The Ultimate Guide To Surf Fishing Florida Gulf Coast

Surf fishing on Florida’s Gulf Coast is a thrilling experience that combines the excitement of fishing with the serenity of miles of sandy coastline and crystal-clear breaking waves. Thousands of visitors and locals flock to the Gulf Coast of Florida to spend time beach fishing in these fish-filled waters.

In this guide to surf fishing Florida gulf coast, we’ll explore what it’s like to surf fish on the beaches of Florida’s sunny west coast. We’ll explore some of the best spots to catch fish, and tell you all about the gear you’ll need to catch redfish, snook, pompano, Spanish mackerel, speckled trout, sharks, and many other Florida surf fishing species.

Top Beaches: Best Florida Gulf Coast Surf Fishing Spots

We could easily list over 100 great surf fishing spots on the Gulf Coast of Florida, there are so many ideal places to fish from shore. There’s something special about surf fishing! If you haven’t experienced it, you’re going to understand your first day out there on the sand.

If you go out early, when the sun is coming up behind you, it’s a solitary experience. A few people walking the beach perhaps. Birds waking up. Maybe you’ll get lucky and see some baitfish close enough to throw a cast net over and have bait for the day. You’ll relish the quiet hours when you can get in touch with nature.

Florida is one of the greatest places to fish on planet earth. Don’t forget there’s another entire coastline to fish too! Florida’s East Coast is dramatically different but just as good for surf fishing. Don’t forget about the islands! Key West is incredibly beautiful and worth at least one trip each year.

We’ve covered a few of our favorite places to catch fish below. If you have a good time at any of these spots, leave us a message in the comments so we can experience your trip through your words.

RELATED: Best Surf Fishing Rods

Pensacola Beach

Sunset On Pensacola Beach Florida

In the Florida Panhandle (top left part), Pensacola Beach is around the very western edge of Florida, just west of Navarre Fishing Pier and east of Alabama. From Pensacola City you would need to drive about 7 miles south across two long bridges to reach Pensacola Beach on Santa Rosa Island.

The Pensacola region is a beautiful spot with many opportunities for beach fishing, pier fishing, and charters. Pensacola Beach has a wide variety of fish species available to catch throughout the year. Of course the time of year, winds, tides, and other factors like storms, and red tide can affect fishing.

Gulf Islands National Seashore – This is on the east side of the nearly 8 mile long stretch of beach that encompasses Pensacola Beach and the areas east and west of it. The Gulf Islands National Seashore is on Santa Rosa Island as well.

Fish Species Caught in Pensacola Beach

Florida Gulf Coast Spanish Mackerel
  • red and black drum
  • snook
  • Spanish mackerel
  • cobia
  • pompano
  • snapper
  • sheepshead

Bait Shops

  • Gulf Breeze Bait and Tackle. 825 Gulf Breeze Pkwy, Gulf Breeze, FL. Phone: +1 850-932-6789. GPS: 30.357423435938564, -87.16418022465365.
  • Outcast Bait & Tackle. 3520 Barrancas Ave, Pensacola, FL. Phone: +1 850-457-1450. GPS: 30.393375853353646, -87.25878032728997.

RELATED: Best Surf Fishing Lures


Beach In Destin Florida

Destin, Florida is another popular destination for surf fishing. They have many miles of sandy beaches and the opportunity to catch fish all day and night if you wish. Destin is a very small city and filled with things to do. They even have their own small airport.

Destin is primarily known as an offshore fishery because it is located close to the continental shelf and it isn’t far to reach deep water for huge grouper, marlin, tuna, and other big fish. They have many jetties, bridges, and piers to fish from besides excellent surf fishing.

Choctawhatchee Bay – A popular bay with a diverse ecosystem, the bay is a mix of saltwater and freshwater. The bay is shallow with an average 5-7 feet in depth. The bay is great for surf fishing or inshore fishing from a flats boat.

Henderson Beach State Park – The park features a mile-long stretch of white sandy beach in the clear green water of the Gulf of Mexico. Fishing is possible in certain areas of the park including parts of the beach. Fishing is not allowed between the boardwalks. The park has restrooms, a playground, camping, nature trails, and a snackbar.

