Make sure you have a valid saltwater fishing license before fishing in Tampa Bay or the river mouths emptying into it. This is a different license than the one required for freshwater fishing. As of September 2009, an annual saltwater license costs $17 for residents and $47 for non-residents. If you are a tourist visiting Tampa Bay, you can save a significant amount of money by purchasing a short-term license, such as one that is valid for just three days. Licenses are issued by Florida's Division of Marine Fisheries Management either by mail or online (see Resources).
Division of Marine Fisheries Mgt.
2590 Executive Ctr. Circle E., #201
Tallahassee, FL 32301
Weather and Times
Dusk and dawn are typically the best times to fish in Tampa Bay if angling from shore-based locations. Shallow-water species like trout are especially active during this time. If fishing from a boat in the bay's deeper regions, your chances of getting a strike varies throughout the day. Though relatively uncommon, some anglers even enjoy night fishing on the bay's open waters for species like snook. Whatever the species you are after, most fish will strike more as the weather cools. This makes the fall season a popular fishing time in Tampa Bay as temperatures dip to the low 70s F. However, the bay's weather can change quickly. Check the forecast before heading out, as sudden thunderstorms can make fishing unfeasible.
Various marinas, docks and piers along the northern and southern edges of the bay are popular among shore anglers because they're easily accessible by car. Tampa Bay's mangrove forests are also good choices for fishing. Look for stands of mature trees, reaching a height of 30 feet or more, as their roots often become established habitats for various fish species. Such forests are scattered along the bay's edge, with many groves found on the bay's western side.
There are many artificial reefs in Tampa Bay, creating massive underwater habitats for the bay's hundreds of fish species. Those who troll the bay may find these areas a good spot on which to focus. Examples include the Blackfin reef, made with concrete, and the BJ Putnam Reef, made with a sunken barge. Consult a Tampa Bay topographical map to locate these reefs, or ask a local angler or charter boat for guidance.
Charter Fishing Guides
Individuals who wish to ply the bay's deep waters but don't own a boat can hire the services of the dozens of Tampa Bay fishing charters found in the area. An added benefit is that the charter boat's captains and workers are often familiar with the local terrain, knowing where to take you to land the biggest catch. Examples include Tampa Bay Fishing Charters with Captain Bumgarner and Florida Flats Fishing.
Tampa Bay Fishing Charters with Capt. Dan Bumgarner
4630 29th Ave. South
Gulfport, FL 33711
Florida Flats Fishing
Little Harbor Marina
611 Destiny Dr.
Ruskin, FL 33570