Tampa Bay spans 400 square miles, with a shoreline environment that ranges from urban sprawl to untouched mangrove forests and wetlands. The bay serves as a habitat and breeding ground for some of Florida's most sought-after game fish, including snook, tarpon and redfish. Whether you prefer to fish by boat or from shore, you'll find that Tampa Bay is home to some of the best fishing spots in the state. A current saltwater fishing license, available through the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, is required to fish the bay.
Shore Fishing Hot Spots
You can choose among a variety of shore fishing spots around Tampa Bay, and Upper Tampa Bay Park is one of the best. Situated at the western edge of the city of Tampa, this park provides shore fishing and wading access to several creeks and estuaries that feed the bay. You can hand-launch small boats from the park, and the quiet waters in this part of the bay are perfect for canoes and kayaks. Anglers typically catch redfish, black drum, sheepshead, snook and spotted sea trout in the area. Shore fishermen can also find ample access around Tampa Bay at Ballast Point Park and Davis Island.
Fishing piers provide anglers without access to a boat a chance to get out in deep water. The pier at Ballast Point Park stretches more than 900 feet into the bay and serves one of the best spots on the bay for saltwater catfish, along with snook, sheepshead and redfish. Tampa is also home to the longest fishing pier in the world at Skyway Fishing Pier State Park. The park utilizes portions of the old Sunshine Skyway bridge, which was turned into a fishing pier in 1994 after being replaced by a more modern bridge. Restrooms, concessions and a bait shop are located right on the pier, where you can catch snook, sea bass, tarpon, grouper and just about every other species that lives in the bay.
Tampa Bay Bridges
Dozens of parks and marinas provide launch facilities. Those able to get out on the water by boat will find that some of the best fishing on Tampa Bay takes place around its bridges. The four major bridges and several smaller ones that traverse Tampa Bay provide perfect fish habitat, including shade and plenty of places to hide and ambush prey. Drifting either up-current or down-current from a bridge and casting toward or even under the structure is a great way to catch tarpon, cobia, snook and snapper, among many others. The Skyway Bridge, along with the smaller Courtney Campbell, Gandy and Howard Frankland bridges all provide excellent fishing. If you fish from a boat, take care when motoring under low-clearance bridges and be courteous of anglers fishing from the bridge itself.
The Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County has placed eight artificial reefs throughout Tampa Bay, utilizing recycled materials like old bridge pilings, concrete slabs, culvert pipe and steel beams. Though they can be difficult to find without GPS, these reefs provide habitats and hunting grounds for just about every fish species that lives in Tampa Bay, making them some of the best fishing spots around. The Environmental Protection Commission website provides maps showing the location of each reef, along with coordinates to help you find them. The reefs are also commonly used as diving sites, so keep an eye out for the flags and buoys that indicate the presence of divers below the surface.