Here is a great video about surf fishing in Destin Florida.

Fish Species Caught in Destin

  • red and black drum
  • speckled trout
  • mackerel
  • cobia
  • pompano
  • snapper
  • sheepshead near jetty
  • sharks

Bait Shops

  • Half-Hitch Fishing Shop – 621 Harbor Blvd, Destin, FL 32541. Phone: +1 850-837-3121. GPS: 32.64923195303045, -84.92697642786685. They have a wide selection of fishing gear and apparel. No live bait is mentioned on the website.
  • Destin Marina Bait Shop – 7 Calhoun Ave, Destin, FL 32541. Phone: +1 850-837-2470. GPS: 33.10716447616134, -85.20482908483538.

RELATED: Best Surf Fishing Rod And Reel Combos

Panama City Beach

Surf Fishing Panama City Beach Florida

Also located in the Florida panhandle, just to the north of Tyndall Air Force Base, Panama City Beach is a fishing mecca where people from surrounding states come to fish regularly. There are plenty of opportunities for beach fishing and there are a couple of fishing piers, including the City Pier and the Russell-Fields Pier.

St. Andrews State Park – Just southeast of Panama City Beach is this small park at the end of the peninsula across from Shell Beach This park features long beautiful sandy beaches with jetties, piers, camping, and a boat ramp.

Shell Island – This barrier island features miles of secluded beaches that can be great for surf fishing, particularly during the spring and fall when migrating fish species are in the area.

Beach Access – The BA 1 access point is located near the jetties at St. Andrews State Park. BA 4 is located near the M.B. Miller County Pier and can be a great spot for surf fishing, especially if you enjoy the taste of pompano which can be found during the summer months.

Fish Species Caught in Panama City Beach

Releasing A Redfish On Panama City Beach Florida
  • red and black drum
  • flounder
  • whiting
  • Spanish mackerel
  • cobia
  • pompano
  • snapper
  • sheepshead

RELATED: Best Surf Fishing Rigs

Bait Shops

  • Bay Breeze Bait & Tackle – 21301 Panama City Beach Pkwy, Panama City Beach, FL 32413. Phone: +1 850-235-0775. GPS: 32.41929041388829, -84.78866884760566.
  • Buster’s Beer & Bait – 5900 Thomas Dr, Panama City, FL 32408. Phone: +1 850-234-9250. GPS: 30.149666278758975, -85.76116432598765.

RELATED: How To Fish: The Ultimate Guide To Fishing For Beginners

Tampa/St. Petersburg

Surf Fisherman With A Snook On A Tampa Florida Beach

The Tampa and St. Petersburg area has hundreds of places to fish both freshwater and saltwater with Tampa being more for the former and St. Petersburg having more saltwater opportunities. In the area around Tampa Bay there are lots of mangroves and seagrass,ideal for snook, trout, and reds. On the St. Pete coasts there are opportunities for tarpon, pompano, snapper, sheepshead, and so much more.

Picnic Island Park – A small park found in South Tampa, south of the old Gandy Bridge in Old Tampa Bay, this park offers beach and pier fishing. It is found directly across the bay from Weedon Island, one of the best wade-fishing areas in the region. Fishing from the beach can be crowded with swimmers on the weekends, weekdays are best for surf fishing.

Apollo Beach – Located on the eastern side of Tampa Bay, Apollo Beach is a popular spot for surf fishing and offers opportunities to catch redfish, snook, flounder, catfish, ladyfish, and other species.

Mangroves at Fourth Street North – This spot doesn’t even have a name, but this is what I call it. It’s an area on the east side of 4th St. N in St. Petersburg just before reaching the 275 Bridge over to Tampa. Park on the side of the road and enjoy surf or wade-fishing in this perfect mangrove area. Great for snook, snapper, speckled trout, redfish, and flounder. Lots of oyster beds and sea grass.

Fort De Soto Park – One of Florida’s best surf fishing areas, this one offers miles of coast off the southern tip of St. Petersburg. The park comprises a group of small keys (islands) just south of Tierra Verde Island. There are facilities for camping, restrooms, fishing piers, and many places for shore or wade-fishing. They have their own bait shop. Highly recommended!

