Trips start at $410.00
Max guests: 3
Trips start at $325.00
Max guests: 6
Trips start at $380.00
Max guests: 6
Trips start at $500.00
Max guests: 1
Belleair Bluffs, FL
Trips start at $400.00
Max guests: 4
Trips start at $175.00
Max guests: 3
About halfway down the Gulf of Mexico side of Florida, Clearwater also sits on Old Tampa Bay and Tampa Bay. Three causeways cross the Old Bay. These bridges and their pilings provide prime habitat for excellent fishing. Clearwater fishing charters can hook you up to a variety of species, both inshore and offshore. It’s only fitting to open our Clearwater spotlight with a sport fishing staple in Clearwater, the Spanish Mackerel.
You throw a spoon and begin a moderately fast, consistent retrieve. You can see the lure shimmering near the surface of the water, and suddenly what appear to be small torpedoes start slashing at it. One finds the hook, jarring your otherwise smooth, fast retrieve. You’ve hooked up to a Spanish Mackerel. Though they are not as big as their cousins, the King Mackerel, they are just as challenging of a fight on the right tackle. Much like their big cousins however, they are aggressive and excellent table fare.
Most people consider them the most beautiful of the mackerel species. Their iridescent greens, yellows, blues and the yellow spots are not quite as stunning as a big dolphin from offshore, but still gorgeous, and more accessible.
The waters around Clearwater teem with Spanish Mackerel. Best of all, these fish are caught inshore, nearshore and offshore.
Fishing gear needs to be medium to heavy freshwater or light-medium saltwater rigs. When the Spanish are running and chasing schools of baitfish, pretty much anything silver in the water will generate adrenaline pumping chases and strikes.
Otherwise, anything flashy and colorful is going to draw Spanish hits. Crankbaits and jigs that look like they belong in a New Orleans Mardis Gras parade are excellent choices. Live bait is always good with minnows, small mullet and shrimp being the top baits. Trolling frozen cigar minnows or ballyhoo on dusters are a top option to find schools of Spanish in the bay or out in the Gulf.
With a 15-fish per angler bag limit, catching enough Spanish for supper and some to take home is rarely a problem. Get all the saltwater fishing regulations including current seasons and bag limits form the Fish and Wildlife Commission.
Speckled trout in particular love to hang out in the deeper cuts along the bridges in the bay. When the tide is running, these channels funnel all kinds of trout-sized snacks through the water. Grubs and crankbaits are your best choices here because you need something to drag through and against the moving water. If the water is still, that’s the time to haul out a popping cork rig. You can use a jig, a jig tipped with bait, or a plain hook with bait under the cork.
The other most popular inshore fish along the Gulf of Mexico is also very common in the Clearwater area, especially in the bay. Bull redfish love to hang out on the many oyster bars that cover the shallows. Big reds are after shrimp, crabs and small baitfish that use the craggy oysters as shelter. When they are tailing, that’s prime time for fly fishermen to try a shrimp or small crab pattern. Anglers using spin tackle can throw jigs or gold spoons into the feeding area.
Inshore fishing is also excellent for snook, pronounced like hook, and tarpon. Tarpon fishing is catch-and-release only because it is a protected species in the Sunshine State. Tarpon are a top fish for serious fly fishermen. If you don’t fly fish, you would still want to try your hand at catching one of the ‘Silver Kings.’ Tarpon are voracious predators, and eagerly take just about anything thrown their way. The way tarpon jump into the air when hooked has to be experienced to be believed. Snook are one of the most exciting fish to catch on topwater plugs. A strike is more like an explosion on the surface. Snook will also hit all kinds of lures; if you are a bass fisherman, the same lures work well on snook.
If you want fish to take home, you can go after croakers, also called whiting by some fishermen. Croakers are listed as an unregulated species which is good news. You can catch up to 100 pounds per person. Even better news is these fish are common and easily caught. Fillets rolled in cornmeal and deep fried are superb eating.
For the tackle-busters and the back-strainers, Clearwater anglers will head offshore. Grouper, king mackerel, amberjack, barracuda and sharks are plentiful, and ready to test how determined you are to reel in a trophy fish. The natural and artificial reefs provide the ideal habitat for these fish. Just be aware, the structure down there holds the occasional Goliath grouper. Reaching up to 800 pounds, these behemoths require the stoutest rods, heavy lines, big reels and bait so big you wonder why you aren’t taking it home to eat.
Mahi Mahi, the dolphin fish, are also plentiful here, but they are generally found near the surface. Clearwater fishing charter captains would take you offshore trolling for Mahi Mahi, particularly around floating grass mats where baitfish are congregated.