Where To "Take a Kid Fishing" in Florida?

  • Florida has 3 million acres of freshwater lakes, 12,000 miles of rivers and streams, and more than 8,000 miles of coastline--all of which have fish.  No one in Florida is far from a location where you can begin learning to fish and spending time together on the water.  Obviously though, some places will provide a much better opportunity to catch fish than others.   A big key is structure and changes in the water flow patterns or bottom shape.
  • Freshwater Fishing:  Freshwater fishing is probably more accessible to most Floridians than saltwater and typically offers an easier starting place for a novice angler.
  • Lakes--Most large public lakes have shoreline access often around public ramps or parks, and many even have fishing piers or boardwalks.Catfish and bluegill can be caught with a cane pole from these locations, but using a rod and reel will let you reach farther out to where the fish may be (see how to for details).  With a boat, you can cover more territory and get to areas where there are less disturbances from other anglers.  You may also find more fish, such as larger bass and schooling crappie, but having a boat isn't essential.  Look for vegetation fringes, sunken logs, water inflows,or dropoffs in the bottom (having a depth finder or topo map is helpful for this).  On a hot day, shady areas such as under piers or overhanging trees can be productive.
  • Rivers--You'll still find bass, bream and catfish in rivers, but also some fishes that are more specialized for flowing water like redbreast sunfish.  Again watch for structural changes; bends in the river or bottom contours that create eddies that help stir up prey for the predators are helpful.
  • Ponds--Many people do their first fishing in ponds, especially ponds stocked with bass, bluegill and catfish, or perhaps sunshine bass (see freshwater fish id).  Urban ponds in Jacksonville, Tampa/St. Pete, Orlando and around Miami-Dade are managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to provide excellent opportunities to "take a kid fishing."  They often host special fishing clinics (especially during the summer) and fishing rodeos.
  • Saltwater Fishing--Being on a peninsula, even one as large as Florida, has its advantages and makes saltwater fishing nearly as accessible to most Floridians as freshwater.  Residents can even fish from the shore without a license.
    • Shoreline--Watching where the locals congregate to fish is a good clue for finding fish from the shore.  Sport fish will gather where there are features that congregate their food items, water flowing into the ocean, vegetation patches, or structure that attracts algae and small bait fish are examples.  There are also numerous public fishing piers in saltwater that have tackle and bait available on site as well as expert advice to help "take a kid fishing."
    • Inshore--Small boats fishing within sight of the shore have access to many fish that shoreline anglers can't reach.  Small holes or drop-offs, oyster bars and other features provide the structure to concentrate fish.
    • Offshore--A lot of kids have visions of catching a big shark or marlin or seeing a sailfish leap and with proper guidance, equipment and support they can participate in these thrills as well but generally speaking those species are ones for them to aspire to as they grow older and more experienced.  But offshore also provides some fast action for mackerels, groupers and other offshore species that are well-suited to young anglers with adult supervision.


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