RELATED: Best Time Of Day To Fish

Fish Species Caught in Tampa/St. Pete

Speckled Trout
  • red and black drum
  • snook
  • speckled trout
  • flounder
  • Spanish mackerel
  • cobia
  • pompano
  • snapper
  • sheepshead

Bait Shops

  • Bait and Tackle of Apollo Beach – 6040 N U.S. Hwy 41, Apollo Beach, FL 33572. Phone: +1 813-296-7735. GPS: 27.76501073886682, -82.39554684434073.
  • Riviera Bait & Tackle – Northside Shops, 1106 94th Ave N, St. Petersburg, FL 33702. Phone: +1 727-954-6365. GPS: 27.872103364216184, -82.64738130279714.
  • Fort De Soto Fishing Pier, Bait and Tackle – Anderson Blvd, St. Petersburg, FL 33715. Phone: None. GPS: 27.616286240546167, -82.72588189813195.

RELATED: Best Surf Fishing Bait


Surf Fishing Sarasota Beach

South of St. Petersburg and Bradenton is the lovely area of Sarasota. Flanked by Longboat Key, Lido Key, and Siesta Key, this is a surf angler’s paradise. There are many miles of beach you can fish from, and you’ll never fish every spot.

Longboat Key Beach – The northernmost Key (small island) this one stretches for 10 miles and you can fish both sides – east and west.

Lido Beach – This is on Lido Key facing west (between Longboat Key and Siesta Key) and can be reached from the Sarasota mainland from Bayfront Park near downtown Sarasota. The key is about 2.5 miles long with lots of beach areas to fish.

Siesta Key Beach – Siesta Key is the last of the barrier islands in Sarasota and is about 8 miles long.

Turtle Beach – Turtle Beach is located on the southern end of Siesta Key and is another great spot for surf fishing.

Fish Species Caught in Sarasota

Shark Caught Surf Fishing Florida Gulf Coast Beach
  • red and black drum
  • snook
  • Spanish mackerel
  • king mackerel
  • jack crevalle
  • cobia
  • pompano
  • snapper
  • bluefish
  • sheepshead
  • sharks

RELATED: Surf Fishing Tips

Bait Shops

  • New Pass Grill & Bait Shop – They combine a bait shop with a nice restaurant with outdoor seating. Seafood, sandwiches, and other goodies. Great idea! 1505 Ken Thompson Pkwy, Sarasota, FL 34236. Phone: +1 941-388-3050. GPS: 27.3470615547497, -82.58234127658336.
  • Hart’s Landing Bait Shop – 920 John Ringling Causeway, Sarasota, FL 34236. Phone: +1 941-330-0650. GPS: 27.34693614754131, -82.55484695891228.

RELATED: Sarasota Bay Fishing Guide for Beginners

Sanibel Island

Beach On Sanibel Island Florida

In the far southwest of the state of Florida is Sanibel Island, an 18 mile long island close to the north shore of Fort Myers Beach and part of Cape Coral. It is connected to the mainland with a causeway and is inhabited. The island is a fishing haven for surf-fishers looking to catch all kinds of fish available from the Gulf of Mexico shore.

Note – at the moment, Sanibel Island is open but the beaches are closed due to erosion from Hurricane Ian. We’ll list the best beaches for surf fishing below anyway, it will surely reopen as soon as they can fix the erosion problem.

Bowman’s Beach – Bowman’s Beach is located on the western end of Sanibel Island and is a great spot for surf fishing.

Bailey’s Beach Park – You can find this small beach on the north eastern end of the island. There is a long pier here as well.

Sanibel Lighthouse Beach Park – Sanibel Lighthouse Beach is located on the eastern tip of Sanibel Island.

Gulfside City Park Beach – Located at the Gulf side of Sanibel roughly in the middle of the island.

Fish Species Caught at Sanibel Island

Catching Bait With A Cast net On Sanibel Beach
  • redfish
  • snook
  • Spanish mackerel
  • pompano
  • snapper
  • barracuda

RELATED: How To Catch Redfish In Florida

Bait Shops

  • Anderson’s Tackle, Inc. – 15675 McGregor Blvd #21, Fort Myers, FL 33908. Phone: +1 239-334-3474. GPS: 26.52625064684348, -81.94715262239379.
  • Bait Box – 1041 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, FL 33957. Phone: +1 239-472-1618. GPS: 26.451971696596278, -82.042054615373.

