The 5 Best Fish to Catch in Florida this Summer

Written by Crystal
Updated: October 2, 2022
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Florida is the sunshine state, and it’s an angler’s paradise! The diverse waters make it easy for Florida to be home to all sorts of fish! You can reel in catches all day by learning about the best summer species to target.

To help you out, we’ve put together this short but effective fishing guide. We’ll cover some of the most popular fish to target while unveiling special angling tips. Read on to learn about the 5 best fish to catch in Florida this summer.

1. Gars

This spectacular Alligator gar (Atractosteus spatula) swims in the freshwater with sunlight rays shining on its body.
Gars are living fossils.

©Cheng Wei/

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Gars are the first fish on our list of the best fish to catch in Florida this summer. They are among the easiest fish to recognize because of their long, toothy jaws. These living fossils were once found in Africa, South America, India, and Europe. Now, gars are prominent throughout eastern North America, including the Florida coast! These fish love living in lowland rivers, swamps, and canals. They thrive in water bodies that lack oxygen. Their unique anatomy lets them use their esophagus, almost like a lung, to deal with the air shortage.

Alligator gars can reach up to 10 ft in length, and Florida gars top out at 4 ft. To target Florida’s alligator gars, you’ll want to look in the western panhandle. You can find Florida gars throughout the state. They’re prominent in stagnant, slow-moving waters.

2. Tarpon

Tarpon jumping, fighting with an angler
There are only two species of tarpon in the world.


There are only two species of tarpon worldwide, and one of them, Megalops atlanticus, occurs in Florida! Tarpons breed in salt water but can survive in a freshwater environment. They inhabit many habitats, including seagrass beds, coral reefs, and sandy areas. During the summer months, you’ll have the unique advantage of fishing in Tarpon Springs. Since tarpons are sensitive to cold temperatures, they migrate to the springs during summer.

Anglers highly seek these fish because of their large size and feisty spirit. It’s normal for tarpons to grow 7 feet or longer and weigh over 200 pounds. Similar to garfish, tarpons can survive in low-oxygenated water too. They have a swim bladder that works like a breathing lung when they come to the surface.

In Florida, the tarpon is considered a food fish. That means you’ll need a special permit that usually costs around $50 to catch and keep tarpons. For this reason, a lot of anglers practice catch and release.

3. Catfish

blue catfish vs channel catfish
Catfish have spines at the front of their dorsal and pectoral fins.

©Jennifer White Maxwell/

Many anglers think that catfish only live in stagnant, muddy conditions. However, catfish throughout Florida enjoy the clean, well-oxygenated water available.

Catfish are easy to recognize, thanks to their whisker-like barbells. They also have spines at the front of their dorsal and pectoral fins. The spines are the perfect weapon, making it difficult for predators to swallow the catfish.

They’re voracious predators, so they respond to a variety of baits and techniques. Sunrise and sunset are the best times to cast or troll for these fish. If you’re going out on a boat, make sure you bring plenty of water. The Florida sun is intense, and so is the humidity. You’ll also want a quality pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes from harsh UV rays.

4. Mullets

Mullets feed primarily on algae.


Mullets aren’t as easy to identify as catfish or garfish. The easiest way to identify them is by looking at their eyes. They usually have transparent extensions of the rims of their eye sockets that cover most of their eye. It’s like a strange-looking eyelid.

You’ll find that mullets feed primarily on algae, and they’ll even scrape it off hard objects such as submerged tree roots. These fish are great to eat, and different species occur throughout Florida.

First, there’s mountain mullet, which is sometimes referred to as freshwater mullet. You can find mountain mullets throughout the entire state of Florida. Mountain mullets have yellow skin, and they lack the strange eyelid feature.

There’s also the white mullet which doesn’t have dark stripes on its side. White mullets love entering the freshwaters of Florida, ranging from far upstream to all of Florida’s major rivers. You can even find white mullets in Lake Okeechobee.

The striped mullet, however, is a true marine species. You’ll probably see a few jumping mullets as you’re fishing the seagrass beds of Sarasota Bay. It’s fun to watch. Sometimes mullets even jump right into your boat! What angler doesn’t want that?

Jumping mullets are usually going after flying insects. However, sometimes, they jump to escape a predator. Tarpons, bottlenose dolphins, pelicans, bald eagles, and snook all feed on mullet. After a fun day of fishing, you can too!

5. Snook

Snook Fish
Snook fish can reach up to 50 pounds.


There are four species of snook in Florida’s coastal waters. The largest, the common snook, can be found as far north as the Crystal River in West Central Florida. While 5 to 10 lb tends to be the usual weight for common snook, they can reach up to 50 lb!

You can easily recognize snook by their unique jaws. They have a low-set jaw that looks a lot like a pikes jaw. Some snooks also have black lateral lines running along their body. Their voracious appetite will make it easy for you to get a lot of bites.

Since you’ll be fishing during the summer, snook will be particularly active. Try using artificial crab or shrimp lures to get the most action. Plugs in topwater baits will also get you the best results. You’ll also want to try fishing for snook around the docks.

Snook live in lagoons, lower reaches of rivers, and all around mangroves. When the temperature drops, snook will seek warmer water, canals, and rivers.

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Snook Fish
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About the Author

Crystal is a curious writer who's always looking to learn more. When she's not out in nature, she's writing about it. Animals, plants, survival tips, and more. It'll be exciting to watch this author grow and learn with her along the way.

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