Guide to Inshore and Nearshore Fishing in Florida’s Central West Coast

Our Review of the Ballyhoop Collapsible Nets

Fishing Adventures from Anna Maria Island to Tampa Florida

Whether you’re a seasoned angler or someone looking to dip their toes in the water, this area, especially around Anna Maria Island and the greater Tampa area, is an angler’s paradise. Let’s dive into the best spots for inshore and nearshore fishing, the fish you might reel in throughout the year, and why Captain Randall and the Florida Fishing Company should be your go-to for an unforgettable fishing adventure.

Where to Fish: Top Spots You Can’t Miss

Fishing Anna Maria Island Slack Tide Shark Thumbnail

Fishing Anna Maria Island

Rod n Reel Pier:

This isn’t just a fishing spot; it’s an institution and a staple to the Anna Maria area. With a laid-back atmosphere and stunning views, it offers fantastic opportunities for catching a variety of fish right off the pier. You don’t even need a boat. Just bring your gear, grab some bait, and you’re set.

The Sandbar Restaurant:

Fishing in the waters just off a restaurant that serves some of the freshest seafood around. The Sandbar Restaurant isn’t just a dining destination; the surrounding waters are rich with fish, making it an ideal spot for inshore fishing before rewarding yourself with a delicious meal.

Florida Fishing Gasparilla

Holmes Beach:

For those who prefer the an on-shore challenge of beach fishing, Holmes Beach is your spot. With miles of shoreline, you can find your perfect fishing oasis. Early mornings or late evenings are golden, both for the peace and the active fish.

Kingfish Boat Ramp:

A vital addition for those looking to launch their own boats or join a charter.

Located on the north end of Holmes Beach, it provides easy access to the prime fishing waters of Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

cobia fishing charter in the Gulf of Mexico

Fishing the Greater Tampa Bay Area

Skyway Fishing Pier State Park:

Near the iconic Skyway Bridge, this state park offers the longest fishing pier in the world. Yes, you heard that right. You can fish 24/7 here, targeting species like snook, tarpon, and grouper. It’s a must-visit for any angler interested in fishing the area.

Johns Pass:

This bustling hub is not just for shopping and eating; it’s also a fantastic fishing spot. With boat rentals and charter opportunities, you can head into the waters for a memorable fishing day. The pass is especially known for its clear waters, making it easier to spot your next catch.

offshore fishing yellowtail snapper in bay boat saltwater fishing ep53
Florida Fishing Company

Captain Randall and Florida Fishing Company:

Your Go-To Florida Fishing Charter

Why go at it alone when you can have the expertise of an area local like Captain Randall at Florida Fishing Company? Whether you’re looking for an inshore fishing trip around Anna Maria Island or venturing nearshore in the greater Tampa area, these folks know where the fish are biting. Offering a range of personalized fishing adventures, Captain Randall and team cater to anglers of all levels, ensuring you have the best experience possible.

Our Review of the Ballyhoop Collapsible Nets

Fish Through the Seasons: What You’ll Catch

The beauty of fishing in Florida’s central west coast is the sheer variety of fish available year-round, as well as those seasonal gems that make every trip unique.

Central Florida Year-Round Angling

Anna Maria Inshore Snook Fishing Florida


A favorite among anglers for its fighting spirit.

Fishing for Snook

Snook fishing is a thrilling experience that combines the need for strategy, skill, and a bit of luck.

These elusive fish are prized for their explosive strikes and hard-fighting nature, making them a top target for anglers in Florida’s inshore waters.

Snook can be found around structures like docks, seawalls, and mangroves, as well as along sandy beaches and passes where currents bring in baitfish.

Live shrimp, pilchards, and small pinfish are top baits, though artificial lures such as jerkbaits and topwater plugs also prove effective. Fishing for snook requires a good understanding of their habitat and behavior, especially since they are highly sensitive to changes in water temperature and salinity.

Chasing a Record Bull Redfish


Known for its distinct tail and delicious taste.

Fishing for Redfish

Fishing for Redfish, or red drum, are one of the most sought-after inshore game fish, renowned for their spirited fight and distinctive spot(s) near the tail.

Anglers targeting redfish often find success in shallow waters with grass flats or around oyster bars and mangrove roots, where these fish like to feed.

Live bait like mullet or crabs works wonders, but spoons and soft plastics are also effective.

The thrill of hooking a redfish is its powerful run, making them a favorite among light tackle enthusiasts.

Whether you’re sight fishing in clear, skinny water or casting into schools in deeper bays, fishing for redfish offers an exhilarating challenge that rewards with both sport and table fare.

Catching Speckled Trout in the Gulf of Mexico

Spotted Seatrout:

A staple in inshore fishing, perfect for beginners and experts alike.