Fort Myers Beach

Fort Myers Beach

In the far southwest corner of the state, below Cape Coral’s Sanibel Island, is Fort Myers. Fort Myers Beach is located on the west facing shore of Estero Island and is about 7 miles long. The entire beach is a picture perfect place to fish.

Bowditch Point Park – Bowditch Point Park is located at the northern end of Fort Myers Beach. The entire beach is great, but this park has 3 sides of the island you can fish from because it’s the northwestern tip.

Lynn Hall Memorial Park – Lynn Hall Memorial Park is located in the heart of Fort Myers Beach close to the Fort Myers Fishing Pier and the park has facilities for kids, restrooms, and a snack shop.

Fish Species Caught in Fort Myers Beach

Florida Gulf Coast Redfish

Bait Shops

Click here for the Ultimate Guide To Fishing For Snook.

Naples Beach

Naples Beach

Naples is south of Fort Myers and just north of Marco Island. It is convenient for reaching the east coast of Florida at Fort Lauderdale because Hwy 75 goes straight across the state at this point.

Vanderbilt Beach – This beach is the most popular one for tourists and is found in North Naples at the end of Vanderbilt Beach Road. It is a stretch of 1.3 miles of white-sand beach ideal for fishing, especially in the morning before too many people arrive.

Fish Species Caught in Naples Beach

Florida Gulf Coast Snook
  • red and black drum
  • snook
  • tarpon
  • flounder
  • pompano
  • sheepshead
  • speckled trout
  • snapper

Bait Shops

  • Mike’s Bait House – 2052 Danford St, Naples, FL 34112. Phone: +1 239-775-2248. GPS: 26.152406054846928, -81.78259594105305.
  • Serenity Bait Co. – 2365 Davis Blvd, Naples, FL 34104. Phone: +1 239-273-4421. GPS: 26.164639990602634, -81.77569068131801.

Marco Island

Marco Island Bridge

While it is not technically surf fishing, I feel that we should mention the Marco Island Bridge. It is easily accessible and there can be some great fishing under the bridge. It might be a good idea to stop here and try your luck on the way to the beach.

Tigertail Beach – Found on the north end of Marco Island, this small beach has some tidepools and open ocean access with excellent fishing for the common Gulf species like snook, redfish, and pompano.

Ten Thousand Island and Keewaydin Island – Around the southern tip of Marco Island are a group of small islands that can be fished, but you’ll need a boat to get there to surf fish from the beach.

Fish Species Caught at Marco Island

Florida Gulf Coast Mangrove Snapper
  • redfish
  • Sheepshead
  • speckled trout
  • snook
  • pompano
  • snapper

Bait Shops

  • Marco Island Bait & Tackle – 1757 San Marco Rd Suite B, Marco Island, FL 34145. Phone: +1 239-235-7101. GPS: 25.935529461550868, -81.70057141184819.
  • West Marine – 1089 N Collier Blvd #403, Marco Island, FL 34145. Phone: +1 239-642-7060. GPS: 25.957441420738462, -81.72250894122728.

Florida Gulf Coast Surf Fishing Gear

Surf Fishing On The beach In Florida

A minimalist approach can work. I’ve gone to the beach many times after work with one rod and my baitcasting reel and flung the one lure I had on for an hour and went home with fish in the cooler for dinner.

If there’s too much time to plan, you can end up making a real spectacle of yourself with 9 rods, sand spikes, two 5-gallon buckets of bait with aerators, stringers, beach chairs, hammock, a cooler of ice and beverages, sandwiches, and so much more. A lot of us attempt to fit our entire garage onto our beach carts.

Let’s be honest. Loading up with all the gear we think we’ll need is half the fun! Here’s some surf fishing gear you’ll want to consider bringing along.

