Say what you like about Florida, it’s still one of the best places to go spearfishing. Accessible waterways, a good variety of fish, and good weather all year round. It’s true Floridians have a unique sense of humor that is famous across all 50 states, but as a fishing destination, it’s unparalleled.
From the Keys to Pensacola, and Naples to Miami, Florida is one vast water world that you as a passionate spearo can take your pick. The great weather and easy regulations make it a magnet for spearfishers who flock to it from all over the world. And did we mention that you’ll find plenty of fish of all sizes, shapes, and colors?
Florida remains a fascinating land with outlandish and extravagant tastes. And where it matters the most, fishing and waters, it’s a sublime experience. Let’s dive in and see what Florida has to offer.
Spearfishing Places In Florida
We’ll start with the locations and hotspots. It doesn’t help if you find yourself in Florida not knowing where to go find the best fish or which areas are off-limits to spearos. Here are the major hotspots for spearos and what to expect in each one.
The Florida Keys covers a massive water area that extends from Everglades to Key West. As you can tell there’s more than one Keys. You have the Upper Keys where licensed spearos can dive in medium waters and go after groupers and snappers in the reefs. Shallow waters are prohibited for spearfishers for conservation reasons.
Then you have the Middle Keys. Here you’ll find plenty of shipwrecks which serve as a home for lots of fish species such as the hogfish and snappers. Notable shipwrecks to explore are the Thunderbolt and Adelaide Baker. And don’t forget to stop by the Duck Key reef for a few groupers of the large variety.
The Lower Keys offers more to the spearos that its northern siblings. Besides shipwrecks, you also have plenty of islands such as the Tortugas, the Vandenberg, and the Marquesas Islands where big fish swim and cast a reign of terror in these waters. Tuna, Wahoo, and Mahi Mahi are the top fish to hunt. It’s mostly about deep waters here so you need to have a lot of experience as a spearo to handle the Lower Keys.
Miami is well known for its beaches, yachts, and people living the high life. But once you put the beach in your rearview mirror, you’ll find plenty of hotspots to enjoy your spearfishing passion in peace. The goal of your spear here in Miami is the fish you’ll find in the deep waters. Shore fishing isn’t allowed here for obvious reasons.
So how about the fish you’ll find here? Plenty of lobsters of all sizes scuttle across the floors of the Miami waters and you’ll be hard-pressed to go after these delicious species. It doesn’t require much experience to catch a few since they’re not that fast. Other species like small-size snappers and groupers abound in the Miami waters and will give you a good run for your money.
The one thing that sets Pensacola apart from other locations in Florida is the abundance of reefs. Overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, Pensacola offers a richer and cheaper option for the spearo traveling on a budget. It’s rich in fish but cheap in accommodation and gear rentals.
One thing about fishing in reefs though. From a conservationist’s point of view, many divers hesitate to go near the reefs. Reefs are usually sensitive and divers tend to ruin the ecosystem around the reefs. However, Pensacola reefs are safe to explore and dive. Most of these reefs are artificial so you won’t do harm to the environment when you go spearfishing near or around them.
If you thought Miami was an upscale city, you should see Naples. Only the top one percent dare set foot in this luxurious city. It’s all about mansions and expensive cars here. Enough to make you green with jealousy watching the people born into money show off and spend it like there’s no tomorrow.
But as a spearo, you don’t have to walk its gilded streets nor set eyes on its affluence. You’re just here for the fish and these waters are swarming with lots of fish big and small. And did we mention that there’s a spearfishing club in Naples?
What to Catch in Florida (Types of Fish)
Now that we know where to go spearfishing in Florida, let’s talk about what types of fish you can find there. We’ve already mentioned a few while exploring the various spearfishing locations. So without further ado, let’s get to it.
We mentioned lobsters when we were talking about Miami. But the truth is, lobsters are found not just in Miami but also all over the Florida Keys. Lobsters are delicious to eat and not so hard to catch. They don’t swim that fast and don’t hide so well. That makes them a great target for spearos of all levels and experiences.