Fishing for Speckled Trout

Fishing for Spotted sea trout, also known simply as speckled trout, hold a special place in the hearts of inshore anglers.

These fish are abundant in the shallow coastal waters of bays and estuaries, making them accessible and enjoyable targets for anglers of all skill levels.

Early morning and late evening are prime times to target trout, especially when they are feeding on small baitfish near seagrass beds, flats, and drop-offs.

Live bait such as shrimp and mullet are effective, but spotted sea trout also eagerly strike a variety of artificial lures, including soft plastics rigged under popping corks and topwater baits.

Florida Mangrove Snapper Fishing

Fishing for Mangrove Snapper

Mangrove snapper, also known as gray snapper, thrive in the sheltered waters of mangroves, estuaries, and reefs, making them a popular target for inshore anglers. These fish are renowned for their wariness and sharp teeth, demanding both stealth and precision from fishermen.

Using light tackle, live shrimp, or small fish as bait can be particularly effective in enticing them. Fishing around structures such as dock pilings, mangrove roots, and underwater debris during the higher tides increases the chance of a successful catch.

Red Snapper Fishing Clearwater Florida

Fishing for American Red Snapper

Red snapper is a prized offshore game fish known for its vibrant red color, found in deeper waters around reefs, wrecks, and oil rigs. Fishing for red snapper requires heavier tackle due to their habitat in deeper waters and their robust fighting spirit.

Anglers often use cut bait, such as squid or sardines, although live bait can also be highly effective in attracting these fish. Successful red snapper fishing often involves heading out on a boat to significant depths, where fish finders can help locate the ideal spots near underwater structures.

Common Central Florida Fish Species

Fish SpeciesBest Time to Catch
SnookSpring (Best), Summer (Better), Fall (Good)
RedfishFall (Best), Spring (Better), Summer (Good)
Spotted Sea TroutWinter (Best), Spring (Better), Fall (Good)
TarponSummer (Best), Spring (Better)
King MackerelFall (Best), Spring (Better)
GrouperWinter (Best), Fall (Better)

The Gulf of Mexico is a vibrant fishing destination that offers a wealth of opportunities for both inshore and offshore anglers throughout the year. The region is known for its diverse range of species, including redfish, speckled trout, flounder, snook, grouper, snapper, kingfish, and more. Fishing techniques and successful catches can vary greatly depending on the season, targeted species, and specific locations within the Gulf.

Gulf Fishing Seasonality

Gulf Seasonality and Prime Times for Fishing

  • Spring brings warmer waters and increased activity among fish. Anglers can expect to catch redfish, speckled trout, and cobia during this season.
  • Summer is peak season, especially for offshore fishing, where snapper, grouper, and kingfish are among the top catches. The Gulfstream plays a significant role during this time, attracting a variety of predatory gamefish due to its nutrient-rich waters.
  • Fall offers some of the best fishing opportunities, with redfish, flounder, and speckled trout being popular targets. The variety of fish available makes this a great time for anglers to explore different techniques and locations.
  • Winter, while more challenging due to cooler temperatures, still offers the chance to catch sheepshead, redfish, and speckled trout. It’s a testament to the Gulf’s year-round fishing potential.
tampa tarpon

Seasonal Fishing:

Tarpon (Spring and Summer):

The “Silver King” of sportfish, tarpon fishing is a thrilling experience, especially around the Skyway Bridge and in Tampa Bay.

Fishing for tarpon is one of the most exciting experiences an angler can have. These fish are renowned for their impressive size, often weighing over 100 pounds, and their incredible aerial acrobatics when hooked.

King Mackerel (Fall and Spring):

Fast and furious, these fish are a test of skill and patience. These silver speedsters are known for their explosive hits and powerful, long runs, making them a coveted target for sportfishing enthusiasts.

Typically found in nearshore and offshore waters, king mackerel migrate along the coast, following warm currents and the abundance of baitfish

Grouper (Fall and Winter):

Nearshore wrecks and reefs are hotspots for these bottom dwellers, offering a hefty challenge to anglers.

Grouper fishing often takes place near wrecks, reefs, and ledges, where these bottom-dwellers like to hide. The thrill of hooking a grouper is unmatched, as they put up a formidable fight, making the victory of landing one all the more rewarding. Grouper species vary in size and color.

An invitation to Come Fish Florida

Florida’s central west coast, particularly around Anna Maria Island and the greater Tampa Bay area, is a fishing paradise that offers something for every angler.

From the historic Rod n Reel Pier to the iconic Skyway Bridge, each spot has its charm and fish species to target. And with the expertise of Captain Randall and the Florida Fishing Company, you’re in for an unforgettable fishing adventure.

So pack your gear, set your sights on the horizon, and get ready to reel in the big one. Happy fishing!

Explore More

Add a new location

Landed Saltwater Fishing Videos
Fishing Charter