RELATED: Spinning Reel vs Baitcaster


Surf Fishing Gulf Coast Of Florida

The recommended length of a surf fishing rod generally ranges between 9 to 12 feet, depending on the angler’s preference, the fishing location, and the type of fish being targeted. Longer rods can cast further distances, making them ideal for fishing at open beaches with strong waves and currents. Shorter rods are better suited for fishing in calmer waters, rocky shorelines, or fishing for smaller fish.

Surf fishing rods are typically made of graphite, fiberglass, or a combination of both materials. Graphite rods are lightweight, sensitive, and provide excellent casting performance, making them the preferred choice for many anglers. Fiberglass rods, on the other hand, are more durable and can handle heavy loads, making them ideal for fighting larger fish.

In recent years, manufacturers have introduced surf fishing rods made of composite materials, which combine the best features of both graphite and fiberglass rods, providing a perfect balance of sensitivity, power, and durability. Ultimately, the choice of material for a surf fishing rod will depend on the angler’s personal preference, fishing style, and budget.


There are two basic surf fishing reels most anglers use, they conventional and the spinning reels. Yes, some people use fly fishing rods from the beach, but we won’t cover that here.

RELATED: Types Of Fishing Reels

Conventional Reels

Conventional Surf Fishing Reel

For surf fishing, a reel that holds more and heavier line, casts further, and is near impervious to saltwater, sand, dirt, dust, and seagull droppings, would be perfect. Conventional reels are made for surf fishing. You can use the heavy conventional reels or the smaller lightweight baitcasting reels if not trying to cast far out.

Spinning Reels

These reels work well for surf fishing too, but you may need to choose a larger size reel/spool because they don’t hold as much as conventional reels. Spinning reels don’t cast as far and are open to the elements by their design. Still, they work fine in most cases and if you have one you like, try it in the surf and see how it goes for you. Don’t forget to clean it well when you’re finished for the day.

RELATED: What Size Reel For Surf Fishing

Rod Holders/Sand Spikes

Surf Fishing Rods In Sand Spikes

Sand spikes are rod holders that keep your rod out of the sand and held upright so you can see (or hear with a bell) bites from fish on that rod.

When surf fishing, you can either stand there and hold one rod and wait for a bite, or you can fish multiple rods all at the same time. You can’t hold all of those rods, so a great idea is to buy or make some sand spikes. You pound these into the sand with a hammer, or some you can twist down into the sand with your bodyweight.

A simple solution is to go to your favorite Home Depot or similar store and buy SCH 40 PVC in 1.5″ size. They have 10 foot tubes you can ask them to cut in half or slightly smaller. Cut one end on a 45° angle and pound that end into the sand with a rubber mallet on the other end.


  • Tackle Box – Inside your tackle box is a good place to store things you don’t need constantly, but that you will want to have available while you’re fishing. Lures, plastic worms, crankbaits, jigs, weights, swivels, dozens of different kinds and sizes of hook, and tools to fit your reel in case of a malfunction.
  • Pliers or Multi Tool - You will need a good set of fishing pliers or a multi tool for unhooking fish and cutting fishing line. I like the multi tool because it also has scissors, which are better at cutting braided fishing line.
  • Fishing Lanyard – A fishing lanyard is helpful when you’re surf fishing and separated from your beach cart or tackle box. It’s a sort of necklace that holds the crucial stuff you’ll need constantly like clippers, forceps, and maybe a box of hooks, swivels, and a box of weights. It’s especially helpful while wade fishing so you don’t have to walk in and out of the water repeatedly to get things you need. If you’re not in the water past your thighs you can use a fishing vest if you prefer.
  • Basic First Aid Kit – It’s a very good idea to have some sort of first aid kit on your beach cart. If you’ve fished for any amount of time, you know the experience of hooking yourself in the hand or someone else through the ear as you cast! It’s OK, accidents happen, right? In my first aid kit I have antihistamine tablets, Ventolin inhaler for asthma (rarely get, but don’t want to be without it!), gauze, tape, square bandages of assorted sizes, iodine solution, sterile water bottle, lighter, tweezers, straight edge razor blade, some elastic wraps, and a bird kit.
  • Bird Kit – At some point you’re going to hook a bird. It’s almost inevitable, especially if they are hanging around constantly and you have to stealth cast to keep away from them. A bird kit has a towel and good wire cutters. You can cover the bird as you cut and remove the hook, or use it for the ride to the vet. We have a responsibility to the birds that we hook. Don’t let them fly off by just cutting the line. In Florida, we have a mobile app you can use on your phone or you can go straight to this website to find help.

