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Discover Florida's Fishing

With 1,800 miles of coastline, and thousands of inland water bodies, it is no wonder that Florida is the fishing capital of the world. Whether you’re fishing for the biggest, the tastiest or the feistiest, Florida offers a variety that has attracted anglers for centuries.

In Destin, more than 35,000 anglers enter the annual Fishing Rodeo (www.destinfishingrodeo.org) that lasts through the whole month of October. Halfway between Pensacola and Panama City, Destin’s shores offer competitors a seemingly endless variety, including amberjack, yellowfin and blackfin tuna, sailfish, marlin, kingfish, wahoo, grouper and red snapper. Moving east along the coast, try your luck with the tough but tasty Cobia off the beach in Panama City. Grilled or fried, the catch is definitely worth the fight.

For those who prefer to keep their feet on the ground, try one of North Florida’s most popular fishing styles - surfcasting from the beaches. Carrabelle, Mexico Beach, Gulf Breeze, Fort Walton Beach and virtually all the Florida islands offer great surf fishing so you can enjoy the feel of the sand between your toes. You can use any variety of bait, but for the best results, try live sand fleas, shrimp and pinfish. Another solid-ground option is to simply walk out to deeper water on one of North Florida’s many piers. Spanish mackerel, sheepshead, tarpon and redfish are just a few of the varieties that are drawn to the lights and pilings of Florida’s piers. For more information on Florida’s beaches and piers, visit www.VISITFLORIDA.com/experience/nature/fishing.

If you prefer freshwater fishing, North Florida offers some of the best locations for stripers in the state. Known as Morones because of their scientific family name, this category includes striped, sunshine and white bass. The Appalachicola River system, including the massive Lake Seminole, holds the record for the largest of all three types of stripers. Following in a close second is Lake Talquin, located just west of Tallahassee. Also notable in the region are Santa Rosa County’s Blackwater River and the Choctawatchee in Walton and Washington Counties.

Moving east, the Suwannee River boasts an incredibly large number of sturgeons – a rarity in the Sunshine State, but certainly a welcome surprise along the crook of Florida. For bream and a multitude of bass, visit any one of the many lakes and streams between Gainesville, Palatka and Ocala in North Central Florida. Popular bait choices are crickets, crankbaits and plastic lures. Don’t miss the sleek kingfish that seem to prefer Jacksonville, probably because of its warm water. These feisty fish seem to come in hordes when you offer trolled bait and lures.

Central Florida is the place for lake fishing, boasting some of the largest freshwater catches in the state. Bass is the catch of every day, with a multitude of lakes spanning in every direction from Orlando, including Lake Butler near Kissimmee or Lake Alfred just east of Lakeland. Also in Central Florida, Disney World is a surprising haven for an enormous bass population that has adjusted to the noise of boats and crowds. For more information on Florida’s freshwater bass fishing, visit floridafisheries.com/updates/bass2005.html.

While in Central Florida, don’t overlook the many saltwater fishing options that are available. Celebrated as the "Redfish capital of the world," the Orlando area, with its Indian River Lagoon system, holds the record for several prize redfish. The population has grown quite large in this area, due to the mud-grass bottom and the waterway that is almost totally enclosed. Tarpon are also prevalent in the middle areas of Florida, with hot spots off of St. Petersburg. Nicknamed the Silver King, this fighter fish has been known to reach 200 pounds! Also worth a fight are the sailfish that gather just a few miles offshore in Stuart. The contours of the bottom and the strong current draw hundreds of baitfish and the large sailfish simply flock.

The Florida Penninsula is famous for nearly every kind of fish, both fresh and saltwater. For freshwater, the place to start is Lake Okeechobee, a 730-square-mile housing area for thousands of bass. The second-largest natural lake in the country, "Lake O" holds more than a trillion gallons of water. The baits to use are bluegills and shiners, as well as frogs, crickets, grasshoppers, worms, and any fish small enough for a bass to eat. Trout is also a popular catch around Flamingo, at Florida’s southern tip, where the bights, cuts and canals make wonderful hosts to the tasty fish.

South Florida’s salt waters include such delicacies as bonefish, grouper and snapper. Islamorada in the Keys is home to some of the largest bonefish in the country. The best approach is to look for flats with plenty of shrimp, crustaceans and worms, the prey of hundreds of hungry bonefish. Grouper and snapper are best at any of the wrecks and artificial reefs off the Miami coast. Test your strength against mangrove and yellow snapper, as well as gag and black grouper. With a little luck, you might even run into the frightening Cubera snapper, with its impressively sharp teeth, or the infamous giant grouper, weighing over 200 pounds. Either way, you won’t leave unsatisfied. The beaches at Fort Myers and Sanibel have been named the Tarpon capital of the world, with Boca Grande giants weighing in at 150-200 pounds. Also, don’t forget the adventurous Gulf Stream, where the deep blue waters attract such challenging game fish as the blue marlin, wahoo, sailfish, dophin, kingfish, swordfish, blackfin and yellowfin tuna and massive sharks. Trolling is the best option, but in the past few years, more and more anglers are trying their hands at offshore fly fishing.

Whatever your style, Florida’s many lakes, rivers and beaches have what you are fishing for. Reel in updates on the latest in Florida’s fishing news and ideas about where and when to go at www.VISITFLORIDA.com/experience/nature/fishing.

For information on travel to Florida or to order a copy of VISIT FLORIDA's free Vacation Guide visit VISIT FLORIDA's consumer web site, www.VISITFLORIDA.com, or call VISIT FLORIDA's toll-free consumer number at 1-888-7-FLAUSA (352872).

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