Clearwater, FL is a prime example of what makes Florida’s west coast great: white sandy beaches, warm seas, and an endless mix of productive fisheries. While fishing in Clearwater, you can explore shallow bayous or visit remote reefs. Choose between the Gulf Coast and Tampa Bay. Wherever you go, you’ll find plenty of fish waiting to take your bait.
This article breaks down the many ways to fish around Clearwater so you can pick the one for you. We’ll cover the top species, spots, and styles of fishing, as well as tournaments, regulations, and more. By the time you’re done, you’ll know what to target and how and where to do so – without breaking any rules.
Clearwater’s Top Fish Species
You can catch dozens of different fish out of Clearwater. However, the vast majority of anglers go after just a handful of them. Here’s a quick introduction to the best of the best, and what makes them special.
Snook are Central Florida’s signature game fish. Aggressive, strong, and unpredictable. They’re a prized catch for every Clearwater fly fishing enthusiast and can be just as fun on spinning gear. The best time to target Snook is the middle of summer. They usually hang out in bayous and mangroves but may also hunt along beachfronts or around shallow pilings.
Sadly, Florida’s Snook have had a tough few years. Severe cold snaps and major red tides wreaked havoc on the Gulf’s inshore fisheries. Fish numbers are still recovering, so Snook fishing in Clearwater is currently catch-and-release only. Don’t worry, it’s still an awesome place to target them.
If any inshore fish can outdo Snook for drama, it’s Tarpon. These shiny giants are the undisputed kings of the shallows – hence their name, “The Silver King.” Hooking one is tough. Reeling it in is a whole new level. They’re known for their aerial acrobatics and crazed head shakes. Even experienced anglers will struggle to get one to the boat.
The best time to target Tarpon in Clearwater is summer. This is when big fish fill the bays and passes. The easiest way to hook them is with live baits (crab and shrimp are popular options). However, the ultimate goal for many people is to land a Tarpon on the fly. Anglers visit Clearwater for this exact reason each year.