Beach Carts

Surf Fishing Beach Cart

A beach cart can be thought of as a huge mobile tackle box. In the past, most anglers who surf fish would put together their own beach cart to hold all of their surf fishing gear, bait, rods and reels, snacks, coolers with beverages, etc. It’s sort of like bringing the trunk of your car filled with fishing gear out to the beach.

Of course, the benefit is that you can carry a lot of things to the beach that you’ll need to fish with. Fishing gear we talked about above can be heavy when added together. Add to that a 5 gallon bucket of shrimp or pinfish and there’s just no way for one person or even a couple to comfortably carry very much gear.

Beach carts usually have fat wheels with knobbies or some grip that can get over sand. You know how the huge-tired sand bicycles have shown up everywhere lately? It’s that same idea, to carry a heavy load through the sand you need some dune-buggy tires to get over it.

Gulf Coast Florida Surf Fishing Rigs

Surf Fishing Rigs and Tackle

  • Pompano or High/Low Rig – This rig is great for pompano, but you may also catch other fish on it. It consists of a 1-4 oz. pyramid sinker on the end of the line leader (20-30 lb. test fluorocarbon). Coming up the line every 10 inches you tie a dropper loop with a hook that comes out at 90° from the line and is maybe 3-4″ long with a hook on the end. You can add an orange bead and/or small float to this line. Use just 2 hooks. About 30″ from the sinker have a strong swivel attached to your main line (20-30 lb. braid). Bait with sand fleas for best result, but shrimp also works.
  • Fish-finder Rig – So named because the length of line coming away from the sinker can be long when the tide is taking it out. The fish may not be right where you casted, but no matter because the line can keep going out. You’d let your spool open on this one and watch the line carefully. Put a free-sliding pyramid sinker on your main line (50 lb. braid) and tie a strong barrel swivel on the end of the line. Add a 30″ leader of 20-40 lb. fluorocarbon with a hook at the end. Bait with cut bait, shrimp, or squid to start.
  • Carolina Rig – A very simple rig using an egg sinker. Add an egg sinker to your main line (50 lb. braid). Add a plastic bead to act as a buffer between the sinker and barrel swivel. Add a strong barrel swivel to the end of the line. Attach a 20″ fluoro leader (20-40 lb.)to the end of the swivel. Tie on whatever size hook is appropriate for the fish you’re targeting. You can either cast and let it sit, or actively retrieve it slowly. The egg sinker kicks up dirt from the bottom and the bait stays 20″ from your sinker.
  • Surfcasting Rig – The three rigs above are surfcasting rigs. Basically you need a heavier sinker from 1 oz. or heavier, and a swivel, and at least one leader with a hook. There are many styles of surfcasting rigs and you can even make your  own.
  • Topwater Rig (Popping Cork) – When trying to catch fish in the top of the water column, you can use a popping cork added to the main line, then the swivel, and a leader of 10-25″ with a hook and whatever bait you want to use. You can also use this with plastic shrimp and it’s very effective for speckled trout and some other species.


When surf fishing in Southern Florida on the Gulf Coast, it’s important to have the right type of hooks and sizes for the species you’re targeting. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Circle Hooks – Circle hooks are a good choice for surf fishing because they tend to hook the fish in the corner of the mouth, reducing the chance of gut-hooking the fish. They are also easier to remove from the fish, which is helpful if you plan to release them. Sizes can range from 1/0 to 10/0, depending on the size of the fish you’re targeting.
  • J Hooks – J hooks are another good option for surf fishing, particularly if you’re using bait that needs to be set in a particular way. Sizes can range from 1/0 to 7/0, depending on the size of the fish you’re targeting.
  • Treble Hooks – Treble hooks can be used if you’re targeting fish that tend to strike quickly, such as Spanish mackerel, blues, or jacks. Sizes can range from #2 to #6, depending on the size of the fish you’re targeting.

