Freshwater vs. Saltwater Florida Fishing
An Abundance of Water
Here in south Florida we have the best of both worlds when it comes to fishing. There are approximately 7, 700 lakes, 11,000 miles of rivers and streams, and 1,197 statute miles of coastline. Florida is home to the 700 square miles of Lake Okeechobee, which annually celebrates the Speckled Perch Festival and is a great place to go for many different types of Bass. Our longest river, St. Johns, stretches 273 miles and has recently seen an influx of Largemouth Bass and Redfish. To the east we are blessed by the beautiful Atlantic Ocean, known as the fishing capital of the world and a great place to join a Sailfish, Wahoo or Kingfish tournament. Our west coast is adorned by the docile Gulf of Mexico, here you might want to take on a Shark, Tuna or Spanish Mackerel.
If you are curious about Florida’s geography, you can visit www.stateofflorida.com .
Licensing and Limits
If looking to catch a fish in Florida you must first obtain the proper fishing license. Licenses can be purchased at any sporting goods store, bait shop, Wal-Mart and K-Mart or the county tax collector’s office. Also, learn the bag and size limits for the type of fishing you plan to do. The Florida Game Warden does not play around. If you are caught fishing without the proper license or taking fish beyond the limit you will be heavily fined and may possibly go to jail. The following information is good for the 2009 - 2010 fishing year.
The freshwater license will cost you $17.00 and is good for one year. With this license you may fish freshwater areas either from the shore or on a boat. Fish can be taken with a pole and line or rod and reel.
Saltwater licensing is broken down into subcategories. A one year shoreline license is $9.00. To fish from either shore or boat will cost you $17.00. During Snook and Lobster seasons you must obtain special permits. The Snook permit is $25.00 and the lobster permit is $10.00. If you are looking for extreme sports fishing then you will probably want to add a Tarpon Tag to your license which will cost you $51.50 and can only be purchased at the tax collector’s office. Saltwater fish may also be caught with a pole and line or rod and reel. Net fishing of any kind or using explosives to fish is illegal.
If you are a first time Florida fisher, I suggest starting with freshwater. The bag limits are much higher and size of the fish is not such a hindrance to remember. For example, in Florida, you can keep up to five Black Bass 22 inches or longer, 50 Panfish, 25 Black Crappie and 20 Striped Bass to name a few. With freshwater fishing you can have a lot of fun and take home a bounty of fish.
If you plan to go saltwater fishing, I recommend either purchasing a Florida saltwater fishing guide or visiting www.myfwc.com and printing the saltwater chart. Many of the saltwater fish such as King or Wahoo have a two per person per day bag limit and must be over 24 inches in length, but Amberjack and Cobia have a one per person per day and differing size limits. Just be on the safe side and make sure you know what you have caught before you try to take it home.
Get the Gear
Rods, Reel and Line
With freshwater fishing you only need a lightweight 5 - 6 foot rod wound with 6 -10 lb. test. The lighter the equipment is, amounts to the harder the fight and the more enjoyment the fishing experience will be. I prefer to use a Shakespeare 5 ft. 6 in. freshwater rod with open spinning reel. It is extremely lightweight and the price is right being one of the less expensive brands. I found using this type of rod and reel combo to be sufficient for all of my freshwater fishing.
Since most of the saltwater game is significantly bigger than what you will find in a lake or river, using a medium to medium-heavy weight rod is ideal. PennÒ saltwater reels are quite popular, easy to maintain and can handle big game. I am partial to 50 lb. camouflage monofilament line for deep sea and 20 lb. SpiderwireÒ for onshore fishing.
I have heard that more and more avid anglers are choosing to use braided line for saltwater fishing. With braided line you can choose a heavier test and spool more on the reel. I haven’t personally tried braided line yet, but when I do I’m sure I’ll write a review.
Bait, Lures and Hooks
We’ve all heard that grub worms, earth worms and night crawlers are great freshwater baits, but for variety try using insects such as grasshoppers, caterpillars or sand fleas. I have found that freshwater fish are not as picky as saltwater. I have caught Tilapia and Speck off of small bits of hot dog, bread pieces and my personal favorite peanut butter and crackers. Whether freshwater or saltwater fishing, I usually prefer live or frozen bait. However, there are a few freshwater lures that are quite effective when paired with the rod and reel that I use. I have found jigs, small spoons and spinners are great for me because they require little work on my part, simply cast and reel. If you wish for more action while fishing try using poppers or flies on fly rods and spincasters, or plugs and fizzers on a bait casting reel.
As I said, I normally use live or frozen bait when fishing. For onshore saltwater fishing, jumbo shrimp and medium sized greenies are my bait of choice. I have hand only minimal luck with sand fleas. When out to sea, I use either frozen Ballyhoo, Ribbonfish or Squid. I do use lures when Snook fishing and have had tremendous success with rattletraps, large spoons and red/white feathers.
The circle hook is rapidly becoming a more favored fishing hook. It is more conducive to fish survival in a catch and release situation. The circle hook does not get trapped in the stomach and is easier to remove. Being that the fish is hooked through the corner of the mouth or jaw, the fish tends to put up a much harder fight.
There's Nothing Like FIshing
Whether you choose to relax on a John boat Bass fishing or roughing choppy seas to catch a massive Cobia, fishing is exhilarating and therapeutic. So get out there and enjoy yourself!!
Freshwater or Saltwater You Decide
Which type of fishing do you prefer?
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