As stated above, Florida is open all year round for fishing thanks to the great weather and accessible waterways. And while you can go after lobster any time of the year, summer is when it peaks. Here, lobsters come to the shallow shores and beginner spearos can find them in great numbers.
Not all the fish you catch are good for eating like lobsters. Some species are best caught not for their edibility, but because they’re a pest. The lionfish is a good example of a fish that needs to be chased out of the Florida waters.
The lionfish is one venomous fish that poisons the reefs and kills a lot of marine life in its vicinity. The big spikes that come out of its dorsal fin and sides are a dead giveaway. Hunt this fish without mercy and help save the ecosystem. Some people find the lionfish delicious, but most just hunt it as a favor to the environment.
The hogfish is a good target for inexperienced spearos. You’ll find this fish in the shallows where even a beginner spearo without much diving experience can fill a bag of the colorful hogfish and go home to a yummy dinner.
Hogfish are as good looking as they’re good on the table. Unlike the venomous lionfish, you’ll get a kick from going after the hogfish. Their bright colors make it easy for you to spot them in the water no matter how bad the visibility is. By the time you’re done with hogfish, you’re ready to move to bigger fish that inhabit deeper waters.
Groupers and Snappers
These are the most common fish species to be found in Florida. The small variety lives near the beaches and in shallow waters while the big ones live near reefs and shipwrecks. But don’t let their abundance fool you. These are hard fish to catch.
For one thing, they’re fast. One moment they’re staring at you from a safe distance, the next, they’re out of sight and range. However, going after snappers and groupers is a good exercise and it helps you hone your skills. It prepares for the big boys like tuna, mahi-mahi, and wahoo. Speaking of which.
One of the largest and most beautiful fish to be found all over Florida. Their bright green color and beautiful streamlined shape are easy to spot. It’s a fish that combines looks and taste in good proportions. That means once you’ve enjoyed the highs of snaring this beauty, you can take it home and feast on its succulent flesh with your loved ones.
But there’s a catch. This is not an easy to get fish. It’s a feisty one that fights back and is fast to boot. So it’s not for the faint of heart nor the beginner spearo to go after it. Lurking and patience are your best chance to catch the mahi-mahi.
Another large fish that demands you bring you A-game to the waters before you even consider catching it. Wahoos are some of the fastest fish to be found in these waters. Imagine a large and hefty fish whooshing past you before you even take aim with your spear.
And you corner a wahoo like in a shipwreck and it doesn’t have anywhere to go, it will become aggressive and come at you with its sharp teeth and enormous bulk. In that case, you’ll wish you were anywhere but standing between the wahoo and its escape route. In short, you need to have a few notches under your belt before you can add the wahoo to your dinner menu.
Like all the big league fish around here, tuna is a seasonal fish. That means you can’t go after it any time of the year. You’ll need to check the local regulations. That information gets updated regularly and it changes rapidly.
Another thing to be wary of when targeting blackfin tuna is their fins. The stocky fish have sharp fins that tear through flesh like a knife in butter. It’s best to keep your distance and use a speargun that allows you to shoot without getting close to the target.
Florida Spearfishing Cost
To go spearfishing in Florida, you need to have a license. If you’re a non-resident then you can get a 3-day license for $17. Another license valid for 7 days costs $30. Or you could go for the annual license which sets you back only $47.
Florida Spearfishing Guide
To wrap up our Florida spearfishing guide we need to point out that certain fish species are off-limits for spearos. That list is almost fixed and if anything grows longer every year. Here are the species you shouldn’t go after:
- Blue Crab
- Stone Crab
- Manta Ray
- Sharks of all types.
- Spotted Eagle Ray
- Goliath Grouper
- Ornamental Reef Fish
These are some of the species. This is not an exhaustive list and you need to check the rules and regulations before you dip your feet into the water.