In terms of specific sizes, it’s best to match the hook size to the size of the bait you’re using and the size of the fish you’re targeting. As a general rule of thumb, larger hooks are better for larger fish and smaller hooks are better for smaller fish. It’s also a good idea to have a variety of hook sizes on hand so you can adjust your rig as needed.

Surf Fishing Bait

There are some common baits you can use for surf fishing, and some common lures to try. We give you some of our best ideas below.

Here is a great video explaining all of the best baits for surf fishing.

Live/Dead Bait

You’ll want to match your bait to the fish you’re trying to catch. Of course there are some baits you shouldn’t be without if you’re targeting a variety of fish, or just want to catch any fish. In that case, the following baits will work magic for you:

  • Shrimp – Dead shrimp are especially smelly and can attract certain kinds of fish like catfish and snapper. Live shrimp that are moving around can incite other fish to strike, like redfish, snook, and others. The bigger the shrimp, the bigger the fish.
  • Squid – Dead squid is the smelliest thing in the ocean and will draw fish from far and wide to feed on it. Unfortunately, that means that all kinds of undesirable fish will try to take the bait. You’ll just have to deal with it, to be honest. Though you’ll be catching fish like ladyfish, pinfish, catfish, crabs, in addition to great fish like redfish, snapper, and others, the good news is that you can use some of the bait fish as bait for other more desirable fish.
  • Cut Bait – You can buy frozen fish in a bait shop or your grocery, or you can catch some while you fish and cut it up for bait. Fresh cut bait is almost always better because it has the fluids and smell that travel well through the water, and especially as the fish gets close, it can sense the fish is fresh versus dried out frozen fish.
  • Other Bait – Live pinfish can be a great bait for snook, big trout, or even redfish. Ladyfish as cut bait are great for reds, black drum, sharks, and snapper. Any bait fish alive or dead can be good bait to try fishing with because like shrimp and squid, most fish will eat it.

You can’t really go wrong with any of these baits when surf fishing because most fish eat exactly this. Shrimp and squid work so well in part because they have a smell and texture that fish know and love. Alive or dead, their smell can travel through the water and instantly get fish to turn on feeding.

RELATED: Best Baits For Sheepshead

Artificial Lures

  • Topwater Plugs – These lures create a lot of surface noise and can be effective for species like snook, tarpon, trout, and ladyfish, especially early in the morning or late in the day.
  • Jigs – Jigs are versatile and can be used for many different fish species. They are very effective for fish like pompano, redfish, and snook.
  • Soft Plastic Baits – Soft plastics can be rigged with a variety of hooks and jig heads and can be effective for a variety of species. They can be especially effective for species like redfish, snook, and trout.
  • Spoon Lures – Spoon lures can be effective for a variety of species, including Spanish mackerel, redfish, bluefish, jacks, and pompano.
  • Crankbaits – Crankbaits can be good lures for snook, redfish, and trout. Especially in areas with strong current.

Florida Gulf Coast Surf Fishing Tips and Tricks

Stingray in shallow water off the beach
  1. Dead shrimp are tough to keep on the hook and are easily picked apart by pinfish and other bait stealers. Instead, use live shrimp whenever possible!
  2. Shuffle your feet when walking out into the surf to let stingrays know you’re coming and to hopefully scare them off before you step on one. They lash out with the tail and venomous barbs on the tail can impale you and cause a lot of pain and sometimes infection.
  3. Always consider whether the trash fish you just caught might be good bait for something else you can catch from shore. Lots of fish love ladyfish, weakfish, and other unregulated species as cut bait.
  4. Add a small cowbell to the tip of your rods if you’re fishing with multiple beach rods, you’ll respond to bites quicker, and you’ll hear them over the sound of the reel clicker.
  5. Cover up from head to toe to block the sun. Skin cancer is no joke!
  6. Practice careful catch and release. Wet your hands before touching any fish. If you’re not planning on keeping the fish, don’t lift it high out of the water for photos, just release it quickly and gently back into the water.
  7. Wear polarized sunglasses to help you see fish in the water. It helps even if you can only see which baitfish are there as you’ll know what bait or lure to use.
  8. Add scent. Have a little squirt bottle of special juice to make your artificial lures smell like they’re real bait.
  9. Keep an eye on the weather! Florida’s weather changes quickly and lightning is common and deadly. If you see storm clouds with lightning coming your way, pack it up quickly and wait it out in your vehicle.
  10. Vary everything. Vary your retrieval rate and your type of retrieve – steady, jerky, or a combination. Vary the area you fish. Vary your line thickness. Vary your bait. Vary the time of day and tides you fish. Vary everything you can because oftentimes there’s just one or two variables that are off and you’ll catch fish if you figure out what they are.

