoons, whether you book a fishing charter or strike out on your own, you’ll enjoy an excellent shot at catching fish here any day of the year.

So, if you’re ready to cast, crank, and make a big catch while fishing in St. Pete, follow our beginner’s guide to help make the most out of your experience.

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Where to Fish: Best St. Pete Fishing Spots

Where you’ll find the best fishing spots in St. Petersburg, FL, depends to some degree on just what it is you’d like to catch, what time of year it is, and how good your access to the different waterways may or may not be.

Fortunately, there are plenty of fishing boat rentals in St. Petersburg, so you don’t necessarily have to own your own boat in order to hit all those hotspots. But, just where are those hotspots, in the first place? In St. Petersburg, the top options will include:

Fishing in the bays (Tampa Bay, Old Tampa Bay, Hillsborough Bay, and Boca Ciega Bay)

  • Areas of open water in the larger bays offer a shot at some big game species commonly caught in the ocean (like cobia and king mackerel) as well as lots of shoreline structure and bridges that attract more bay-oriented species.
  • Boca Ciega Bay is a bit different from the others, as it’s much more enclosed, is behind barrier islands on the Gulf of Mexico, and has numerous sand spits, islands, mangrove shorelines, and spoil areas. These provide options for casting into the shallows and along shorelines.

Fishing in the Gulf of Mexico

  • This can take on a number of different forms, ranging from bottom fishing to trolling and everything in-between.
  • There’s a very slow drop-off in this portion of the Gulf, so getting to deep water and going after big game may require making a long cruise. That said, sometimes pelagic species like mahi-mahi will show up unexpectedly even when you’re relatively close in—you just never know what’s going to strike when you’re fishing in the open waters of the Gulf.

Fishing in the canals and creeks

  • It may seem surprising, but at times some of the very best St. Pete fishing hotspots are in the unlikely looking canals and creeks connected to the bays.
  • Particularly during the cooler months of the year when the sun warms the relatively still waters of the canals, fishing in them can become red-hot.

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Where to Fish in St. Pete

What to Fish for in St. Petersburg: Top Species List

In the larger bays, most anglers pursue:

  1. Black drum
  2. Cobia
  3. Flounder
  4. Grouper (multiple species)
  5. Jacks
  6. King mackerel
  7. Permit
  8. Pompano
  9. Red drum
  10. Sharks (multiple species)
  11. Snapper (multiple species)
  12. Snook
  13. Spanish mackerel
  14. Speckled sea trout
  15. Tarpon

In Boca Ciega Bay, fishermen usually go after:

  1. Flounder
  2. Pompano
  3. Redfish
  4. Sheepshead
  5. Snapper (multiple species)
  6. Snook
  7. Speckled sea trout

What to Fish for in St. Petersburg, Florida

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. Snappers (multiple species)
  10. Spanish mackerel
  11. Tarpon

In the canals and creeks connected to the bays, you might catch:

  1. Red drum
  2. Snappers (multiple species)
  3. Snook
  4. Speckled sea trout
  5. Tarpon

When is the best time to go fishing in St. Petersburg, FL?

One of the best things about fishing in St. Petersburg, fishing in St. Pete Beach, and fishing in all the associated waterways, is that it’s a year-round activity.

That said, how you time your trip will have a huge impact on the species that are present:

  • Some, like king mackerel, are mostly caught during spring and fall as they migrate.
  • Others, like groupers and snappers, are prolific in these waters regardless of which season you’re fishing.
  • And still others, like speckled trout and redfish, can be found in certain areas during the summer months (such as shallow flats) but will be found in other areas (like deeper canals) during the winter months.

So, pick whenever you’d like to try fishing in St. Pete — as long as you pick your target species and choose hotspots accordingly, you can catch fish at any time of the year.

Marina in St. Petersburg, Florida

Ready to go fishing in St. Pete?

Remember, which method of fishing you’ll want to apply depends a great deal upon which of these areas you choose to fish, and which species you want to target.

  • When it comes to bottom fish like grouper, snappers, and flounder, bait fishing is commonly the most effective.
  • But for some of the more aggressive bay targets like speckled trout and redfish, light-tackle fishing with lures is very popular.
  • And in the open Gulf, the tactics applied by the professionals running St. Petersburg fishing charters and amateur anglers alike often include a mix of chumming, trolling, and bait fishing.

Which form of fishing will get you the most excited? That’s your call. You can jump on a charter boat and let them choose, or if you know the ropes, get a fishing boat rental and make the decision for yourself.

Whatever you decide to do, there’s no doubt that fishing in St. Pete is an awesome way to spend the day.

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