How to catch fish on the Florida gulf coast beaches

Many tourists bring their heavy fishing rods and tackle boxes to the beach and catch few fish. The rods, reels, line and tackle seen are usually too heavy for the conditions and fish found in the sandy beaches.

Use the lightest rod/reel combination you can find with no more than 6lb test line. Make sure the reel has a smooth drag... you'll need it when a Mackerel makes a run for it. Use long shank hooks... the long shank keeps Mackerel teeth from cutting the line. Fluorocarbon leader 15-20lb... it is invisible under the water and provides good abrasion resistance.

Tie a three foot fluorocarbon leader to the end of the 6lb test line using a line-to-line Uni-knot. Tie a long shank hook to the leader. You will not need any more tackle than that!

Use a cast net to catch Greenback bait fish seen in the first trough. If you cannot cast the net over the bait fish, have a friend take the other edge of the net opening and wade through the water. The bait fish will swim into the net for you.

Hook the Greenback through the lips and cast the bait to the far edge of the first trough. Another technique is to use the Greenback baitfish and wade out to the first sand bar and cast straight out.

Another excellent bait is called a Sand Flea (also known as a Mole crab) which is a small crab-like animal about the size and shape of an acorn. Sand Fleas are found by digging in the wet sand at the water's edge and are best fished in the first trough. Sand Fleas are readily eaten by Sea Trout, Pompano and Redfish.

Early morning and evening are the best times to fish. Watch for schools of bait fish and birds diving into the water. Larger fish are under the water enjoying the feeding frenzy too.


  • Why does this work? The light tackle allows you to cast the bait without any need for lead weight. Fish are therefore not spooked by the often used wire leaders, lead weights, and swivels. (When you do hook a fish, it is likely others are following and they will cut the line as they bite at shiny swivels.) The Greenback baitfish swims near the surface and often provokes attack from predators. In the summer months Mackerel are prevalent along Gulf beaches and these will make long reel-screaming runs when hooked. Having a light rod with enough line on a smooth drag reel is plenty strong enough to reel in a 20+ inch fish.