Florida Gulf Coast Surf Fishing At Night

Fishing at night is one of life’s great pleasures. Find a safe place and give it a shot. Bring a lawn chair and a cooler of snacks and beverages and enjoy a relaxing night of night surf fishing.

You can catch quite a few species of fish at night. Here are some I’ve caught shore fishing from the Gulf Coast: sharks, snook, tarpon, catfish, puffers, speckled trout, small grouper, redfish, snapper, and sheepshead.

RELATED: Best Fishing Flashlight for Night Fishing


Surf Fishing Florida Gulf Coast Sharks

Shark fishing at night in Florida from the shore can be an exciting and rewarding experience, but it also requires caution and respect for the fish and the environment.

Florida is known for its diverse shark populations, including blacktip, bull, and hammerhead sharks. These sharks can often be found in the shallow waters close to shore, especially at night, making them a good target for anglers from shore.

Florida has some strict rules about shark fishing during night or daytime. You should familiarize yourself with their policies here before you go shark fishing: Shore Based Shark Fishing in Florida. You’ll need to pass an online course in order to fish from shore for sharks. This includes anything ‘attached’ to shore.

You’ll need some heavy-duty fishing gear and a strong fishing line including wire leader. As you can guess, sharks are very strong and can tear up any inferior gear you’re using.

One popular method for shark fishing from the shore at night is to use cut bait, such as mullet, ladyfish, or bonito, and set up a fishing rod with a large hook and a wire leader. Some anglers also use chum to attract sharks to the area.

It’s important to note that shark fishing can be controversial, as some shark species are threatened or endangered. It’s important to practice catch-and-release fishing and handle the sharks with care to ensure their survival. There are few sharks you can keep in Florida, familiarize yourself with the list of unharvestable sharks and know how to identify sharks very well if you plan on keeping any.

Shark fishing requires taking some precautions to ensure your own safety too! Wear a headlamp and avoid fishing in areas where there may be other hazards, such as strong currents, and slippery or rocky terrain.

Final Thoughts on Surf Fishing the Gulf Coast of Florida

If you live in Florida or are just visiting, surf fishing is one easy way to get out to the water and catch some fish. Contrary to what you may have heard, there are lots of easy-to-catch fish that are just waiting for a shrimp or baitfish on a hook to drift by.

Most fish you can catch while surf fishing Florida’s Gulf Coast are delicious to eat. If you like fresh fish and don’t want to pay exorbitant prices, this might be exactly what you need to fill the refrigerator.

One thing that has become a consistent theme on Fisherman’s Authority is the idea that you need to change it up if you’re not catching fish. Not catching fish doesn’t always mean they aren’t there, it can mean you’re not giving them what they want.

Vary the depth at which you present the bait or lure. Vary the speed you retrieve your artificial lures. Vary the areas you fish. Vary the bait and rigs. Change where the hook goes through your bait. Change the color of your lure. Change the diameter of your line – go lighter. Change the time of day if you’re there for more than one day. Chum the water. Try everything!

All of these things (and so many more!) can affect your surf fishing success. Be an angler that tries everything before giving up if you’re pretty sure the fish are there. Especially if you can see them!

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Tight lines!

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John VanDerLaan

John VanDerLaan is the founder and lead editor at Fisherman's Authority. John is a passionate fisherman whose travels have taken him all over the country in search of different species of gamefish. He has won bass fishing tournaments, including the 1987 Candlewood Classic. He also chases winter steelhead in upstate New York, summer stripers in New England and spends a lot of time fishing the waters of Florida Keys. John is an active member of the Outdoor Writers Association Of America.

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