Surf fishing is one of the most prominent and exciting fisheries in Florida. This comes as no surprise as Florida’s coastline is one of the longest in the United States with hundreds of miles of beautiful beaches, streams, and waterways. Families troop to the shoreline year-round to work their rods and reels on the calm surf for different catches.
Although Florida’s coastline is home to hundreds of marine life and fish species, the most abundant fish you can catch from the beach are pompano and whiting. Apart from these two, there have also been consistent catches of bluefish, snook, snapper, redfish, speckled trout, and sharks.
The rest of this article will discuss the best time and spots to surf fish in Florida and how to catch whiting and pompano fish from the surf. We’ll also take a look at the licenses you’ll need before you get out on the water in Florida.
What Is the Best Time and Place to Surf Fish in Florida?
Florida beaches are probably the most ideal places in the world for surf fishing. They present an excellent opportunity for anyone looking for sport or exciting outdoor adventures. However, proper timing is essential to enjoy a fruitful day of surf fishing in Florida.
Although you can go surf fishing any time of the year, summer and fall are the best time to take your fishing gear for a spin. The best time of the day for surf fishing in Florida is early morning and near dusk. These are also the fishing hours permitted by most local authorities in Florida.
The tide also plays a role in the success of your surf fishing trip. High tide is the best tide for surf fishing, preferably 1 to 2 hours before the tide. This is when the water is high and deep, and fish activity at the shoreline is increased.
There are several great spots in Florida if you want to try your hand in surf fishing. It’s hard to pick the “best” fishing spot, but Fort Myers offers countless options for both the rookie and experienced angler. Some of the most popular fishing destinations in the area are:
How to Catch the Whiting Surf Fishing in Florida
The whiting is a small fish that is native to the Atlantic Ocean. The most abundant whiting caught in Florida is the Southern kingfish. Whiting belongs to the cod family and has an elongated body, rounded belly, and long snout. The whiting has different skin colors, ranging from yellow and green to brown and dark blue.
Whiting fish are deep feeders. Surf fishing for them requires a bit of experience. They feed on sand fleas and shrimp and are mostly found in sand, mudflats, grass flats, and gravel sea beds at a depth of about 100m.
It’s best to use live baits when hunting for this fish as they are more effective than lures. The best baits to use for the whiting are shrimp, blood worms, jelly prawns, oysters, wriggler worms, mole crabs, and small soldier crabs. It’s also a good idea to use small hooks.
If you’re fishing the mudflats, look for deeper cuts with increased water movement. Whiting tends to stay in moving water where it can feed on different baits. This makes it easier for you to know where to find them since they won’t be far off the bank, where their food is.
To fish for whiting on flats, use yabbies as bait. With a polaroid glass, you will easily spot the school of fishes coming to the flat. Once you spot them, cast a yabby in front of them, and they’ll rush it.
Why Is the Whiting Fish Prized in Florida?
The whiting is a delicious fish and is mostly used to prepare soups. It is not commercially farmed, and consequently, it is regarded as a treat by its lovers. It also contains high levels of Iodine, Selenium, and proteins. It is also rich in B-vitamins, phosphorus, and potassium.
Here are other health benefits of the whiting:
- It helps in the formation of DNA
- Helps improve mental health
- Strengthens the bones
- Aids in the treatment of cramps
How to Catch Pompano From the Surf in Florida
You can catch the Florida pompano from an oceanside pier or the shore. The Florida pompano is a deep-bodied fish with yellow color on its underside. It also has a grayish-blue on the top and silvery on the side.
The Florida pompano is a deep feeder that survives on shrimps, beach fleas, and other small aquatic organisms. It is found most on surf flats, and away from clear waters. It also favors warm waters and more saline water.
Despite its size, catching and reeling in a pompano can be a great deal of work. It gives a fight that you may not anticipate if you’ve never caught one.
The availability of pompano depends on the weather and water temperature. It’s easier to come across and consequently catch this fish when the water temperature is high and the weather warm. This translates to more pompano harvests in the summer and scarcity in the winter.
Also, using the right bait is important. Pompano feeds on a large range of sea creatures that are smaller than its size. However, its favorite is the mole crab, also called sand fleas.
Pompanos will rarely be seen where the water is clear or very disturbed. You should look for them where the water is slightly clear.
Surf Fishing Regulations and Licensing in Florida
To fish from the beach in Florida, you need a license regardless of where or what you’re fishing. The exception is for only residents or non-residents under 16 and residents above 65. In this case, you only need to provide an ID showing proof of age.
If you’re only fishing from the land or shoreline, you need to obtain a resident recreational saltwater shoreline fishing license. The license doesn’t cover fishing from a boat. To fish from a boat or island you reached by boat, you’ll need a regular saltwater fishing license.
The saltwater shoreline fishing license is free for residents, but if you’re obtaining it over the phone, you’ll need to pay a convenience fee of $4.25 and $2.25 if you’re requesting it online.
At the time of writing, the 3-day license is available for $17, the 7-day for $30, and the annual license for $47. You’ll need this license regardless of where you’re fishing.
If you’re considering going on a surf fishing trip in Florida, prepare for some excitement and fun. There’s no better place to surf fish than Florida. For some people, this is like a tradition. With hundreds of miles of beaches, you’re sure to catch one of pompano, whiting, bluefish, snapper, redfish, speckled trout, and even sharks.
While you can work the surf any time of the year, you’re sure to enjoy a more productive trip during the summer and fall. Be sure to equip yourself with the right gear and obtain the necessary licenses before setting out on the surf.